Minister of Social Development Zola Skweyiya has slammed Parliament's management and staff because of another delay in passing the long-awaited Children's Amendment Bill.
If passed, the law will provide for the unprecedented protection of the country's vulnerable children.
The law was supposed to have been debated in the National Assembly yesterday, voted on, and then passed on to the National Council of Provinces for its scrutiny and approval.
The chairman of the Social Welfare Oversight Committee and ANC MP, Mike Masutha, told Sowetan yesterday he was as surprised as the minister that the Bill had not been completed by Parliament in time for the debate.
He said the committee had completed its deliberations last Wednesday, and that the Bill should have been ready for yesterday's debate.
Speaking in the National Assembly yesterday, Skweyiya said he did not usually comment in this way in Parliament about the performance of its officials, but that he had to speak up.
Skweyiya said: "I want to express my concern at the unacceptable manner in which this Bill has been dealt with. It is the third or fourth time this month that we have been coming to this house to be told the Bill would not be read. It has taken 10 full years for this Bill to come here in front of us."
He said there must be something wrong with Parliament and its administration if such things were happening.
DA MP Mike Ellis agreed with Skweyiya. "We want to concur with him fully. It is quite incredible to think that we have got to the stage where we are within minutes of debating the Bill and it has not been completed by the technical committee and legal advisors."
The law is aimed at providing further care for children, including prevention and early intervention services, alternative care, foster care, child and youth centres, shelters and drop-in centres.
The Bill has been in the news over the contentious clause 139, which outlaws all corporal punishment of children, whether by parents or caregivers.
This would also apply to traditional customs. However, this section has been excluded from the law to allow for further public input.