Last Caucus Meeting For This Year

12 November 2009

The Parliamentary Caucus of the African National Congress this morning held its last Caucus Meeting for the year 2009, ahead of the final sittings of both the two Houses of Parliament this afternoon. Members of Parliament will from next week depart for constituency work in their various communities and also use the time to take a well deserved rest.

President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe also attended the meeting.

This last Caucus Meeting was important as it afforded our representatives in this institution an opportunity to reflect on the organisation’s performance and the challenges encountered since the beginning of the fourth democratic Parliament in June. When we began this term of Parliament, we emphasised that as MPs in this activist Parliament, we have a collective responsibility to the people of South Africa to ensure that the commitments made by the organisation in its National Conference Resolutions, Elections Manifesto and as articulated in the State of the Nation Address are fully implemented.

Presenting the keynote address to this Caucus meeting, President Jacob Zuma concurred that assessing the work of the ANC in Parliament during this year was necessary to ensure that we begin the next session in 2010 with a clear sense of what needs to be done to improve on areas we are struggling with.

The President noted that when the ANC took office following the national elections this year, it did so amid challenging economic circumstances due to the global economic crisis, which has severely impacted on economic growth, job creation and government finances.

"We said at Polokwane, and again in our election manifesto, that the creation of quality work lies at the heart of our economic policy. Yet, since we came into office, the improved pace of job creation of recent years has slowed. The economy has shed jobs. This has set back, at least for the moment, our efforts to tackle unemployment and poverty. It has placed a greater burden on the state as we seek to alleviate the plight of the poor. Since the economic activity is down, so too is government revenue. This means that we are having to implement a programme focused on the delivery of better health and education services with less money. We are having to speed up land reform and provide more effective support to emerging farmers, and step up the fight against crime, with less money.

"As the Minister of Finance recently announced, this all means we are going to have to borrow more. It also means that we need to improve financial management within government, tackle inefficiencies and wastage, and step up our efforts to eradicate fraud and corruption. The President stressed that Parliament needed to play a role of checking if state institutions were indeed taking such measures. The ANC, rather than the opposition, should be driving this process – he said.

The President also reminded MPs to be accountable to the people, as they were elected to serve their interest.

He said: "We must therefore remain accountable and responsive, but as a fundamental part of our work. We need to attend to the people’s needs, and be seen to be attending to their needs. MPs need to be visible when working in communities. This is difficult given the demands of the parliamentary programme, but we should find ways of maximising the impact of constituency work. This highlights the importance of Parliamentary Constituency Offices as one-stop centres to help residents access services and information. We must use PCOs to continue the work of public representatives even when they are not there. This means that we need to resource them properly, staff them with capable people, and develop better management and coordination systems.

In his presentation on the work of the Caucus during this year, Chief Whip Dr Mathole Motshekga noted with appreciation that, for the first time ever, the senior leadership of the movement have demonstrated keen interest and commitment in the affairs of Caucus. Both the President and the Deputy President are not only regular attendees of this Caucus but have provided the much needed political counsel on numerous occasions either voluntarily or when requested to do so. Our broader leadership must be commended for living up to the Polokwane Resolutions, which called for the strengthening of Caucuses as instruments for robust oversight and political management.

This year was characterised by high level of enthusiasm and as the Majority Party in Parliament we managed to play a meaningful role when we provided leadership and presented superior arguments during various debates. Despite the financial and human resource challenges we inherited from the previous term of Parliament, we managed to perform our constituency work and ensured the necessary interventions on service delivery challenges in various communities.

Despite our achievements in a number of areas, we have noted a number of weaknesses which we undertook to eradicate when Parliament resumes next year. These challenges relates to issues of lack of discipline on some of our MPs, which translates in poor attendance of House sittings and meetings of Portfolio Committees. We commend both the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Deputy President for their resolve to deal with the situation in which some members of the Executive fail to avail themselves to answer questions in the House.

It is our view that individuals our people elected to represent them in this institution are leaders in their own right and should therefore avoid a situation where they need to be policed in order to discharge their responsibilities. Failure to attend meetings and sittings regularly threatens our ability to implement programmes aimed at bettering the conditions of the lives of our people.

"We are however confident that notwithstanding the mistakes that we may have committed during this time, the lack of experience with regard to the intricacies of the institution of Parliament (as some amongst us are new), and the general challenges we may have encountered along the way – we have not betrayed the commitments we have set for ourselves and have not acted contrary to the political theme that both the President and the Deputy President set when we began with this Fourth Democratic Parliament, said the Chief Whip in conclusion.

Issued by
The Office of the ANC Chief Whip
ANC Parliamentary Caucus
Parliament of the Republic of SA
Cape Town, 8000

Moloto Mothapo 082 370 6930