Deputy President, Paul Mashatile says municipalities owed Eskom more than R56 billion by the end of last year. He also says state institutions that are currently investigating the burglary and theft at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm, should be allowed to complete their investigations.
Mashatile was addressing the National Assembly during in his maiden oral question and answer session in the Good Hope Chamber, which started late.
Mashatile’s oral reply session was delayed by almost an hour after a suspected fire broke out on the first floor of the Good Hope Building. It turned out that it was a spark from a light bulb.
National Assembly Speaker, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, had to apologise for the delay when the House resumed.
“I wish to give a report on the suspected fire that was detected in the Good Hope building. I am informed that the capacitor in a light overheated, affecting the light cover which consequently caused the smoke in office number 31. As a result, the smoke detector was triggered, further triggering that fire alarm system. I am informed there was no further damage as a result of this. So, the situation was resolved and I sincerely apologise to all of you honourable member for the inconvenience,” says Mapisa-Nqakula.
Mashatile’s first question he had to answer came from African National Congress (ANC) member of parliament (MP), Sahlulele Luzipo. He wanted to know what financial and technical interventions government is pursuing to restore Eskom, to be able to reduce load shedding and facilitate inclusive economic growth and job creation.
Mashatile said the interventions include reducing the debt owed by municipalities to Eskom. He highlighted how municipalities owe the power utility tens of billions of rand.
“Madam Speaker as of the end of December 2022, municipalities owned Eskom R56.3 billion and the debt is rising. It is clear that we need a debt relief strategy that will acknowledge the inherent risk of unviable municipalities. In this regard Eskom would provide incentivised relief to municipalities. However, the relief will come with conditions that will ensure that there is no repeat of debt build up overtime,” Mashatile explains.
Phala Phala matter
On Phala Phala, the deputy president says state institutions that are probing the Phala Phala matter should be allowed to complete their investigations. He says it will be ill-advised at this stage to determine whether government’s efforts to combat crime and corruption are undermined. Mashatile was answering a question from Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Whip, Veronica Mente, on whether government’s efforts to combat crime and corruption are undermined.
Mente referred to the findings by SARS that money stolen at the Phala Phala farm was not declared upon entry into the country. She also used the recommendations in the Section 89 Independent Panel report as another example.
Mashatile says government is committed to fight crime and corruption.
“The fact that public institutions can without hindrance investigate the affairs of no less than the figure of the President of the Republic speaks volumes about the strength of our democracy. The government remains to fighting crime and corruption. As members are aware, that Phala Phala matter is probed by more than one public agency following the break in and theft at the President’s Phala Phala farm. We take this opportunity to reiterate our support for this institutions concerned and emphasise that they must be allowed to complete their work,” Mashatile elaborates.
Mashatile also had to answer a question from Democratic Alliance (DA) Chief Whip, Siviwe Gwarube. She wanted Mashatile to give details of his priorities as Leader of Government Business, to ensure that Cabinet members attend to their parliamentary duties, including parliamentary committee meetings and plenaries during their oral reply sessions.
“Honourable Speaker in 2019, there were 405 questions that lapsed. But by the end of 2022 only 83 unanswered questions lapsed. So, I am not saying that is a good thing that we should be judged, but I am saying you can see the magnitude. You can see how that has reduced. So we need to do much more to deal with that. We equally appeal to our programming whiperies also to ensure that scheduling should also avoid coinciding with cabinet meetings and other government engagements. So, we will have to co-ordinate that with programming committees and the work of the executives, so that members are able to attend,” Mashatile said.
Mashatile also took a swipe at the DA for criticising the ANC while they also use their majority to push through certain decisions where they govern.
VIDEO: Deputy President Paul Mashatile Q&A in the National Assembly