MPs angry at Ramaphosa's suggestion that parliament is holding up GBV laws

Thandi Modise responded to President Cyril Ramaphosa's comments regarding GBV legislation 'being held up in parliament'. She and other parliamentarians denied this was true.
Thandi Modise responded to President Cyril Ramaphosa's comments regarding GBV legislation 'being held up in parliament'. She and other parliamentarians denied this was true.
Image: Tsheko Kabasia

National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise will write to the presidency in the wake of President Cyril Ramaphosa's comments on gender-based violence, to urge him to ensure cabinet ministers bring legislative amendments to parliament speedily.

This was the outcome of a discussion of the National Assembly's programming committee on Thursday at which MPs took exception to Ramaphosa making a call to parliament not to drag its feet on laws regarding gender-based violence.

“It simply means we must crack the whip if we are being beaten for bills we have not yet received. We are going to follow the trail and we are going to go and beat up somebody who is holding up the bills so that the air is cleared,” said Modise.

“I will go a step further and follow up with the ministers who were supposed to have submitted the bills and ask them why,” she said.

Modise said MPs need to “bare our claws” a little.

“I don't like being blamed. I take strong exception to being blamed for something I don't know because it's been done to me many times before,” she said.

Even when the FF+'s Corne Mulder cautioned the speaker about the principle of separation of powers, she said she was “very clear” about where the line is drawn.

“In this instance we have been dragged into the argument. We need to clear our name in the public as parliament. We also need to crack the whip on the people who have dragged our names there.

“We are not telling them how to write the bills, we are simply saying by now you should have, because this matter is ... because directly we represent the public too,” she said.

DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone raised the issue out of concern, saying the president's speech had suggested that parliament had been derelict and that was not the case.

Mazzone said after listening to Ramaphosa's speech on Wednesday night, she and her staff searched for the bills that the president suggested were being held up by parliament.

“But there isn't a single (gender-based violence related) bill before parliament, so I don't understand why parliament last night was almost accused of holding up a process if there is nothing for us to hold up when there isn't a single bill before us.”

Mazzone said she had been tremendously concerned by Ramaphosa's comments, as he suggested to the nation that parliament needed to hurry up with the bills that dealt with GBV and that parliament and legislators were holding up the process.

“I felt that as parliament we let the public down.”

When Modise agreed with her, Mazzone then proposed that the speaker write to the president to say parliament was not being derelict in its duty and that it was waiting for cabinet to submit these bills.

None of the parties at the meeting disagreed.

Ramaphosa's parliamentary counsellor suggested that the MPs may have misunderstood the president and that he did not refer to bills in parliament but ones that were on their way to parliament.

In condemning the spate of killings of women in the past few weeks, Ramaphosa said, “Legislative amendments have been prepared around, among other things, minimum sentencing in cases of gender-based violence, bail conditions for suspects, and greater protection for women who are victims of intimate partner violence. I urge our lawmakers in parliament to process them without delay.”

Mazzone was not the only who searched for the legislative amendments Ramaphosa referred to.

Secretary of the National Assembly Masibulele Xaso said he also did a bit of research on Wednesday night and found that some of these bills were possibly still with the cabinet.

Parliament's legal services said justice minister Ronald Lamola had indicated to the justice portfolio committee last month that his department was preparing three bills proposing amendments to the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, the Domestic Violence Act and the Criminal Procedure Act.

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