National Assembly Speaker, Baleka Mbete, earlier this year indicated that she had written to newly appointed Deputy President, David Mabuza, to ‘complain about the absence of ministers during question time in the National Assembly’. In response, the Deputy President, in April 2018, announced measures to deal with non-attendance including an attendance roster and three ministers appointed to monitor their contemporaries. We hope that the attendance roster will be made public.
Unknown to the public, a 2014 Joint Rules Committee decision requires House attendance to be published once a year, but four years on, Parliament still has not once achieved this. The Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG) has been chasing this up for years without success except for Parliament to say that their IT department has to work out how to display this on the website.
While their attendance in the House is undocumented, ministerial attendance in committee meetings has been tracked. Attendance of Cabinet members in committees has been historically underplayed but with the assertion of the oversight role of committees, the pressure on Ministers to attend key committee meetings has seen a rise. This was highlighted by the furore caused by the lack of appearances by then Social Development Minister, Bathabile Dlamini and her Home Affairs counterpart, Malusi Gigaba during parliamentary committees efforts to get clarity on the SASSA debacle and the Gupta family naturalisation.
Is Ramaphosa’s Cabinet doing better at committee attendance? PMG compared the first six months of 2017 and 2018. Both these periods had their shake-ups: the ‘midnight reshuffle’ in March 2017, and President Ramaphosa’s cabinet announcement in February 2018. A comparison shows a 10% increase in executive attendance in 2018. Of the 10 ministers and deputies with no recorded appearances, six were relieved of their duties on 15 February 2018.
The current deputies that have been no-shows are Kebby Maphatsoe (Defence), Gratitude Magwanishe (Trade and Industry), Veronica Msibi (Science and Technology), and Elizabeth Thabete (Tourism).
We put together an infographic of the best attending Ministers in the first six months of 2018:
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