04 September 2017

The Week Ahead: Motion for Parliament to be Dissolved

It’s the penultimate week of the disjointed Third Term and the programme has a familiar pattern: it includes oral questions to the Executive, Members’ statements, committee oversight visits and scrutiny and the processing of assorted Bills, statutory instruments, statutory appointments and committee reports.

There is an unprecedented event/parliamentary rarity on Tuesday when the National Assembly chamber debates the DA's motion for Parliament to be dissolved. The motion is done in terms of section 50 of the Constitution and follows the failed motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma via secret ballot. In a media statement the party says “An early democratic election.....will provide South Africans with a new opportunity to rid the country of the toxic leadership of the Zuma-led ANC government”. Going by the arithmetic and the reaction of all the other parties, the motion has no prospect of success.

Beyond this, the NA chamber has scheduled question time sessions with the Deputy President and Ministers in the Peace and Security cluster. The practice of oral questions is an established part of the parliamentary day and gives MPs an opportunity to question government Ministers about matters for which they are responsible.

Lawmakers will probe the leader of government business on a range of issues including job losses and the economy, social cohesion, Grace Mugabe's diplomatic immunity and what action will be taken against Minister Muthambi for her non-attendance at a portfolio committee meeting.

Ministerial question time will be interesting for two reasons:

1) There are ongoing complaints from the opposition about the poor attendance of Ministers and the Deputy President has given repeated assurance that this issue is being taken seriously and attendance will improve. Many will be keeping an eye to see if he has cracked the whip.

2) Fireworks are expected as everything from specific scandals to controversies around current legislation to big-picture policy and foreign matters will be under the microscope. The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation will be asked about the Grace Mugabe matter. Meanwhile, the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services will have to answer questions about the Gupta emails and judicial overreach and the Minister of Police about the violence at Glebelands Hostel.

Elsewhere, it's a low key week in the NCOP chamber with no sittings scheduled. Permanent delegates to the National Council of Provinces will embark on a week-long oversight visit to oversee projects meant to stimulate local economic growth and benefit the people. It further provides an opportunity to receive reports from government departments and municipalities on progress made regarding service delivery.

See full plenary programme here

Once again, the Committee corridor is the main site for most of the work – there are approximately 45 meetings scheduled. Here is a run down of the highlights:

  • Following last week's marathon interviews – stretched over three days - MPs will on Tuesday deliberate and decide on the 12 names who will serve on the SABC board. Emphasis will be on choosing candidates that have suitable skills and experience and who can add value to an important institution like the SABC. That is the hope at least.

  • SAPS and a panel of experts will brief legislators on the implementation of the Farlam Commission Recommendations - the Police Committee gets periodic updates about the implementation of the Commission's recommendations

  • After months of stalling and postponements, Parliament is finally set to review the Executive Members’ Ethics Act. This is to prevent any future conflict of interest and is part of remedial action recommended by the Public Protector.

  • The Standing Committee on Finance and Portfolio Committee on Health will meet jointly to discuss the Health Promotion Levy (Rates and Monetary Amounts and Amendment of Revenue Laws Bill). The main issue is the debate on the proposed tax on sugary drinks. Proponents of the tax argue that sugary drinks are driving big increases in diabetes and obesity, which cause a range of health problems including strokes, heart attacks and cancer. Meanwhile, opponents in the sugar industry have warned there would be job losses as a result. There has been a lot of back and forth and further discussions/studies on the issue. Parties and individual MPs have been divided on this issue. We should have a clearer indication on the implementation of the levy after this meeting.

  • Also in the spotlight will be the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry's engagement with Transnet and PRASA on localisation.

  • On Wednesday, there is a briefing by SAPS, Civilian Secretariat for Police (CSP) and civil society on the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act (DVA) as required on a bi-annual basis by the legislation. In a meeting earlier this year, the reports tabled and discussed showed that there were significant challenges that SAPS faced in complying with the prescripts of the Act.

  • Meanwhile, the Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration/ Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation will hold its first meeting after the sacking of Dr Makhosi Khoza as Committee Chair.

  • There is growing pressure on the NPA to investigate the Gupta leaks. Even though the agenda for the meeting is about the prosecuting body’s 1st quarter report for 2017/18, this matter is expected to be raised sharply by MPs in the Justice Committee

  • Two other noteworthy meetings are on the job losses in the mining sector and the provision of Oncology Services in the KwaZulu-Natal Province.

  • On Friday, the Standing Committee on the Auditor-General will receive briefings from the Parliamentary Legal Adviser and the Content Adviser on the legal and other implications of proposed amendments to the Public Audit Act

  • In between, there will be detailed legislating as MPs either discuss, deliberate and finalise the following bills: Property Practitioners Bill, Home Loans and Mortgage Disclosure Amendment Bill, Expropriation Bill, Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Bill, Liquor Products Amendment Bill, National Land Transport Amendment Bill, Copyright Amendment Bill and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IK) Bill.

See the full schedule here.

*The programme is subject to changes so the schedule needs to be checked daily for accuracy.

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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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