The announcement of the Cabinet reshuffle by President Ramaphosa on 6 March 2023 resulted in a completely new Executive being appointed to head up Public Works and Infrastructure. Minister Patricia de Lille and Deputy Minister Noxolo Kieviet have been replaced by Minister Sihle Zikhalala and Deputy Minister Bernice Swarts, respectively.
The suddenness of the announcement required that the portfolio committee meeting of public works and infrastructure was forced to postpone the scheduled meeting for 8 March 2023 so that the Minister could have time to familiarise himself with the contents of the presentations for that meeting. The meeting was due to interrogate the progress on the Audit Action Plan of the Department, as well as the Annual Performance Plan of the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) and Property Management Trading Entity (PMTE) for the 2023/24 financial year. Both documents have been signed off by the former Minister.
The meeting was rescheduled for 14 March 2023. The night before the meeting we were advised that this meeting was again being postponed as the Minister would be attending a Cabinet Induction on that date. The meeting was postponed to 15 March. On that date, the meeting was substantially delayed after an apology was tendered by the Minister who was then attending a Cabinet meeting and they were unable to locate the Deputy Minister. Once the Deputy Minister was located, the meeting proceeded.
The portfolio committee on public works and infrastructure is now substantially behind in our programme due to the unnecessary cancellations of meetings to accommodate the Cabinet reshuffle. At this stage, it is likely that we will not complete our programme for the first term of this year which has a major impact on the ability of members to do proper oversight over the Department and its entities. Alternatively, the Annual Performance Plans will be rammed through in order to comply with dates and deadlines and this will limit our ability to properly scrutinise and interrogate these plans.
The work of Parliament should not be negatively impacted while the Executive are trying to find their feet, especially when these same feet are dragging to such an extent as to stymie the work of the portfolio committee.
Given that we have still to meet our new Minister, the first impression is certainly not favourable. The DA will insist that the planned meetings for the rest of the first term proceed as planned and that no further excuses from the Executive for non-attendance or proposed postponements be entertained. We have far too much work to do.