26 February 2018

The Week Ahead: Land Debate & Parliament takes over budget process


The main plenary event – that is likely to overshadow everything else – is the debate on the EFF motion to expropriate land without compensation. The motion will be lead by Julius Malema. The party’s resolution calls on Parliament to establish a multi-party Ad Hoc Committee to review and amend section 25 of the Constitution (property clause). This is not the first time that the EFF has brought forward such a motion. Previously it did not receive support from either the governing party or the opposition. Fast forward to more than a year later, and things have shifted a bit in their favour. In his SONA, the incoming President said the government will push ahead with land expropriation without compensation; however he tempered this (according to some) in a subsequent debate saying land redistribution will be handled responsibly and should not be to the detriment of the economy or food security.

Meanwhile the Report on the High Level Panel on the Assessment of key Legislation – which incidentally, Parliament still needs to consider and process - 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.

We can be certain of one thing: the debate will be highly charged as this is an emotional topic. The EFF is tactically astute and is testing the ANC’s commitment on the issue and will leave the party having to answer plenty of questions if it does not back the resolution.

Ministerial statements are a way for Ministers to bring an important matter to the attention of the House, often at short notice. The Police Minister will make a statement in the NA to highlight the increase in police killings (31 officers were killed while on duty in 2016/17). This follows the brutal murder of 6 police officers in eNgcobo, Eastern Cape.

Also dotting the plenary agenda are regular items like Members’ statements, motions without notice, notices of motion and processing assorted reports. The NA is also expected to revive the Ad Hoc Committee on Political Party Funding.

No plenary or Committee meetings have been scheduled in the NCOP.

Tuesday is the official opening of the fifth National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL) by President Cyril Ramaphosa in Parliament.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced changes to the National Executive and many of the new Ministers and Deputy Ministers will be sworn in in Parliament on Tuesday.

Not to be outdone, there’s also lots of important action in the Committee corridor. Here is a rundown of highlights:

The Eskom Inquiry resumes this week. (Tuesday and Wednesday).

Last year, the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry resolved to hold a Parliamentary Committee inquiry into the acquisition of 1 064 locomotives by Transnet. This was done in terms of Rule 227C of the NA which states that a Committee of Parliament may institute a Parliamentary inquiry. This decision followed the Committee’s discussion with the state-owned transport manufacturing company regarding localisation. The Committee Chairperson previously commented that “public procurement is intended to promote economic development and employment, the Committee was not, she added, fully satisfied with the responses provided by Transnet regarding the procurement of locally manufactured items and would seek in-depth responses”. The Committee inquiry will include public hearings with Transnet, Prasa (Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa), original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), government departments overseeing specific areas, and any other relevant entity, as well as relevant stakeholders. (Tuesday and Wednesday)

School governing bodies play an important role. Amongst others, they: decide on an admissions policy for the school; decide on the language policy of the school; decide on what religious practices will be followed at the school and adopt a code of conduct for learners which sets out disciplinary procedures. Elections for new SGB members will take place from 1 to 31 March in all schools across the province. The Department of Basic Education will brief lawmakers on the status of preparations for SGB Elections. At the same meeting, the Department, together with the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, will brief MPs on the ICT Roll-Out to schools. (Tuesday)

The Home Affairs Committee state capture inquiry, that has been marooned in parliamentary limbo, will resurface when the Director-General of the Department of Home Affairs briefs legislators on information received in relations to the Gupta family early naturalisation. The former Minister of Home Affairs failed to appear at previous meetings where this topic was discussed. (Tuesday)

The determination of human resource allocation for police stations will be in the spotlight when the Portfolio Committee on Police meets with SAPS and stakeholders. According to a written parliamentary reply, this is a dynamic process, which is influenced by various factors (variables), the internal environment, the external environment as well as taking contingency factors (i.e. absence/leave from duty) into account. (Tuesday)

Following last week’s budget speech, the debate has moved from the chamber to the Committee corridor where - spread out over a couple of months – Committees will hold hearings with the Minister of Finance, Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO), Treasury, relevant departments, statutory bodies, economists and civil society on the fiscal framework and revenue proposals. In the budget proposal, Treasury proposed a VAT increase in order to cater for government's spending requirements. There has been growing negative reaction to this with the Finance Committee Chairperson saying that a proposed hike in the VAT rate will be closely interrogated by Parliament before it is accepted. Meanwhile, the DA has launched a petition to stop the VAT increase. It seems the debate will be on determining what food items should be added or change on the list of zero-rated products. (Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday)

The South African Poultry Association briefed the Agriculture Committee on the challenges facing the poultry industry. It reported that the outbreak of avian flu had resulted in a loss of revenue amounting to R954 million in an industry whose total value was R46 billion. Last year, the industry had shed 1 300 jobs due to the bird flu. There had been no new outbreaks on commercial farms since mid-January 2018. Some farms were in various stages of disposal, cleaning and disinfection. The process was taking time because the farmers had to make sure the virus was dead before new chickens were introduced into the facilities. The country was under surveillance to pick up any risks. The largest number of avian flu outbreaks on commercial farms and among wild birds had been reported in the Western Cape. The meeting scheduled on Tuesday will be a continuation of the meeting held a few weeks ago. (Tuesday)

Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services will meet with the Public Protector to discuss matters of public interest and to get a briefing from her about additional resources from her office. It’s unclear if the first part of the meeting refers to the Public Protector’s public utterances, allegations that her office suppressed evidence and the recent scathing judgement against the Office. (Tuesday)

PRASA will continue its meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Transport on commuter operations and safety. (Tuesday)

The Portfolio Committee on Police will hear from the Hawks on its high profile investigations, rhino poaching investigations, update on firearms and drugs units, human trafficking and trans-national organised crime. (Wednesday)

The HSRC will brief legislators on its research proposals regarding Learner Transport in South Africa. (Wednesday)

In between, there will be detailed legislating on the following bills: Draft Public Audit Act Amendment Bill; National Research Foundation Bill; Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill; Labour Bills and National Environmental Management (NEM) Laws Bill.

See full schedule here

*Note: The schedule is subject to frequent changes and needs to be checked daily.


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People's Assembly

"That week in Parliament" is a series of blog posts in which the important Parliamentary events of the week are discussed.

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