In a statement on Sunday, the Democratic Alliance (DA) chief whip, John Steenhuisen, said the party had noted reports that Deputy President David Mabuza was in Russia on sick leave.
Mabuza was scheduled to answer questions from members of parliament this week, but the session had to be postponed indefinitely as a result of his absence.
Mabuza had requested sick leave about two weeks ago.
A statement issued by the presidency on 25 October confirmed Mabuza’s request, adding that “this will take him off from public engagements”.
Mabuza’s spokesperson Thami Ngwenya stated: “The deputy president has requested the president to grant him leave for a few days to rest and he will be back at work to continue with his programme soon enough.”
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Steenhuisen said: “While we can accept that the deputy president is not well, his parliamentary duties are not being met. As the leader of government business, he is responsible for the affairs of the national executive in parliament and “the programming of parliamentary business initiated by the national executive”, among other important tasks. This is not being done and it does not bode well for accountability nor does it inspire confidence.”
The DA chief whip further questioned what are citizens of the country meant to think when “the man meant to step in for the president if he is out of the country or indisposed, is himself is so indisposed that he is clearly unable to manage the affairs of his own portfolio?”
Mabuza has been absent for the better part of the third parliamentary term, Steenhuisen said, adding that South Africans deserve answers on how the presiding officers will ensure that as members of parliament “we all fulfil our constitutional obligations”.
“Since it was announced that he would take sick leave on October 25, the deputy president has not only missed his question-and-answer session but other important events such as the keynote address to the Chilean Parliament by National Council of Provinces Speaker, Thandi Modise. The presidency only said that Mabuza would “take a few days sick leave” and did not elaborate,” Steenhuisen said.
The DA, Steenhuisen said, “demands accountability from all public representatives and Mabuza must show leadership by revealing full information on his sick leave. The office he holds demands that he account to the public and he can no longer evade this”.
“The DA will now write to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, requesting that she provide clarity on how this vacuum will be filled. It is unclear what is happening due to the odd comment by his office that he was not ill, but was on sick leave, and The Presidency distancing itself from the matter. We will not rest until we get to the bottom of Mabuza’s protracted leave of absence and his failure to meet his responsibilities.”