FRENE Ginwala has lashed out at ministers, accusing them of not giving MPs the recognition they need to do their job, and said it would not improve under President Jacob Zuma unless ministers changed their attitude, writes Carien du Plessis in The Star.

Ginwala, who was National Assembly Speaker from 1994 to 2004, spoke at a lecture evening in honour of Ruth First at the University of the Witwatersrand yesterday.

She criticised opposition parties as well as the ANC – under former president Thabo Mbeki as well as under the current leadership – for making it difficult for Parliament to play its oversight role.

"The executive did not recognise members of Parliament, and by its actions or inactions often undermined it. The opposition, by claiming the executive is accountable to it, instead of to Parliament, compounds the problem.

"It has reduced accountability to a battle between government and the opposition rather than what it should be – that there is accountability to the South African people through its elected representatives."

She mentioned that if MPs did their constituency work properly, they would have identified problems with delivery and raised it in Parliament, rather than "leaving it to the people to take to the streets in demonstration".

"President Zuma has called for Parliament to strengthen its oversight role, but this will only succeed if the ANC and the executive backed Parliament to enable the MPs to do so," she said.

Ginwala, a former member of the ANC's national executive committee (NEC) and currently still an active member of the party, added that the distinction between the party and government was blurred when ministers were required to attend NEC meetings.

This often meant government ministers, some of whom were not elected to the party's structures, led discussions around policy, rather than leaving the ANC to tend to its policies.

Click here to read the full report, posted on The Star's website (Star subscribers only).