13 November 2017

The Week Ahead: President in the NCOP & Questions to Deputy

It's the last rites of the 2017 Parliament and both chambers have scheduled broad and busy programmes as they rush to finalise all urgent business.

In the NA chamber, the main plenary event will be the appearance by the Deputy President to answer oral questions in the House. This monthly appointment is one of the ways in which Parliament holds the Executive accountable. On this occasion, the leader of government business will be probed about a number of issues including the recent Cabinet reshuffle and the proposed (but not yet established) state capture judicial commission of inquiry.

Other plenary highlights include legislative business, motions, statements and the processing of statutory appointments, statutory instruments and Committee reports. Beyond this, a subject for discussion has been put on the agenda for Tuesday’s sitting under the title: The provision of quality education, skills development and innovation is a fundamental tenet for the attainment of a developmental state.

Elsewhere, expect plenty of fireworks during the President's oral question session in the NCOP. It’s his final appearance for the year in Parliament and delegates will use the opportunity to grill the President about several controversial matters including the Cabinet reshuffle, the performance of Cabinet and his representations to the NPA. Recent history suggests that these engagements are rarely illuminating and almost always unedifying.

The Western Cape is the focus of the two debates earmarked in the upper chamber this week. First, is the debate on conditions facing the people of Imizamo Yethu. Second, is the debate on the challenges facing farm learners throughout the Western Cape, especially in areas such as in Wolseley, Stellenbosch, Wellington and Grabouw.

View the full plenary programme here

There is some significant action in the Committee corridor. Here is a rundown of the highlights:

The Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises will continue its Inquiry into Eskom on Tuesday. Thus far, MPs have reacted with shock at the extent and scale of corruption at the power utility.

The Departments of Basic Education, Social Development and Health will appear jointly before Parliament to discuss learner pregnancies. In a written parliamentary reply, the Minister of Basic Education confirmed that 1 449 pupils in Grades 3 to 7 fell pregnant between 2014 and 2016. The meeting will discuss government support, interventions and steps taken to reduce this.

Between 2009 and 2014, 7,829 firearms have been lost from police stations. Recently, it was revealed that a number of firearms were stolen from the Bellville South and Mitchells Plain Police Stations and that SAPS members were being probed for this. MPs will get an update of the investigation.

Secure access to food by all is still not guaranteed. Household food security is threatened by globalisation, international trade regimes, climate change and the poor storage and distribution of food. Co-coordinated interventions are needed. Lawmakers will hear from several government departments about the implementation of the National Food and Nutrition Security Policy Plan.

Parliament directed four Committees to urgently probe allegations of state capture involving Cabinet Ministers. While the other Committees have either done considerable work, or held preliminary discussions, the Portfolio Committee on Transport is yet to begin probing the matter and has a lot of catching up to do. At long last, the Committee will commence on this and for the first meeting has lined up the Minister of Transport to discuss allegations of state capture at the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa.

The Finance Committee has scheduled a follow-up meeting with the Public Investment Corporation and Government Employees Pension Fund. At the previous meeting, trade unions submitted that bailing out ailing state-owned entities would not bring a good return on workers’ funds.

On Wednesday, the Standing Committee on Appropriations will receive input from National Treasury, Financial and Fiscal Commission and the Parliamentary Budget Office on SAA debt relief and recapitalization funding. Previously, the Finance Committee Chairperson said that government should attach stringent conditions to money allocated to ailing state-owned entities.

The Department of Higher Education and Training and other stakeholders will brief MPs on the readiness of universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges for the 2018 academic year. The process of registration and enrolment, funding, accommodation and the Heher Commission are some of the pressing issues that will be raised sharply. According to leaked media reports, the Heher Commission advised that the country is currently in no position to afford the provision of free tertiary education. A few weeks ago, the Committee expressed concern about the potential consequences of delays in releasing the Heher Fees Commission report noting that “the release ought to be expeditious so that universities know what and how to budget for the next year. Punctuality will allow them to make informed decisions as to what percentage increase they require for the next year”. However, the sudden speculation that the President will announce a free tertiary education plan has thrown a bolt of lightning into the mix.

Legislators will hear from Crime Intelligence on the vetting process. The Unit has been mired in controversy over its inability to properly vet SAPS members -The Joint Rules Committee has scheduled a meeting to approve new procedures and enhance institutional steps including a draft Public Participation Model for Parliament.

On Thursday, the Constitutional Review Committee will consider legal opinions on 2016 public submissions and the Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament will get an update from the Acting Secretary to Parliament on the 2017-18 mid-year performance and expenditure of Parliament.

On Friday, the Standing Committee on Appropriations will engage with Business Leadership South Africa and South African Trade Unions on the SAA Debt Relief and recapitalization.

In between, there will be detailed legislating as Committees consider and deliberate on the following bills: Division of Revenue Amendment Bill, Committee Bill on Debt Relief, iNesi Bill, Films and Publications Amendment Bill, Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill, Insurance Bill and Labour Laws Amendment (LLA) Bill.

On the sidelines, the Presiding Officers of Parliament has invited the media to the fifth Parliament’s inaugural stakeholders and media mid-term breakfast briefing. The Presiding Officers will present a performance report of fifth Parliament since 2014 and reflect on achievements, challenges and interventions aimed at completing the term strongly and successfully.

See full schedule here

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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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