January 18, 2021

Question Time raises more questions than answers

One of Parliament’s chief objectives is oversight of the executive, and a tool it uses to achieve this is Question Time. Questions for oral or written reply can be put to the President, the Deputy President and Ministers, and gives Members of Parliament the opportunity to monitor the Government’s service delivery. However, many of the answers leave South Africans with more questions.

Here is a small sample:

You too could find yourself seated beside the President in economy class

M W Madisha (Cope) asked the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans what is the current operational status of the aircraft in the 21 Squadron of the SA Air Force, otherwise known as the VVIP fleet. He also wanted to know about its maintenance contracts, contingency arrangements should anything go wrong, what steps have been be taken to ensure that the squadron continues to operate – and what this is costing the country?


Before reading the reply, it’s worth visiting the 21 Squadron website where we are told that “the squadron ... is the pride of the South African Air Force and the nation as a whole.”

That might need updating because the Minister replied that the VVIP fleet is unserviceable and maintenance support contracts are still being finalised for all systems. Meanwhile, the SAAF will use the National Treasury RT61 contract for hiring aircraft or charter through SAA, which cost R30,946,094.55 in the 2017/18 financial year. R22,202,485.53 was spent on the President’s flights, R7,156,503.51 for the Deputy President’s flights and R1,587,503.51 for flights by the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans.

So now we know that our new President doesn’t chose to travel in SAA coach just for the opportunity to chat to his people.

Illegal ivory poaching not our problem

R K Purdon (DA) asked the Minister of Environmental Affairs whether, given the huge increase in elephant poaching, South Africa has signed the petition which the Presidents of Uganda, Gabon and Botswana signed, calling on the European Union to close its ivory market, or if the Minister has taken any steps to shut the trade in ivory.


No, South Africa has not signed the petition with the Presidents of Uganda, Gabon and Botswana. Nor has it taken any steps to close the legal ivory trade in South Africa. The reason for this? There is a lot of money to be made in ivory. And let us not forget, ivory is one of SA’s natural resources.

In anticipation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) approving the international sale of ivory, South African has been holding onto its vast stockpiles – all of which, we are assured, have been legally obtained through natural deaths and/or hunting of problem elephants. The Minister added, “the government can then access much needed funds which would result from such sales to be ploughed back into conservation of our natural resources”.

She also explained: “CITES recommends that Parties to the Convention close domestic ivory markets that are contributing to poaching or illegal trade. There is no evidence that the legal trade in ivory in South Africa is contributing to poaching and illegal trade and, accordingly, the legal ivory trade has not been closed.”

She said nothing about the illegal ivory poaching and trade.

SANDF are not expected to police our borders

T Z Hadebe (DA) asked the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans how many poachers and illegal immigrants had been arrested by the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) in the Kruger National Park since 2010 and how many of these were successfully prosecuted.


A total of 188 poachers have been arrested since 2010 in the Kruger National Park. The Defence Minister didn’t know how many illegal immigrants have been apprehended because they are the responsibility of the South African Police Services (SAPS). Asked how many successful prosecutions resulted from the abovementioned arrests, we were reminded that SANDF is deployed on the national borders “to ensure border safeguarding and therefore ... the SANDF is obliged when poachers and/or illegal immigrants are arrested, to hand the alleged perpetrators over [to] the SAPS immediately ....All criminal investigations are investigated by the SAPS, whom after completion submit it to the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) for further processing.”

Hopefully the Police Minister has a clearer answer.

No nuclear worries, be happy

A P van der Westhuizen (DA) asked the Minister of Energy why the Nuclear Energy Corporation’s facility at Pelindaba was shut down. He also asked for the estimated total loss of income resulting from the shutdown, and who will be held accountable for this shutdown ‑ and loss of income. What about Pelindaba’s clients, such as Technetium-99 generators for use in the field of nuclear medicine?


The facility was temporarily shut down on 17 November 2017 as a result of non-adherence to some unspecified “standard operating procedures”. Production trial runs started on 21 February 2018, but the Minister didn’t say if they were successful and if the “standard operating procedures” were now being implemented. We hope so, but will have to make do with the assurance that the NTP Board commissioned an investigation to determine the root cause of the incident (no findings were released), and “internal oversight for Quality Control, Quality Assurance, Nuclear Safety assurance will be strengthened throughout the organization and regular compliance and assurance exercise conducted”. That should make us feel a lot safer.

Oh, and the estimated total revenue loss was about R250 million, 92.7% of it in foreign currency.

Our children’s safety doesn’t quite come first

Ms H S Boshoff (DA) asked the Minister of Basic Education how many schools have not been trained on the National School Safety Plan and what will her department do to address this problem?


A total of 9,894 schools have not been trained on the National School Safety Framework (NSSF), which accounts for 40.5% of the total number of public schools.

Provinces have been “supported with master training as a way of developing capacity and competence within provinces to enable province to roll out the training to the remainder of untrained schools,” was the Minister’s reply. Whatever that means, she went on to say it will be completed in the 2018/19 financial year.

Dr P J Groenewald (FF Plus) asked the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform a number of questions regarding land restitution


  • In terms of land restitution, what (a) number and (b) percentage of title deeds of land in the acquisition of the Programme for Land Reform were transferred to beneficiaries and trusts of beneficiaries since 1994;
  • (a) in terms of land restitution, what (i) number and (ii) percentage of these specified beneficiaries had preferred cash and not the transfer of land in the Programme for Land Reform since 1994 and (b) what is the total cash amount thus far; and
  • in terms of the Land Redistribution Programme, what (a) number and (b) percentage of title deeds of land in the acquisition of the Land Redistribution Programme were transferred to beneficiaries and trusts of beneficiaries since 1994;


The Minister could not have spelled it more clearly:

  • (a) 5,538 title deeds

(b) 55% of hectares settled.

  • (a)(i) 760, 959

   (ii) 36%

(b) R 10,999, 503,432.68

  • (a) 3,615 title deeds.

(b) 67% of the 5,407 farms acquired.

Additional Info

  • Author: Moira Levy
Last modified on Tuesday, 08 May 2018 01:34

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Notes from the House is an independent online publication that tracks and monitors Parliament’s role in fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities to improve the lives of South African citizens. Published by Moira Levy with the support of the Claude Leon Foundation.

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