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Labour minister's no show at meetings raises ire

Sep 09 2015 11:23
Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town - Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant has not attended a single meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Labour since her appointment in 2010.

The Democratic Alliance (DA), who asked President Jacob Zuma to fire her on Wednesday, said her lack of presence showed a "flagrant disregard for the constitution and the rule of law”.

“Every attempt made by the DA to get her to appear before the committee has been blocked by the ANC, spearheaded by committee chair Lumka Yengeni,” Ian Ollis, DA MP and shadow minister of labour, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Oliphant’s spokesperson Sithembele Tshwete told Fin24 by telephone that there is no need for the minister to attend the meetings.

“We don’t understand the DA’s obsession for her to address the committee when it has agreed that the director general (Thobile Lamati) can handle all the issues,” he said.

“The minister has sent representatives to the committee and every issue has been covered and addressed,” he said. “The minister has had cabinet commitments.

“(Lamati), who is technical person who deals with issues, does go to the portfolio committee meeting,” he said. “They (her team) handle every issue.”

Ollis said Oliphant’s refusal to attend is in “direct contravention” of both the constitution and the rules of the National Assembly, which empower parliament to hold to account members of the executive, including cabinet ministers.

However, Tshwete said that while the DA had requested the minister to attend, the committee had ruled that other leaders in her department could answer the same questions and turned down the request.

Ollis said Oliphant “simply refuses to be held to account, and in true ANC fashion she is not held to account by her party, her president or her cabinet”.

The DA believes Oliphant should be fired for the Labour Department’s poor performance in the face of low economic growth and high unemployment levels.

The country’s unemployment rate stood at 5.2 million in the second quarter of 2015, during which time the gross domestic product had contracted by 1.3%.

“In the five years she has been at the helm, South Africa has experienced an increase in unemployment and retrenchments, an increase in labour unrest and strike-related violence and a rapidly degenerating Compensation Fund that fails injured workers,” said Ollis.

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