There will be “an extraordinary, extended” debate in the National Assembly (NA) when Parliament reconvenes next month, speaker Thandi Modise has decreed, putting aside calls for parliament to cut short the constituency period currently underway.
The debate, according to a statement, will focus on “early July civil unrest, looting and destruction of property – reportedly provoked to undermine economic and political stability”. The Speaker suggests the debate be scheduled for the first week of NA sittings in August.
At the same time, Police Portfolio Committee chair Tina Joemat-Pettersson said, as reported by SAnews, “the executive will be held accountable for security lapses”. She was speaking after a joint oversight visit by her committee and the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) to KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, the provinces worst hit by the unrest.
The Police Committee will “follow-up and ensure members of the executive are held to account as per the Constitution”, the government news agency reports.
Joemat-Pettersson is further reported as saying: “Members of the Executive are accountable collectively and individually to Parliament and it would be a dereliction of duty on our part as parliamentarians if we do not ensure thorough accountability”.
“Sister committees” in Cabinet’s Justice, Crime Prevention and Security cluster will, according to her, be part of joint meetings to “get to the bottom of security lapses”.
“The committee believes a thorough accountability process is essential to prevent a recurrence of violence in future. The committee proposes, among others, a discussion on functionality of the intelligence apparatus, budgetary shortfalls, as well as collaboration within the cluster,” the former Cabinet Minister said.
Modise called for committees involved in oversight on the unrest – Defence, Intelligence and Police – to “inform the debate”.
“This means these committees should prioritise engagements, confer if necessary and report to the NA before the House reconvenes.
“Deliberation on these reports during the proposed extraordinary debate may lead to further enquiries,” she said further suggesting a week or two be added to the NA’s upcoming quarter.
“This would provide more opportunities for questions to Cabinet Ministers and for committee deliberations. Questions to Cabinet Ministers concerned with the unrest should be prioritised.”
Three hundred and thirty-seven people died in unrest.
“Of reported deaths in Gauteng to date, 42 cases of murder and 37 inquest dockets have been opened. In KwaZulu-Natal, 171 cases of murder and 87 inquest dockets have been opened,” Acting Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said. “Additionally police in KwaZulu-Natal to date opened 132 arson cases.”
Ntshavheni said law enforcement agencies’ investigations continue to ensure instigators and key participants in the unrest are brought to book.
According to the Acting Minister in the Presidency there were no new incidents of destabilisation reported across the two provinces or elsewhere in the country. Claims of incidents on the N1 was fake news. She said law enforcement agencies verify both the N2 and N3 are fully secured and operating smoothly.
The unrest apparently started as protests over former president Jacob Zuma’s jailing two weeks ago in his home province KwaZulu-Natal. It speedily escalated to arson and looting spreading to Gauteng.
The scale of destruction and loss of life, reportedly fuelled by poverty and inequality persisting almost three decades after the end of apartheid in 1994, is still being tallied.
Authorities brought the violence under control. The economic cost is estimated at R20 billion in KwaZulu-Natal alone where 161 shopping malls, 11 warehouses and eight factories were extensively damaged. The extent of the damage in Gauteng is not yet available.