The Week Ahead: Action Packed
There's a broad and busy flavour to this week's parliamentary business. It's no exaggeration to say that everyday will deliver blockbuster action.
In the National Assembly chamber, the main excitement will be the Question Time session with the Ministers in the Peace and Security Cluster.
Question Time is an established part of the parliamentary day and gives MPs an opportunity to question government Ministers about matters for which they are responsible. Over time, guidelines have been developed on how to improve this oversight mechanism. There are some notable aspects of this practice:
An interesting part of the exercise is how the questions are structured and framed as MPs simultaneously try to get their talking points across and ask a question
Ministerial attendance remains a concern despite assurances that this is being attended to
Many of the questions (see here) touch on bread and butter issues, big-picture policy and current controversies.
Politicking, finger-pointing and even flare-ups are possible when lawmakers debate the water crisis in the country. Officially, the debate is titled: The water crisis in the Western Cape, the City of Cape Town in particular, and in other provinces, and the impact it has on the country as a result of drought, global warming and other contributing factors.
The drought has had profound negative implications on the economies of the affected provinces, with a subsequent impact on the economy of rest of the country. Short term solutions are in place, including water usage restrictions, rainwater harvesting and re-use of grey water, while longer-term solutions such as drilling and refurbishment of boreholes, a focus on Waste Water Treatment Works and Water Treatment Works and the war on leaks, are being implemented.
Last December, the ANC adopted a resolution calling for the nationalisation of the SA Reserve Bank, highlighting that it is an anomaly that the central bank has private shareholders and is not state owned. In line with this commitment, the Chairperson of the Trade and Industry Committee will lead a discussion on the ensuring the full public ownership of the Bank.
Beyond this, the NA will pass its report on the fiscal framework and revenue proposals. Following the budget speech, Parliament (through its Committees) considered public submissions on the fiscal framework and revenue proposals that were tabled with the 2018/19 budget.
The rest of the NA plenary agenda is filled with the usual items: legislative business, motions, statements, processing of statutory instruments and Committee Reports.
Elsewhere, the NCOP has scheduled two plenary sittings this week. On Wednesday, it will consider the fiscal framework and revenue proposal and on Thursday, select Ministers in the Peace and Security Council -who are doing double time this week – take questions from MPs about a variety of issues. Expect the usual probing from MPs and the usual coy replies from Ministers.
Legislation, a summit, Committee scrutiny, inquiries and mega-important spending decisions dominate the Committee corridor. Here is a run down of the highlights:
On Monday, the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus will hold a one-day summit with various stakeholders for their inputs and responses to the South African Law Reform Commission’s (SALRC) Report 107 on adult prostitution. Civil Society has been putting pressure on the government to support full decriminalisation of sex work, a demand fortified by the ANC resolution on the matter.
On Tuesday, Minister Malusi Gigaba is expected to appear before the Eskom Inquiry. His appearance is highly anticipated and he will be asked to testify on matters related to the Eskom board and governance while he was Minister of Public Enterprises. (Update: According to media reports the Minister’s scheduled appearance will not go ahead as planned this week as he has queried what he is expected to testify about).Former Eskom board Chairperson, Dr Ben Ngubane, will be in the firing line on Wednesday when he appears before the Eskom Inquiry into state capture.
The briefing by StatsSA on food insecurity and agricultural activity in the country will get wider attention than normal given the prevailing drought and the debate about the expropriation of land without compensation.
SAPS, StatsSA and Crime Researchers will present a quarterly report on crime statistics, showing which crimes have increased and decreased. As is often the case, MPs will interrogate the methodology used by SAPS and the quality of the data/statistics. At the same meeting, the State Security Agency and SAPS will brief MPs on the turnaround strategy and status of vetting of Crime intelligence and other senior members. Previously, SAPS informed Parliament that there is a vetting master plan in place and it will not be appointing anyone who is not vetted.
The Portfolio Committee on Energy will get a comprehensive briefing from the Independent Power Producers Office on its office, programmes and funding. The IPP Office is funded by fees collected from prospective bidders
The meeting between the Portfolio Committee on Communications and the Government Communication and Information System has a broad agenda: looking at the entity’s audience segmentation model in relation to the public awareness plans on the distribution of social grants and national water crisis and the implementation of 30 per cent ad spend and media buying. In addition, the Committee will discuss the process to be followed in appointing members for the SABC and MDDA Boards.
Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services will meet with the Public Protector to discuss her request for additional resources. The Committee and the PP Office have been involved in a recent public spat so we can also expect hear about her public utterances, allegations that her Office suppressed evidence and the recent scathing judgement against the Office to come up.
Eskom will brief legislators on defaulting municipalities. The power utility has disconnected supply to municipalities and residents who have failed to settle their debts. There is a concern that municipal debt has increased to unsustainable levels and requires drastic action. This could include placing municipalities under administration
On Wednesday, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services and Portfolio Committee on Police have convened a special joint meeting to interrogate revelations that the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation investigations into state capture were impeded by slow decision-making by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). According to a parliamentary media statement, both the head of the NPA, Adv Shaun Abrahams, and the Acting Head of the Hawks, Lieutenant-General Yolisa Matakata, will be invited to the meeting. -Last week, legislators discussed the latest developments at the Optimum Coal Mine. This meeting was called upon request by the National Union of Mine Workers Optimum Branch. There was a strike at Optimum Coal Mine in Mpumalanga following the failure of the mine to pay the workers’ salaries. There will be a follow-up meeting this week.
Scholar transport will be in the spotlight when the Departments of Basic Education and Transport as well as Equal Education discuss the challenges with MPs.
There is no denying that the National Assembly’s motion to initiate a process to amend the Constitution so as to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation has caused a political tremor. Whether this meeting is in response to this or if it was always planned, the Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform has scheduled a timely meeting to look into the recommendations of the High Level Panel on the Assessment of key Legislation. The Panel looked extensively into the topic of land reform, restitution, redistribution and security of tenure. The Panel reported “that the need to pay compensation has not been the most serious constraint on land reform in South Africa to date – other constraints, including increasing evidence of corruption by officials, the diversion of the land reform budget to elites, lack of political will, and lack of training and capacity, have proved more serious stumbling blocks to land reform". The Panel is of the view that government has not used the powers it already has to expropriate land for land reform purposes effectively, nor used the provisions in the Constitution that allow compensation to be below market value in particular circumstances. Rather than recommend that the Constitution be changed, the Panel recommends that government should use its expropriation powers more boldly, in ways that test the meaning of the compensation provisions in Section 25 (3), particularly in relation to land that is unutilised or underutilised. There will also be a discussion on the Ingonyama Trust.
In between, there will be detailed legislating on the following bills: 2018 Division of Revenue Bill; National Credit Amendment Bill; National Land Transport Amendment Bill; Copyright Amendment Bill; and National Health Laboratory Service Amendment Bill.
See full schedule here
*Note: The schedule is subject to frequent changes and needs to be checked daily.
About this blog
"That week in Parliament" is a series of blog posts in which the important Parliamentary events of the week are discussed.