ANC Caucus Letter to IDASA`s Monitoring Service
15 September 1995
Dear Dr. Ramphele
OPEN LETTER BY MEMBERS OF THE ANC CAUCUS TO IDASA`s PARLIAMENTARY INFORMATION AND MONITORING SERVICE
During the past week we, along with other Members of Parliament, received "The National Parliamentary Survey" compiled and distributed by Idasa`s Parliamentary Information and Monitoring Service.
To the extent that the survey attempts to contribute to the public debate around the functioning of Parliament it is to be welcomed and Idasa is to be congratulated for its initiative.
However, we find the content of the questionnaire, its formulation and the manner in which Idasa has chosen to conduct the survey objectionable and unbecoming of an organisation of Idasa`s international reputation. Accordingly, after careful consideration, we the undersigned have decided not to complete the questionnaire.
We wish to state for public record what our objections are: why we have decided not to complete the questionnaire and to suggest how this matter should properly be dealt with.
From the outset we wish to reaffirm our unwavering commitment to the principles of accountability and transparency including the duty of Members of Parliament to disclose publicly their income and assets. We have demonstrated this commitment by disclosing our assets and interests to the Secretary General of the ANC in terms of the ANC`s Code of Conduct. Furthermore we support proposals made by the ANC to the Rules Committee of Parliament that all Members of Parliament should be subject to a similar Code of Conduct.
Our decision not to participate in Idasa`s survey is based on the following considerations:
1 We believe that the "survey" confuses the issues of a survey and the need for a watchdog body to monitor the conduct of elected representatives.
If it is a survey intended for academic purposes, it should conform to the two most basic rules, namely, voluntarism and confidentiality, if not anonymity.
If it is intended to be the repository of the information that is required for a watchdog body to monitor the conduct of public representatives, then two fundamental problems arise. Firstly, who is IDASA, who are they responsible to, who determined their code of ethics and what action can they take if they should find that a public representative have transgressed IDASA`s code of conduct.
Secondly, if information is required from public representatives in order that some watchdog body can monitor their conduct and apply sanction in case of transgression, then there can not be a question of voluntarism in supplying the relevant information.
It would therefore appear that the IDASA "survey" is neither a survey, nor can it be the watchdog information repository. The latter can only be a statutory body that is answerable to the public.
2. From the outset of the survey Idasa has been less than candid in its dealings with Members of Parliament and with members of the ANC caucus in particular.
A number of ANC MP`s were informed by Idasa field workers that the Speaker had issued instructions to the effect that Members were to complete the survey. In a letter to ANC MP`s following an amendment to the survey Idasa states: "At the Caucus Meeting, the ANC informed its members to fill in the questionnaire, subject to the amendments as follows..."
Both of these statements are blatantly untrue and are characteristic of the bullying attitude adopted in both the survey as well as Idasa`s publication "Parliamentary Whip" with regard to the survey.
"The exercise is of course, entirely, voluntary. WHERE AN INDIVIDUAL MP OR SENATOR DOES NOT RESPOND TO THE SURVEY OR TO A PART OF IT, THAT TOO MAY BE PUBLICISED. MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC MUST DRAW THEIR OWN CONCLUSIONS FROM ANY GAPS." (our emphasis and capitals) - National Parliamentary Survey.
Statements such as these verge on blackmail which we find offensive and unbecoming to say the least.
3. In the original version of the survey a number of questions which have nothing to do with the transparent functioning of Parliament are put to Members:
"Do you wish to become a Minister?", "Which Minister do you most admire?", Who do you hope will succeed Nelson Mandela as President?", "Please give a score out of ten for the performance of the Cabinet (members)".
One strains to make the connection between questions such as these and the transparent functioning of Members of Parliament.
Although Idasa has now withdrawn these questions we believe that the fact that these question were originally included in the survey raises serious concerns regarding the true motives behind the survey.
A list of signatories can be obtained from:
Carl Niehaus at: (w) 403-3087 (Cell) 082-891-4071
For further details contact Carl Niehaus at: (w) 403-3087 (Cell) 082-891-4071