The constituency period beckons, with MPs due to depart at the end of the week and return to Parliament after the elections on 16 August 2016. But a fair amount of heavy-duty business will be done before they go.
There's both high policy and low politics on display in the main chambers this week where the legislature has arranged a substantial programme, which includes ministerial statements, motions, policy debates, oral questions, a discussion of national importance and the processing of assorted bills, committee reports and statutory appointments.
In the NA chamber, the stand out items are the statement by the Minister of Arts and Culture on racism, a discussion on restoring the image of the National Assembly in light of recent developments, the second reading of the Higher Education Amendment Bill and the recommendation of persons for appointment to the Information Regulator. There are two debates scheduled – one to celebrate Africa Day and the other on building collective action for inclusive growth. In addition, legislators will probe the Deputy President and Ministers in the Peace and Security Cluster during their oral question sessions. The leader of government business will have to deal with a mixture of domestic and international matters– these include the Public Protector’s recent report on the SA Social Security Agency food parcels scandal and the situation in South Sudan. No doubt a few MPs will use this opportunity for point-scoring and to eke out some parliamentary publicity.
The major highlights in the NCOP chamber are the left over budget policy debates, Africa Day debate as well as passing of the Appropriations Bill.
Meanwhile, the fallout from last week's violent incident in the National Assembly continues to rage on as accusations fly around. Parliament even opened a case of damage to property at the Cape Town police station. To add to the mix, the Supreme Court of Appeal caused a mini detonation last Friday when it ruled in favour of the EFF over their eviction for stating that “the ANC government massacred people in Marikana”. In its judgement, the court affirmed that “there is nothing unparliamentary about robust, emotive language”. The ruling is likely to influence what MPs say and embolden many to push the boundaries.
The Committee corridor has scheduled several meetings that are likely to produce big headlines. Here is a run down of the highlights:
On Tuesday, the Department of Trade and Industry will brief MPs on the 8th edition of the Industrial Policy Action Plan, including matters relating to the steel industry. During the launch, the Minister stated that “IPAP 2016 again stresses the pressing need for structural change in the economy.... and presents a set of realistic, achievable, time-bound action programmes, with precise milestones, assigned to a range of departments and agencies”
After a bit of parliamentary ping-pong between the two Houses, the Portfolio Committee on Public Works is set to consider (and probably pass) the Expropriation Bill for a second time.
Lawmakers will get an opportunity to revisit a golden oldie controversy, in the shape of transformation in sport. Last month, the Minister of Sports and Recreation suspended the privileges of 4 sporting federations -SA Rugby, Cricket South Africa, Netball SA and Athletics SA -from bidding for international tournaments due to lack of transformation. This announcement was made during the release of the Eminent Persons Group on Transformation in Sport. Among the recommendations outlined by the Minister was that all federations and sport bodies must establish transformation committees and appoint transformation officers.
Following the burning of nearly 30 schools in Vuwani, concerns have been raised about the teaching and learning time lost due to the damage caused. Efforts by various stakeholders including the Inter-Ministerial Task Team led by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs have worked tirelessly engaging communities in a bid to bring education back to operations. In a separate statement, the government announced it will be deploying mobile classrooms to all affected schools in Vuwani and surrounding areas in Limpopo. Legislators will get an update on the status of the progress and the catch up plans that have been put in place.
The Portfolio Committee on Women in the Presidency will get a briefing on the country's 5th Periodic Report on the Implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women 2009 – 2014.
The NA Rules Committee will meet to consider the latest revised rules.
The Standing Committee on Finance will receive a presentation on the report into African Bank. The report, which was commissioned by the South African Reserve Bank following the Bank’s collapse in 2014, indicates that poor governance and a largely inexperienced board led to the micro-lender's collapse. Other findings were that the directors acted in breach of their fiduciary and that the business of the bank was conducted negligently.
In between, two committees will receive briefings on the Immigration Amendment Bill and Foreign Service Bill.
On Wednesday, the Police Committee has scheduled a full agenda where it will receive several briefings from SAPS on the new Police Training Programme; Report-back on interventions in hotspots around the country; Progress on implementation of back to basics; Progress on Farlam-commission recommendations.
MPs will get a briefing from the Department of Water and Sanitation and water boards on the 2016/17 water tariffs.
A joint meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance and Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry has been arranged to discuss illicit financial flows, base erosion, profit shifting and the “Panama Papers”. National Treasury, the South African Revenue Service and FICA have been invited to be part of the discussion. According to former President Thabo Mbeki, illicit financial flows from the African continent are now estimated to stand at $90 billion. He added that “the recent leaked Panama Papers have helped them to better understand how tax dodgers operate”.
See the full meeting list schedule here.
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