Budget Debate On Vote 2: Parliament

Budget Vote Debate – Extended Public Committee
National Assembly
Mr Narend Singh, MP

Honourable Speaker,

This 5th Parliament has seen itself sorely tested in all areas; In many of them it has been found wanting! We have seen disruptions in this House like never before, we have had our parliamentary gates stormed by angry students, we have had the business of parliament stopped due to prolonged strike action by parliamentary staff, we have seen members being violently ejected from this very chamber. Stun grenades have been used, public order policing called onto the precinct, and the presence of the now infamous ‘white shirts’ is now a permanent fixture.

Every other day, there is court action involving parliament, and by and large this action is merited, with parliament often finding itself to be acting in contravention of the laws of the country.

Honourable Speaker, this once very Honourable House has seen itself shaken to its very foundations. It seems as if an anarchy based new order is fast approaching and quite simply has the honourable institution ‘on the ropes’. Every day we see parliament being quoted as “a circus”, “a laughing stock” “as being better to watch than day time TV”. Drastic measures must be taken if we are to arrest this decline. And by this I mean collectively, incorporating the assistance of all political parties and parliament.

South Africa is hurting, with recent reports of economic growth for the year projected at around 0.5%, as well as the news yesterday, that we have dropped a place and are now only the 3rd biggest economy in Africa behind Egypt. The reason for this is cited by economists as continued domestic problems.

This Parliament must lead from the front and get its own house in order, restore its own dignity and decorum, and the country will follow suit. Common decency and respect for one another are becoming relics of the past. And we are all to blame, none of us sitting here today can be absolved from this. So let’s deal with this, accept the situation, and as a collective take steps to restore the dignity and decorum of this House.

Honourable Speaker, there is a ticking time-bomb waiting to explode as regards the unresolved issue between workers and parliament. We recall the disruptions, scuffles and public order police presence of last year and earnestly request parliament to engage and bring resolve to this issue before we have another repeat of those events.

I have been informed that close to 450 workers have still not received bonuses, there are almost 570 workers where bonuses were unilaterally reduced, the matter was set down for arbitration, but my information advises that the delay in resolving this issue is emanating from the side of parliament, who has been accused of using delaying tactics.

The emphasis in this matter seems to be rather on disciplining and penalizing workers than on resolution, and this must addressed and Madame Speaker we humbly request your intervention in this matter.

There have been recent press reports of luxury overseas trips by the secretary and management of parliament which notwithstanding the outcome, of the trip which could have well been very successful, was the fact that the authority for the trip was granted by a junior parliamentary official.

Honourable Speaker, should it not rather be that you as the head of parliament, grant such authority for these trips? You, or a senior official to whom such authority is delegated by your office? I think this matter warrants investigation.

Overall service in parliament remains average and lacklustre. Library services such as interlibrary SABINET loans, subscriptions to online newspapers and in fact many subscription services have not been paid.

Equipment being used by housekeeping in Marks Building, is falling apart. My office advises that the last time curtains in our offices were professionally cleaned was in 2004.

Simple things, like we have never had a fire-drill, bells don’t work, intercoms don’t work, bathrooms are in a state of disrepair. Air conditioners are sub-standard, internet is painfully slow, and there is no WIFI access in many parts of the precinct.

Honourable Speaker, you are at the helm of this institution, it is in a state of disarray on almost all fronts. Whilst most of these problems are not directly attributable to your leadership, it is up to you to take leadership and rectify them.

The IFP supports this budget vote.

I thank you.

Honourable Narend Singh, MP
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IFP Media, Parliament