The Week Ahead: Deputy President Q & A and Legislation dominate the Agenda
In comparison to recent weeks, there's a slight lull in Parliament as the legislature makes the most of the mid-week public holiday. The National Assembly has only set aside one day for parliamentary business in the main chamber. Elsewhere, the NCOP will have no plenary sittings as delegates will be away in their constituencies.
The main (and only) plenary highlight will be the Deputy President’s regular engagement with lawmakers when he appears to answer oral questions.
In terms of the rules, these sessions happen once per month during session, are three hours long and are limited to 6 main and supplementary questions. In addition, the questions must be restricted to matters of national and international importance, as assigned to the Deputy President by the President. Currently, the Deputy President is responsible for, among other things, social cohesion, the moral regeneration movement, and is chairperson of the South African Aids Council and Human Resource Development Council so most of the questions touch on these themes (See this week's questions). This particular sitting is noteworthy as it is the first time the new Deputy President will be taking to the podium to answer questions. While he has practice doing so as the former Premier in Mpumalanga, the spotlight and scrutiny is far harsher on the national stage. In part, Question Time is a performance and the Deputy President will be judged on this.
[See full plenary programme here ]
Even with a compressed calendar, it’s a promising week in the Committee corridor. Everything from detailed lawmaking, to Executive scrutiny, to internal reports, to big-picture policy will be under the microscope. Here is a run down of the highlights:
The National Assembly assigned the Constitutional Review Committee to review Section 25 of the Constitution to make it possible for the state to expropriate land in the public interest without compensation. The Committee will embark on a process of consultation throughout the length and breadth of this country and has to report back to the Assembly by 30 August 2018. The first step begins on Tuesday when it meets to consider and adopt the proposed programme of public hearings.
There was a brief public spat between the Chairperson of CRL Rights Commission and Parliament following the killings at the Angel's Ministry in the Eastern Cape, According to media reports, the Commission’s Chair said she had warned Parliament last year about that Church and urged that religious regulation needed to be fast tracked. Parliament replied that her “comments demonstrated poor understanding of the constitutional mandate of Parliament and its relations with the Chapter 9 institutions that only make recommendations to Parliament and not prescribe”. The Commission will appear before the Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to discuss the incident and the comments attributed to the Chairperson.
MPs will get a progress report on Operation Bring Back. This is a project of the Department of Public Works that is aimed at reclaiming state properties that have been misappropriated or unlawfully occupied.
Given the current national debate, all meetings concerning land reform and redistribution will not go by unnoticed. In recent weeks the Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform discussed the Ingonyama Trust Board, the High Level Panel report on land reform and this week the Department will present a report on land transfers and issuance of title deeds to successful land claimants and beneficiaries of land redistribution.
Public hearings on the Traditional Courts Bills will continue.
Several committees - Trade and Industry, Home Affairs and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries - will get a head start on their budget vote processes. This annual ritual – which ordinarily happens in the second term - includes meetings with various departments and entities on their strategic plans, annual performance plans and budgets for the financial year. Committees then have to prepare a report for consideration by the House.
Legislators will hear from the SABC on its 2017/18 2nd Quarter Expenditure and Performance Reports.
The Standing Committee on Finance will get a briefing on Capitec and VBS Mutual Bank. Earlier this year, Viceroy Research released a report questioning Capitec’s lending practice and indicating that the bank should be placed under curatorship. Capitec has disagreed with these findings. National Treasury issued a directive to municipalities not to bank with the VBS and this has sparked a furious response in certain quarters. The same committee has been relentless in trying to deal with the Makwakwa matter; the KPMG report on SARS Intelligence Unit and Steinhoff matter. These topics will be the focus of another meeting and is a follow up from the previous week's discussion.
In between, there will be some high-powered lawmaking on strengthening public audits, debt relief, minimum wage and other labour matters, traditional courts, marine matters, liquor products, land tenure, copyright, critical infrastructure, ICT and land transport.
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.