KZN Legislature an ‘island of privilege’ surrounded by neglect

Mark Steele, MPL

Chief Whip to the DA in the KZN Legislature

Members of the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature operate in something of an island of privilege surrounded by an ocean of neglect.  Here the property is cleaned and largely maintained – outside, blocked drains filled with stinking garbage are left for weeks or months.

The DA has a particular concern with the restaurant which operates just outside our offices.  It has no proper ventilation chimneys and we have seen rats eating openly on the rotting food left outside in the alley adjacent to the Legislature.

To keep our Legislature complex viable we must put pressure on the municipality to do their part.  Their officials have responded to our complaints but they need to do much more to make our environment safe and pleasant to work in.

The start of this parliamentary session was excellent in that Members were swiftly processed through the administrative system, sworn in and then taken through a detailed induction course.  Sadly then things fell apart as tools of trade, parking and offices took forever to organise.

We appreciate that members are entitled to make choices when it comes to some of these things, and this process takes time, but everyone knew six months ago that 80 members were going to be elected so why the delays?  We get the impression some planning and purchasing only started once the members had physically arrived a week after the May election.

The most important function of the Legislature is that of oversight.  This will only really begin once the portfolio committees have settled on their AOPs and are starting to operate with their assigned researchers.  The AOPs have to be reported on and monitored by Stacov which has yet to adopt its own AOP.  We need more urgency by the political and administrative leadership of the Legislature to get this oversight programme up and running.

The DA has a long-running problem with the public participation program.  In our opinion it is nothing but a glorified series of political rallies for the ANC.  Fortunately influential voices have joined our protest and even the King has questioned whether the money spent on these events is producing value for money.  We believe public participation is crucial but we believe the money allocated to TLTPs (R33million) could be far better spent within the oversight program of committees, for which R66 million is proposed.  The SOM is the future of public participation – committees going on a planned series of site inspections and public hearings.

The DA has also taken the opportunity presented by this new term to suggest that a re-naming of meetings rooms is long overdue.  We regard it an anachronism that we still have public meeting rooms, in which portfolio committees engage with officials and members of the public and media in venues which are officially designated by the names of political parties.

No other legislature or parliament has such a system.  The National Assembly had a room designated as the DA caucus room but the Speaker took it away and for the past five years, committees have been meeting in Marks Building 314/5.  The DA in KZN will be using the nomenclature committee room 1 and 2 in future to refer to venues currently still named after party caucuses.

And while we are on the subject of venues – is there no one else in this House who thinks it is outrageous that we have a venue with a sign ‘ANC Ministers’?

Contrary to popular belief across the aisle there might be a change of government in the future.  There might be national cabinet ministers who are not members of the ANC.  This is typical of the arrogance with which the ANC treats our democratic constitution.  And it means of course that the honourable Deputy Minister of Science and Technology has nowhere to meet with her provincial counterparts.

The part of this budget that the DA take exception to is the proposed R5 million intended for a feasibility study for a proposed new Legislature complex.  This we regard as a complete waste of money.  Our response to the study would be 3 words – it’s not necessary.

Yes we need to expand and we should be looking to go beyond our current confines to the neighbourhood lanes and buildings.  But in a time of austerity a whole new building will simply be an act of political aggrandisement which the people of this province will reject with contempt.

Politically this has also been a problematic opening to a new term.  It appears to be quite acceptable for members of the majority party to slander the DA with names such as ‘all white party’, ‘party of the oppressors’ and even that the DA consists of ‘land thieves’.

It is time that presiding officers did more to protect the integrity of debate in this House by ruling out of order such slanderous epithets which have no basis in truth or reality.

The DA is proud to be the only truly multi-racial party in the country with 4 million voters spread across every race, religion and language community.  It is also true that as we move towards 2016 the DA will continue to win by elections, and in 2016 we will win more towns and cities across the country.  We will do so for one simple reason, a reason known by every voter who merely opens their eyes to the reality around them – and that is that where we govern we govern better.