Presiding Officers have a mammoth task of maintaining discipline when debates are heated
The Presiding Officers of Parliament have a mammoth task of maintaining the decorum of the House, regardless of the levels of heat because of divergence of views on issues on the floor of the House. Insession writer Mava Lukani spoke to Mr Jomo Nyambi who is the NCOP’s House Chairperson responsible for committees.
ML: The heat of robustness on issues sometimes results in Members of Parliament ignoring House rules and inadvertently play each other and not the ball. This sometimes wastes time, as the focus becomes on explaining rules.
Mr Nyambi’s response: On your first question regarding how the presidium is able to maintain order during virtual sittings, I need to indicate that the decorum of the House or any sitting of Parliament needs to be maintained across all three platforms. Members are guided by rules and joint rules in their participation in the business of Parliament, whether it’s physical, virtual or hybrid attendance.
It is the duty of the Presiding Officers to enforce these rules across all platforms. Presiding Officers have access to the same levers of control on any of the available platforms and their own conduct, like any other Member, is subject to the rules. So it’s rules, rules, rules! ML: The NCOP represents provinces. Why are delegates to the NCOP are referred to by their parties instead of provinces during debates in the NCOP and in joint sittings?
Mr Nyambi’s response:
On the matter of speakers being selected by their respective parties during NCOP sittings even though the NCOP represents provinces, the following needs to be taken into consideration. Our system of government is a party-based democracy, which should not seek to diminish the voices of individual parties
as voted for by the people in their various constituencies.
The proportionality of such representation finds expression in the number of Members per party in the NCOP and the time allocated to each party during debates. The NCOP cannot, therefore, appropriate to itself the administrative function of fielding speakers, as this would diminish party political voices which represent the political spectrum of our country.