The Presidential Years

The decision by the ANC was that everybody who can attend, must attend Parliament, particularly when Parliament is in session and the executive is in Cape Town. So attending Parliament, is compulsory for the ANC. It’s not an option. The reason it is compulsory is because you are an elected representative and to do your work you must be in Parliament - unless you’re out of the country or doing some official work in which case you will get the permission from the Chief Whip not to attend certain meetings.

It’s also important for Members of Parliament to attend because sometimes there are votes. There are cases where the ANC was not fully represented and legislation could not be passed because there was no quorum. It is the majority party that is responsible for holding the quorum. Minority parties don’t have to hold the quorum because it is sometimes not in their interest to pass certain legislation. So attendance is compulsory because there is legislation to be passed; it’s your job to be there.

Thirdly, there are Bills that need to be passed that can only be passed when the majority of members vote for them. Sometimes there is a split vote. When the opposition sees there are not enough ANC members, they can call for a division in the House. It’s quite embarrassing when there is a division in the House and the majority party becomes the minority party. There is also the perception of people out there watching on television that these Members of Parliament should be in Parliament but they are not there.

So it’s a political issue and Mandela was, rightly so, concerned that we have to maintain the dignity of the House, the decorum of the House, and the House must be well represented unless special circumstances make it impossible for the majority of Members to be in Parliament.

Max Sisulu