The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Lindiwe Sisulu, has escalated her political war on parliament by defying a ruling by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Max Sisulu, to respond to a parliamentary question on “shadow planes” used by President Jacob Zuma.
On 21 February 2012 the minister refused to reply to a parliamentary question on shadow planes used to back up the presidential jet during a recent visit by President Jacob Zuma to the United States.
The minister replied as follows:
“I wish to draw the Honourable Member’s attention to our statement made in the media briefing I convened on 20 January 2012 on this matter. The statement referred to is attached”.
The minster failed to reply to the question.
The Speaker of the National Assembly, Max Sisulu, then ruled, following a complaint from Watty Watson, Chief Whip of the Democratic Alliance (DA) that the question would remain on the Internal Question Paper until a response was provided.
On 28 May 2012 the minister provided an amended response to the same question as follows:
“I wish to draw the Honourable Member’s attention to our statement made in the media briefing I convened on 20 January 2012 on this matter. The statement referred to is attached. Detailed information will be provided to the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) in accordance with the requirements of Section 199 (8) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996.”
The minister, once again, failed to reply to the question.
The minister’s response is, at best, cynical because in the past General Carlo Gagiano, Chief of the South African Air Force, has been prevented from appearing before the Joint Standing Committee on Defence.
In the end, the minister has no intention of providing replies to parliamentary questions on the use of “shadow planes”.
This is not an isolated case.
The DA’s records show that of the 55 written questions submitted this year, 39 written questions did not receive a comprehensive reply from the defence department.
The minister has refused, for example, to provide replies to parliamentary questions focusing on:
the cost of transporting President Jacob Zuma on the presidential Boeing Business Jet;
the cost of transporting the minister on military aircraft, aircraft operated by the military and chartered aircraft;
any information relating to acquisition projects for light/medium transport aircraft and offshore/inshore vessels;
any information relating to dodgy tenders, identified by the Auditor-General, being administered by the defence force; and
the de-unionization of the defence force.
Last week the minister reached a new parliamentary low when she refused to provide a breakdown of expenditure by the defence department on advertising and entertainment.
The minister’s response to parliamentary questions literally oozes contempt for Parliament.
The truth is that the minister is playing a very dangerous political cat-and-mouse game with Parliament.
The minister has got to be stopped.
The DA Chief Whip, Watty Watson, will therefore be submitting each problem question to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Max Sisulu, requesting him to take steps to compel the minister to provide comprehensive replies to Parliament.
We are not going to sit back and allow the minister to undermine and ride roughshod over Parliament.