12 November 2018

The Week ahead: Section 25 & legislation in the spotlight

The work of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review is likely to eclipse everything else this week. The Committee was given a mandate by the NA and the NCOP to review Section 25 of the Constitution, and other clauses where necessary, to make it possible for the state to expropriate land in the public interest without compensation.  The Committee undertook an extensive nation-wide public hearing process from June to August. Owing to the huge volume of submissions and public interest, the Committee could not meet the original deadline (end of September 2018) to finalise its Report. According to the Committee’s agreed-upon programme, 15 November was set as the new date for the adoption of the Report. In order to meet this deadline, the Committee is expected to have meetings on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week to review the Draft Report on the possible review of Section 25 of the Constitution. The working document outlines the methodology that was used to elicit views from the public, the summary of public submissions and the Committee’s observations and recommendations. The recommendation will be forwarded to both chambers for consideration before Parliament rises for the summer recess break. 

This is a week for detailed law-making, with issues ranging from civil union, to tax, to gambling, to qualifications and more.

The big plenary event in the National Assembly is the question time session with Ministers in the Peace and Security Cluster and leftover questions to the Economic Cluster. Most of the questions touch on a wide variety of controversial matters, domestic and foreign, which is guaranteed to make this a lively sitting.

This week could see the finalisation of the Division of Revenue Amendment Bill. The division of revenue lays down how total government revenue should be divided and allocated between the spheres of government.

Another highlight is the scheduled discussion titled: "Through Peace and Stability - Responding to the Needs of our People"

In addition, the plenary agenda is dotted with the usual items like consideration of assorted Committee Reports, legislation and motions.

The programme is a bit more pedestrian in the NCOP chamber, where only one day has been scheduled to debate unemployment in the country and consider outstanding Reports.

It's a busy week in Committee-land, particularly on the legislative front, and there are some very big and serious issues in play. Here is a run down of the highlights:

Scopa will get a progress report from the Inter-Ministerial Task Team on the defaulting municipalities that owe Eskom. Municipalities owe the power utility R13 billion. The IMTT was established to find solutions to the constitutional, systemic, and structural challenges in electricity reticulation. Previously, municipalities raised several challenges, including the illegal connections in communities, the high unemployment rate which leads to people unable to pay the municipality while the municipality continues to provide electricity, ageing infrastructure, debt collectors overcharging municipalities, and municipalities not being assisted by police when they report illegal connections by people who are operating such as gangsters who have weapons and are a danger to municipal officials. Municipalities further expressed concern that their constitutional authority is undermined by Eskom. (Tuesday)

Cybersecurity and other security issues will come under the spotlight when the Department of Telecommunications briefs Parliament. Lawmakers will be keen to find out if government has the necessary legal framework, institutions, skills and capacity to deal with this matter. (Tuesday)

The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs will probe the Department on a variety of matters:  This includes litigation cases against the Department and the incident that happened at OR Tambo International Airport between immigration officials and dignitaries of the Southern African Development Community  (Tuesday)

In a September meeting, the Police Committee noted that SAPS was having ongoing challenges with the Department of Public Works. The Committee raised the matter of the Department giving SAPS buildings and facilities that were not suited for it. A follow-up joint meeting has been arranged to tackle this. (Tuesday)

The SABC plans on retrenching workers in order to reduce costs. MPs have indicated that retrenchment must be the very last resort. The DA has called for an independent skills audit to be conducted first before the public broadcaster pursues this path of action. MPs will meet with the SABC on implementation of section 189 of the Labour Relations Act. (Tuesday)

“Farm attacks” will be in the spotlight this week. It is a topic that generates a lot of heat as there is often debate about the extent of the problem, with different sides presenting contrasting statistics.  SAPS will brief MPs on its Rural Safety Plan and various stakeholders have been invited to give input as well. (Wednesday)

Recently, the Constitutional Court delivered an important judgement affirming the rights of communities living in mining areas. The Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources will get a briefing from the Department on its response to this judgement and pending legal cases. (Wednesday)

Last week, Scopa sent the SABC packing for not providing information the Committee requested on irregular expenditure amounting to R4.9bn. The meeting has been rescheduled to this week. (Wednesday)

The Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation will hear from the Department of Water and Sanitation, Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, National Treasury and the South African Local Government Association on outstanding debt by municipalities owed to water boards and the Department of Water and Sanitation. In 2017, the Department reported that there were 186 municipalities affected, but 30 were extreme cases. There was also a proposal to withhold the equitable share allocation as a mechanism to offset the debt. Stakeholders highlighted ageing infrastructure issues, low collection rates, the operation on a deficit or break-even point by water trading bodies, and economic circumstances as default-enhancing mechanisms. (Wednesday)

The Portfolio Committee on Social Development will briefed by the Department of Social Development on operations and a funding model for Food Security implementing agencies across provinces. (Wednesday)

In between, Committees will be doing some detailed legislating, with the following Bills considered:  Competition Amendment Bill; Rates and Monetary Amounts and Amendment of Revenue Laws Bill; Taxation Laws Amendment Bill; Tax Administration Laws Amendment Bill; National Gambling Amendment Bill; Civil Union Amendment Bill; Electoral Amendment Bill; Local Government: Municipal Structures Amendment Bill; Property Practitioners Bill; Performers’ Protection Amendment Bill; Road Accident Benefit Scheme; Foreign Service Bill; and National Qualifications Amendment Bill.

 View the full schedule here.

*This summary is based on the schedule as it is published on Monday morning. The programme is subject to frequent updating so the link above needs to be checked daily to confirm the programme for the day.

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