The Democratic Alliance (DA) has expressed concern that Parliament has been almost entirely cut out of the oversight process over government.
DA leader John Steenhuisen wrote last week to the speaker of Parliament asking that an ad-hoc committee be established to oversee the government’s response to Covid-19, since – in the absence of a state of emergency being declared – parliament still exercised its normal oversight role.
Replying to the letter, Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli said that, given that such a committee was ‘so broad and of such a nature that it would not be feasible to expect a single ad hoc committee to perform’, any work on oversight must be done by normal parliamentary committees, which are not currently meeting.
Steenhuisen has criticised the Deputy Speaker’s response, saying that his claim that parliament was using information technology to engage members in committees in oversight was misleading, as no DA members of parliament had received any such communication.
It has been suggested that the effective suspension of parliamentary oversight raises questions over the legality of the state’s actions in combating Covid-19, as it is now not clear under what authority the presidency is governing the country.