WHERE IS BALEKA MBETE?

Speaker has not presided over the House once since the May elec­tions

CityPress - - News - CAI­PHUS KGOSANA cai­phus.kgosana@city­press.co.za

Na­tional Assem­bly Speaker Baleka Mbete has not presided over a sit­ting of the House once since the start of Par­lia­ment’s new term and has not presided once over the House. Mbete, who was re­de­ployed from Luthuli House back to the po­si­tion of Speaker in May, has only been to Par­lia­ment three times – when she was elected Speaker, for Pres­i­dent Zuma’s State of the Na­tion ad­dress and to present the leg­is­la­ture’s bud­get vote to the Na­tional Assem­bly. At no point has she taken her seat in the Speaker’s chair.

Af­ter the bud­get vote, she im­me­di­ately went back on sick leave and has been at home ever since.

Word do­ing the rounds in Par­lia­ment is that she is quite ill. This has been con­firmed by se­nior officials.

Oth­ers say she is ex­hausted be­cause of her tax­ing elec­tion cam­paign sched­ule. Nei­ther her pri­vate of­fice, Par­lia­ment nor the ANC were will­ing to com­ment this week.

Par­lia­men­tary spokesper­son Luzuko Ja­cobs first re­ferred queries to Mbete’s pri­vate of­fice for com­ment.

Her pri­vate sec­re­tary, Zanele Hlatshwayo, re­ferred all queries back to Par­lia­ment.

Deputy Speaker Lech­esa Tsenoli said Mbete had been ad­vised to rest as much as pos­si­ble given her state of health.

He said they were con­fi­dent she would be back when Par­lia­ment re­sumes in the week begin­ning Au­gust 18.

“We are quite aware she has not been well, was ad­vised to re­ceive treat­ment and that she must rest as much as pos­si­ble so she re­cov­ers be­fore she re­turns.

“We are very op­ti­mistic she will re­turn when we get back,” Tsenoli said.

He said the ANC’s na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee (NEC) had given party officials time off to rest and, given her con­di­tion, Mbete needed all the rest she could get to re­gain her strength.

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma was ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal in June af­ter he left an NEC meet­ing com­plain­ing of a pain in his neck. He took time off to re­cu­per­ate.

Mbete was in Par­lia­ment for her nom­i­na­tion as Speaker. She also at­tended its of­fi­cial re­open­ing on June 17, the day of Zuma’s state of the na­tion ad­dress.

She left im­me­di­ately af­ter­wards and Na­tional Coun­cil of Prov­inces’ chair­per­son Thandi Modise presided over the de­bate on the ad­dress.

o8 As is the prac­tice, House chair­per­sons presided over the tax­ing sched­ule of de­part­men­tal bud­get votes that took place be­tween July 15 and July 25.

Mbete came back briefly to present Par­lia­ment’s bud­get vote on July 22 and im­me­di­ately went off sick again.

She was not there when Pres­i­dent Zuma pre­sented the pres­i­dency’s bud­get vote and did not pre­side over the heated de­bate af­ter that speech, which took place over two days begin­ning on July 23.

DA chief whip John Steen­huisen said the party was con­cerned about Mbete’s well­be­ing and wished her a speedy re­cov­ery.

Ac­cord­ing to him, the DA had only been in­formed that Mbete was sick and would be off work for a while.

“It’s a cause for con­cern on hu­man­i­tar­ian lev­els,” he said. He was hope­ful that the Speaker would be back when Par­lia­ment re­sumed as there were a num­ber of out­stand­ing mat­ters to be ad­dressed that needed the head of the in­sti­tu­tion.

He said Tsenoli was still new to the role and needed time to be­come ac­quainted with the work­ings of Par­lia­ment. In the in­ter­ven­ing pe­riod, House chair­per­sons Cedric Frolick and Thoko Didiza had helped keep the ship afloat, he said.

ANC spokesper­son Zizi Kodwa said Mbete had taken ex­tended leave as part of the de­ci­sion by the NEC to al­low officials to rest af­ter a pun­ish­ing cam­paign pe­riod.

“This is part of a de­ci­sion to al­low ANC officials time off to rest af­ter work­ing around the clock in the last gen­eral elec­tions. [Mbete] will re­sume her po­lit­i­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity soon,” he said.

At the time of her ap­point­ment as Speaker by the ANC, there were re­ports Mbete was se­ri­ously un­happy with the de­ploy­ment as she had hoped to get the post of deputy pres­i­dent.

She de­nied the re­ports at the time.

PHOTO: LEANNE STANDER / FOTO24

MISS­ING IN

AC­TION Baleka Mbete

has not oc­cu­pied this

seat since be­ing sworn in as Speaker of Par­lia­ment

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