Covid-19: EFF calls for Ramaphosa Q&A at special Parliament in Tshwane

The EFF is calling for a special in-person Parliament to post questions to President Cyril Ramaphosa and his Cabinet over the lockdown rules and expenditure. 

In a statement, it said this was after it had failed to get a response to the letters and parliamentary questions submitted by MPs who were unhappy with Ramaphosa for being unavailable to answer questions about the multitude of coronavirus crisis rules, and the unexpected spending required.

The president declared a national state of disaster on 15 March when South Africa’s number of cases was still 61. He advocated a lockdown, which began on 27 March, and with it came a shift to virtual committee meetings, instead of actual parliamentary sittings. 

The EFF believes this is not good enough, with some of the teething problems including a Zoom meeting being hacked with pornographic material.

“We demand the immediate and urgent reopening of Parliament because since announcing the lockdown measures to contain the rapid spread of Covid-19, the president and members of Cabinet have not been held accountable,” said its spokesperson, Vuyani Pambo, in a statement.

The party has proposed the Tshwane Events Centre, since it is easily accessible by road and is convenient for most MPs based in Gauteng without flying.

Constitutionally, Parliament is supposed to be based in the Western Cape, but the province currently has the highest number of coronavirus cases, so meeting there would not be ideal.

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The proposed Tshwane Events Centre normally hosts conferences, is used as an election centre, hosts special shows, and most recently was home to a temporary shelter that was rejected by the homeless.

The EFF said safety precautions such as social distancing would obviously be observed, and the safety of MPs and all present would be of extreme importance. 

The party believes a session such as this is vital, because virtual sessions, of which there have been 100 according a statement by Parliament this week, are not adequately holding the Cabinet accountable. 

It noted the Covid-19 crisis had triggered extraordinary measures, particularly with regard to additional spending, and there was no proper oversight over this. 

The EFF posits Ramaphosa is also the “blue-eyed boy” and the “favourite” of media owners, to the extent journalists have not asked him questions about accountability. 

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It said to call the special sitting, Rule 6 of the current National Assembly Rules regarding “Unforeseen Circumstances” might be invoked by the speaker, after considering all the other rules orders, precedents and constitutional values. 

“We demand that the speaker should use these powers to convene Parliament in Pretoria and schedule question sessions for the president and all ministers who are obliged by the Constitution to account to Parliament,” said Pambo.

“We are making these demands because there is a lot of reported corruption, negligence and lawless expenditure of public resources during the lockdown and the president is not being held accountable.” 

The EFF said it was not only concerned about the fate of state-owned enterprises, but also the possibility that even more money would be borrowed to bail them out. 

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It stated the Constitution provided that “all expenditures of government and tax laws must necessarily be approved by Parliament, and the executive has announced massive tax law changes and massive budget reprioritisation without the approval of Parliament”.

“This is outright unconstitutional and will set a wrong and unsustainable precedent if left unchallenged.” 

The proposal did not include how support staff would be transported and accommodated.

The spokesperson for Parliament, Moloto Mothapo, said the request had not been received by Friday.

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khuselo Diko, was not immediately available to take questions on the suggestion.

Read the full EFF statement here: 

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