Earlier this year, National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete said 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.
The deputy president responded in April 2018, announcing measures to deal with non-attendance, including an attendance roster, appointing three ministers to monitor their contemporaries.
According to the Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG), a 2014 Joint Rules Committee decision requires House attendance to be published once a year – but four years on, parliament has still not achieved this.
“While their attendance in the House is undocumented, ministerial attendance in committee meetings has been tracked,” the PMG said.
“Attendance of Cabinet members in committees has been historically underplayed, but with the assertion of the oversight role of parliamentary 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 former 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, it said.
Ramaphosa vs Zuma
As part of a new report the PMG looked at whether Ramaphosa’s cabinet was better at committee attendance, compared to that of former president Jacob Zuma’s.
PMG compared the first six months of 2017 and 2018, as both these periods had their shake-ups: the ‘midnight reshuffle’ in March 2017, and president Ramaphosa’s cabinet announcement in February 2018.
It found that in comparison there has been a 9.7% increase in executive attendance in 2018.
“Of the 11 ministers and deputies with no recorded appearances, six were relieved of their duties on 15 February 2018; and only one new appointee, the Minister in the Presidency, Dlamini-Zuma has not yet made an appearance this year (although this portfolio does not have an oversight committee),” it said.
“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).”
You can find a full list of attendance records here.