Mark Steele, MPL
Chief Whip to the DA in the KZN Legislature
MESSAGES of goodwill from KZN Premier, Senzo Mchunu, which proclaim prayerful solidarity with the Hindu community during Diwali celebrations, ring hollow as the provincial Legislature pushes ahead with a Sitting scheduled for Thursday, 23 October.
This is despite repeated calls by the DA to the Office of the Speaker to change the date.
When the Sitting was first proposed as a possibility at the Whips Forum, I raised the matter of the festival of Diwali falling on this day.
A change could easily have been made at this point – one which would have accommodated the religious practices of many staff and members of the Legislature. Yet the Speaker’s Office has ignored our request.
The DA would have thought that the Legislature would have made every effort to move the Sitting to a day which did not conflict with a holy day for many of our members and staff.
KZN is a unique province in that three of the major world religions, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam all have significant faith communities. It is therefore appropriate that we make every effort to be sensitive to the needs of these religions and their members to celebrate their holy days.
The Democratic Alliance believes strongly in the principle of showing equal respect for all the major religions represented in our country. We have many members of different faiths and we cherish our diversity.
As a Caucus we are all equally offended that the Legislature has ignored our advice and persevered with the plans for a sitting on this date.
We have therefore given notice to the Office of the Speaker that the entire DA caucus will not attend any Sitting held on the 23rd October. We will instead be sharing in celebrating the festival of Diwali in our different constituencies across the province.
The decision to boycott the Sitting is made with great reluctance and in the awareness of the importance of our obligations in the House.
We trust that our appeal to the Speaker will not fall on deaf ears and that her office will make the necessary arrangements to move the Sitting to another date. It is not too late to do so.