By Roy Jankielsohn, Leader of the Official Opposition in the Free State Provincial Legislature:
The below member statement was delivered by the Leader of the Official Opposition, Roy Jankielsohn (MPL), during a sitting of the Free State Provincial Legislature today.
The Democratic Alliance is concerned by the continuous undermining of the rights of opposition members and the constitutional mandate of the Free State Provincial Legislature.
In a report on the role of the opposition in a democratic parliament drafted by the Venice Commission in 2010, a number of rights were identified that should be applicable to an opposition in any parliament or legislature. These are:
- the right to vote on budgets, legislation, reports, etc.,
- the right to table bills and motions,
- the right to speak in debates,
- the right to ask oral and written questions of government and get satisfactory replies,
- the right to participate in committee work,
- the right to receive information and documents presented to parliament,
- parliamentary immunities such as parliamentary non-liability (freedom of speech) and parliamentary inviolability (freedom from arrest),
- freedom of political opinion and the right to change party allegiance (within the framework of electoral laws), and
- the right to initiate cases before the courts.
Many of these rights are being undermined by this legislature. Opposition members are also subjected to insulting and disrespectful treatment during debates.
Allow me to cite just a few examples:
- Yesterday I was denied to right to receive answers to questions during an Economic Development Portfolio Committee meeting. Attempts have been made to muzzle members in other committees as well.
- Hon van Vuuren was thrown out of this House last year for demanding that voting procedures are followed.
- A request by Hon Letuka for a debate of public importance, namely the electricity crisis in municipalities, has been ignored.
- Hon Pittaway was denied access to a hospital to carry out oversight which is necessary for constituency reports stipulated in the Rules and Orders.
- MEC’s do not abide by the rules regarding questions and replies by opposition members and the rules are manipulated to accommodate them.
As the official opposition, the DA will not accept this and take all necessary measures to protect the rights and constitutional responsibilities of the opposition.