21 August 2017

The Week Ahead: Questions, Legislation & Taking Parliament to the People

There's a broad and busy flavour to this week's parliamentary business in the National Assembly chamber.

The main plenary highlight will be the Deputy President’s regular engagement with lawmakers when he appears to answer oral questions. He will be probed about a mixture of big-picture policy matters and current controversies.

Beyond this, the lower chamber will process assorted Bills, statutory appointments and Committee reports.

The Rules allow MPs to propose a subject for discussion - a subject for discussion provides an opportunity for the House to debate a particular topic without the House being required, at the end of the debate, to take a decision. Debates and discussions are an opportunity for MPs to have a dialogue about government policy, proposed new laws and current issues. It allows MPs to voice the concerns and interests of their constituents and voters. It is meant to be a dynamic style of discussion, in which MPs generally respond to the points made by other speakers rather than reading out formal, set-piece speeches – though this is seldom upheld. With the SA Reserve Bank recently halving its 2017 growth forecast to 0.5%, the topic on how to stimulate tangible economic growth is very apt.

Elsewhere, the main (and only) business in the NCOP will be the Taking Parliament to the People initiative taking place in the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality from 21 to 25 August 2017. This programme tries to make the legislature more accessible to people who live outside urban areas by literally taking Parliament to them. This is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, it meets the legislature’s duty to make participation accessible, especially to the marginalised. Secondly, it brings together public representatives from all spheres and encourages cooperation between all spheres, where a lack of coordination is often a cause of service failures. Lastly, legislators get direct experience of the challenges people in various communities are faced with. The event has been criticised for being a “talk shop”, not inviting all role players and for weak feedback and follow up. Health care and local economic development are two broad areas of attention that this programme will focus on this year. On the last day, this programme will take the form of a formal sitting of the NCOP, which will be addressed by the Deputy President.

View the full plenary programme here

It’s a promising week in the Committee corridor. Everything from detailed lawmaking, to Executive scrutiny, to internal reports, to big-picture policy will be under the microscope. Here is a rundown of the highlights:

  • The term of office of the interim SABC Board will end soon and lawmakers have embarked on a process to select a new permanent Board. In June, the Portfolio Committee on Communications invited the public to nominate persons to fill vacancies of non-executive members to the SABC Board, as stipulated in section 13 of the Broadcasting Act, No 4 of 1999. On Tuesday, the Committee will sift through those CVs to shortlist suitable candidates that can be interviewed to serve on the Board. Last week, the Committee agreed that the names and CVs of shortlisted candidates will be uploaded on Parliament’s website for the public to comment on and only 36 candidates (three candidates per post for the 12 vacant positions) will be interviewed from the received nominations.

  • The Standing Committee on Public Accounts will continue holding Department’s and entities, that are guilty of irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, to account. The Department of Water and Sanitation will be in the spotlight on Tuesday and SAA will be under scrutiny the following day.

  • There is global consensus on the importance of cybersecurity and a Cybercrimes and Cyber security Bill was tabled in Parliament to regulate the issue. A briefing by the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services will be closely watched.

  • Following the public hearings, the Ad Hoc Committee on the Funding of Political Parties will review the regulatory framework governing the funding of political parties (have your say on the funding of political parties here: https://www.pa.org.za/blog/survey-political-party-funding)

  • The Portfolio Committee on Energy is expected to meet with the Minister to discuss various scandals and issues relating to PetroSA and the Central Energy Fund.

  • On Wednesday, SAPS will present on its anti-gang strategy in several provinces and the Hawks will present on illegal firearms.

  • Earlier this year, the Constitutional Court ruled that the Minister of Social Development and SASSA must file reports on affidavit with the Court every three months, setting out how they plan to ensure the payment of social grants after the expiry of the 12-month period, what steps they have taken in that regard, what further steps they will take and when they will take each future step, so as to ensure that the payment of all social grants is made when they fall due after the expiry of the 12-month period. In addition, the Auditor-General was tasked with evaluating the implementation of payment of social grants during the 12-month period, evaluating the steps envisaged or taken by SASSA for any competitive bidding process or processes aimed at the appointment by SASSA in terms of section 4(2)(a) of the South African Social Security Agency Act 9 of 2004 of a new contractor or contractors for the payment of social grants, evaluating the steps envisaged or taken by SASSA aimed at SASSA itself administering and paying the grants in the future or SASSA itself permitting any part or parts of the administration and payment processes in the future, file reports on affidavit with this Court every three months, commencing on a date three months after the date of this order, or any shorter period as the legal practitioners and experts may deem necessary, setting out the steps they have taken to evaluate the matters referred to in paragraphs 12.1 to 12.3, the results of their evaluations and any recommendations they consider necessary. The AG will give feedback to the Portfolio Committee on Social Development on the feedback on various issues regarding the implementation of the Constitutional Court report.

  • On Friday, the Standing Committee on the Auditor-General will have further discussions with the Auditor-General of South Africa regarding reviewing the Public Audit Act.

In between, MPs will be considering and processing the following Bills: Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Bill, Copyright Amendment Bill, Liquor Products Amendment Bill, National Land Transport Amendment Bill, Insurance 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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