2024 Parliamentary Year
While the official opening of Parliament is next week, the parliamentary year has already commenced. MPs are attending summits, training and are busy with constituency and committee work.
Alongside this, political parties are maintaining a keen focus on the forthcoming election with many compiling candidate lists, holding rallies, campaigning, publishing manifestos, and making other preparations.
As a result of the election, the parliamentary calendar is frenetic, unpredictable, and disjointed as the legislature is first dissolved and later re-constituted after the elections.
The Sixth Parliament term ends in mid-May. According to the Constitution, elections must take place within 90 days after that, so an election is possible between May and the middle of August 2024.
The process is triggered by the President, who makes an announcement on the election date and this is followed by an official proclamation in the Government Gazette.
In 2019, Parliament was dissolved at the end of March. The current programme shows that the national legislature will rise in early May. Notwithstanding this, MPs can be called back for "emergency" business right up until 8 May. If one recalls, this happened at the end of the Fourth Parliament in April 2014 when MPs had to return to scrutinise former President Zuma’s response to the Public Protector’s report on Nkandla.
It is worth noting that national and provincial governments will remain in office until the newly elected public representatives are able to take office.
In the remaining days of the Sixth Parliament, political decisions will have to be made about what outstanding parliamentary business can be dropped due to lack of time.
Confirmed for 8 February, the State of the Nation Address is expected to reflect on the 30th anniversary of the country’s democracy and the administration’s achievements in the past five years.
Thirteen days later, the Minister of Finance will table the draft 2024/25 Budget.
There are 54 Bills in Parliament so there will be a big push to put the finishing touches on as many of them as possible before the legislature’s term expires. This is in keeping with previous cycles where a significant number of Bills are passed in the dying days of a parliamentary session.
Given the time constraints, it’s worth wondering: if these outstanding bills will be subjected to proper scrutiny and ultimately survive any constitutional challenge.
Key pieces of legislation which are expected to be finalised this term include the Climate Change Bill, Electoral Matters Amendment, Housing Consumer Protection Bill, and Railway Safety Bill - barring political decisions to halt them.
Parliament has other pressing issues: holding impeachment votes for 2 judges, publishing its Sixth Term Legacy Report, finalising various appointments (including the Electoral Reform Panel) and concluding several investigations.
There are also court matters to attend to.
One thing is certain: MPs might show up but they will be focused on campaigning as parties try to one-up each other to win public support. This means plenty more finger-pointing, squabbles, grandstanding, brinkmanship, jousting, endless promises and sound bites
Of course, the election results will determine the composition of the new Parliament and its trajectory: how many parties will be represented and who will have the majority?
The 2024 elections will be historic, as independent candidates will, for the first time, be able to contest for seats in the national and provincial elections.
When the Seventh Parliament is sworn in, the legislature can look very different to the current one: there could be more women, younger MPs, fewer and/or new parties, a higher turnover rate of MPs and a reduced majority for the ANC.
As parties put together their lists and people jockey for positions, it is worth reflecting on this.
Depending on the result, it’s possible to imagine a stronger and more vibrant Parliament or a weaker one. There is a small possibility that a coalition might be needed.
A reconfiguration of government will impact on Parliament. In the National Assembly, there is a corresponding oversight committee for each government department. If several departments are clustered, then the same will apply to the relevant committees.
Organisationally, the new Parliament will immediately be preoccupied with the following: appoint parliamentary leadership, hold a second State of the Nation Address, set up new structures, orientate/train all MPs, and formulate a five-year strategic vision for the institution.
Other tasks include passing the budget and beginning its oversight and legislative work.
Political parties will also assign constituency offices to their members
Hold on tightly, it’s going to be a loud, interesting, and unpredictable year.
The priority this week (29 January – 2 February) is:
-SA Legislative Sector Oversight Summit (30 and 31 January)
-Provincial Public Hearings
Committees provide a platform for the public to present views directly to MPs. Share your thoughts, on-the-ground experience, and expert information to the relevant committees. Critically, what questions should MPs pose to the Executive as they conduct their oversight work? Write to a Parliamentary Committee
View the schedule page 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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