Parliament, Saturday 4 April 2020 – National Assembly Deputy Speaker Mr Lechesa Tsenoli has replied to the request from Leader of the Democratic Alliance Mr John Steenhuisen that an ad hoc committee be established to ensure continued oversight of the executive and the protection of civil liberties during the COVID-19 lockdown.

In reply to Mr Steenhisen’s letter dated 26 March, Mr Tsenoli said he fully agreed the National Assembly must continue to exercise oversight over the executive and the actions of organs of state, as envisaged by the Constitution, during this crisis. Previously, the Deputy Speaker publicly emphasised this before the proclamation of the lockdown period.

The task specified in Mr Steenhuisen's correspondence, however, was so broad and of such a nature that it would not be feasible to expect a single ad hoc committee to perform it.

It encompassed oversight and accountability work that must be done by all existing parliamentary committees and Members of Parliament (MPs), in line with their areas of specialisation.

Existing portfolio committees had the necessary powers to deal with the matters raised in Mr Steenhuisen’s correspondence, in line with their continued oversight and monitoring role.

This oversight and monitoring had to continue, despite the lockdown and the inability to meet under usual circumstances, Mr Tsenoli said.

Individual MPs and political parties also had a role to play at this crucial time and should continue with their individual oversight work in their constituencies and in the communities where they live.

He added that Parliament was using information and communication technologies for parliamentary committees and members to effectively continue to engage in their oversight and monitoring role. In this regard, the House Chairperson for Committees continues to engage with committee chairpersons to ensure that committees remain engaged in their oversight work.

The Deputy Speaker was, therefore, unable, at this stage, to accede to Mr Steenhuisen’s request for establishment of an additional parliamentary structure in the form of an ad hoc committee.

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