ANC caucus fines AWOL MPs

By Thabo Mokone

The ANC's parliamentary caucus has slapped 80 truant MPs - including ministers and deputy ministers - with a R1000 fine each for not attending its lekgotla in Cape Town last month.

Acting ANC deputy chief whip Mamoloko Kubayi said yesterday the 80 MPs did not seek permission not to attend the lekgotla, as stipulated in the party's policies.

Kubayi and chief whip Mathole Motshekga, who both declined to name and shame the culprits, said some of them were also being sanctioned for leaving the lekgotla early. She said the fines -- totalling R80000 - must be paid into the party's election fund before May 16.

"There's a principle. Before you can be absent as a member of caucus, you need to ask for permission. You find somebody sending [an SMS] and saying: 'I am not going to be there' and they leave. [But] they were not granted permission," said Kubayi.

"We are saying that there are rules . You were expected to be [at the lekgotla but] you were not there. You were not granted permission, whether your reasons were valid. The fact is we did not have your apology upfront."

Motshekga has long been threatening to clamp down on ill-discipline in the ANC parliamentary caucus, saying bad behaviour had brought the party and parliament into disrepute.

He told ANC MPs last month that they should write formal letters to him seeking permission each time they wanted to be away from the national legislature.

Motshekga said the fines were merely a warning to those ignoring his calls for good behaviour, as the caucus disciplinary panel was planning to mete out harsher sentences in future.

"We came to the conclusion that persuasion is not enough. We need to take action and that's why we have gone to the caucus lekgotla and said to the comrades: 'Look at yourself, assess yourselves.'

"And the comrades themselves came to the conclusion that discipline had collapsed because of their own conduct and agreed that the whippery should take action . Even the sanctions imposed were not opposed by any of our caucus members," Motshekga said.

He said ANC MPs' attendance of committee meetings, National Assembly sittings and ANC study group meetings would also be closely monitored.