United Democratic Movement (UDM) leaders Bantu Holomisa and Nqabayomzi Kwankwa have said South African members of Parliament (MPs) lack “technical support” to their work properly.
The two leaders, who are also MPs, said parliamentarians need at least one researcher or personal assistant (PA) each.
Kwankwa kicked off the debate on Twitter on Thursday. He’s currently on a visit to Kenya and expressed admiration for how Kenyan MPs have drivers, bodyguards, researchers and PAs.
‘I am an MP for a wrong country’
He tweeted, “Spending a day with Hon. Dr Mwaura today in Nairobi, I realised that I am an MP for a wrong country.
“MPs here have a driver, a bodyguard, a PA, a researcher, a communications officer and an admin assistant. @BantuHolomisa. In SA, we fend for ourselves. We don’t even have PAs.”
Holomisa agreed with Kwankwa and said South Africa should use Kenya as a benchmark. He wrote, “I understand your frustration but Kenya has been there long before us.
“However, we may have to benchmark with Kenya. Although we are renowned with the best constitution in the continent or world but the support systems to SA MPs are a challenge.”
Kwankwa’s tweet sparked debate among Twitter users, receiving only limited support and generating plenty of disagreement.
@ngobeni_sandile was among the few who supported it. He wrote, “I worked in Parliament. Most MPs lack the support staff to brief about technical subject matters to be discussed in portfolio committees; at least a researcher per MP.”
However, others such as Skhumbuzo Vilakazi accused Kwankwa of supporting “wasteful expenditure.” He replied, “This tweet proves one thing; all politicians have no intention of serving the people and ensuring elimination of wasteful expenditure. It’s all about you not the people.”
A Kenyan, @MarigaThoithi, added, “Members of parliament in Kenya are heavily overpaid and underworked. They don’t need bodyguards and PAs. They’re barely doing any actual work in a country that’s struggling. They don’t have these perks because of our willingness but their greed.”
Kwankwa sticks to his guns
Kwankwa nevertheless stuck to his guns in subsequent tweets despite the heavy criticism he received.
He said, “The lack of technical support for SA MPs negatively affects the quality of their inputs and contributions, as well as their ability to effectively oversee the work of government. People can be emotional all they like, it’s the TRUTH.”
In another tweet, he argued, “FACT IS: SA MPs lack the requisite technical support they need to effectively oversee the work of government.
“To build a better model, we need to draw from the strengths of various models in Africa and the world at large. The status quo is disastrous.”
The lowest salary an MP earned in the 2018/2019 financial year was R1,106,940 a year, or R92,245 a month. Some, like portfolio committee chairpersons and chief whips, earn higher.
In addition, they all receive additional benefits such as accommodation in parliamentary villages, 88 single journeys a year (by air, train, bus or car), and “tools of trade” such as a cellphone, tablet, and laptop, among others.