The Week ahead: Third Term is Underway
Now that the National Assembly has also returned from constituency break (the NCOP resumed at the end of July), it feels like the real start of the new term.
The third term will run for 5-8 weeks and will be packed with activities. Some of the highlights include Committee, oversight and legislative work; oral questions to the Executive; Taking Parliament to the People preliminary visits and debates of national importance. In addition, the national legislature has provisionally scheduled sittings and events to debate and commemorate Women’s Day and Heritage Day. That said, the timetable can be overtaken by unscheduled debates, statements and events.
MPs are expected to do some heavy legislative lifting this term as there are 59 bills currently before the legislature. Some bills interrupted by the constituency break will resume their path to becoming law. The major ones include the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill, Road Accident Benefits Schemes Amendment Bill, Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill and several Private Members’ bills. Other leftover bills cover an array of issues, including cyber crimes, customary initiation, critical infrastructure protection, credit, copyright, hate speech and hate crimes and property practitioners.
The work of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review is likely to eclipse everything else this term. 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. Deliberations on the public hearings and written inputs is set to occur between 4 and 7 September 2018 with the adoption of the report expected on 11 September 2018, where the Committee will make a recommendation to both Houses of Parliament for approval. If Parliament agrees to amend section 25, government must then draft and introduce a bill (Constitution Eighteenth Amendment) that will give effect to this motion and specify the wording of the amendment. In order for the Bill to pass, the National Assembly, with a supporting vote of at least two thirds of its members; and the National Council of Provinces, with a supporting vote of at least six provinces, must approve it.
Also on the radar are the four Committees tasked to investigate state capture. The Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises, which focused on the mismanagement of state funds at Eskom, plans to finalise its report during this quarter. The Committee will be presented with the initial report - thereafter it will be sent to implicated persons to respond to the allegations against them before a final report is drafted. The other three Committees -which have been slow with their inquiries – will be under pressure to conclude their work or make significant progress.
Following a call for nominations and applications, Parliament will shortlist, interview and recommend candidates for appointments to the SABC Board and MDDA Board. Both appointments will be heavily scrutinised: it is alleged that the public broadcaster has a liquidity crisis and is in need of another bailout while the Agency has governance challenges and had serious findings made made against it by the Auditor-General. In addition, the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs will begin the second phase of the IEC Commissioner appointment process. There are 3 vacancies that need to be filled. Last month, a Panel released the names of the 8 candidates that were forwarded to Parliament for further consideration and recommendation to the President.
We are getting into election season. With this in mind we can expect MPs to use every possible parliamentary occasion - question time, Members’ statements, debates, whatever – to target hot button electoral issues and try to score points over their opponents. Fuel prices, gender-based violence, unemployment and bailouts for struggling SOEs are just a sample of the main issues that will be in the spotlight.
Turning to this week, there are no plenary sittings scheduled in the NA Chamber. However, the NCOP chamber has arranged 2 sessions where Ministers in the Social Services and Governance clusters will appear to answer oral questions on Tuesday and Wednesday.
In the Committee Corridor, a number of Committees have scheduled oversight visits during this week. The purpose of the visits are to test the authenticity of the information provided by the departments these Committees oversee. It’s also an opportunity to obtain first-hand knowledge from people engaged in the direct implementation of specific programmes and/or who are directly responsible for service delivery. Some of the interesting oversight visits are to SAA and North West Provincial Education Department.
Legislation will be a key focus with Committees dealing with several following bills at various stages of their passage: Ikamva National e-Skills Institute Bill, Administrative Adjudication Road Traffic Offences Amendment Bill, Films and Publication Bill, Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill, National Credit Amendment Bill, Copyright Amendment Bill, Overvaal Resorts Limited Repal Bill, Civil Union Bill, Public Investment Corporation Amendment Bills, Restitution of Land Rights Bill, Parliament and Provincial Medical Aid Scheme Bill and the Immigration Amendment Bill.
Public hearings on the Road Accident Benefit Schemes Bill and Customary Initiation Bill will take place outside Parliament this week.
Several high profile meetings are scheduled on the fuel price, Gupta citizenship, SASSA payment grants, high-profile cases (such as state capture, Steinhoff and VBS Bank) and appointments to key bodies.
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.
"That week in Parliament" is a series of blog posts in which the important Parliamentary events of the week are discussed.