It’s taken a few weeks but Parliament is finally firing on all cylinders with plenty of action scheduled in the National Assembly Chamber and the committee corridor.
The main events will be the debate on the State of the Nation Address on Tuesday and Wednesday as well as the President’s reply on Thursday.
Just as in previous years, we can be assured of a few things: the proceedings will be lively and raucous, with plenty of rhetoric, political jibes and heckling. Speaker after speaker will bear their political fangs and the presiding officers will be severely tested as they try to maintain control.
Opposition parties have largely reacted negatively to the speech, with many accusing the President of not offerring new ideas and not addressing fundamental issues. They are expected to expand on these points during the debate. The DA will reiterate its call for a motion of no confidence against the President, while the EFF will push for impeachment. Meanwhile, the ANC is likely to hit back at critics and defend the President’s record and proposals.
While most of the attention will be focused on the plenary, committee-land has also scheduled a number of meetings that will generate attention. Here is a run down of some of the most interesting meetings:
On Tuesday, the Department of Basic Education will brief MPs on the 2015 Matric Results and the Status Report on Schools Reopening for 2016. Only 70.7% of matrics passed in 2015. This was a drop from the 75.8%, who had passed in 2014. This has sparked debate among all stakeholders on how to improve the results. Class sizes, migration of pupils between provinces, infrastructure and the delivery of textbooks are some of the major concerns that arise at the start of every school year. These and other issues are expected to come to the fore during the briefing.
The IEC will update lawmakers on the state of readiness for the 2016 local government elections. The date for elections has not yet been proclaimed, but they must take place between 18 May and 16 August this year. There is some speculation that it will happen in the latter part of the year. The election body has already announced registration dates - 5 and 6 March.
On the legislative side, stakeholders will be paying close attention to the passage of the Higher Education Amendment Bill, the Immigration Bill and the Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment Bill.
On Wednesday, the Parliamentary Budget Office will conduct a pre-budget briefing with MPs. The Office was set up in 2013 with the aim of providing "independent, objective and professional advice" to the institution’s portfolio committees on matters related to the budget and other money bills. Provision for the office was made in the Amendment of Money Bills Procedure and Related Matters Act, which was promulgated in 2009. Also on the agenda, is a presentation by the World Bank on the South African economy (with a focus on promoting faster growth and poverty alleviation through competition).
The Portfolio Committee on Labour will continue its processing of the Unemployment Insurance Amendment Bill.
On Friday, a special meeting of the National Assembly Rules Committee will take place to consider the draft Rules of the National Assembly. The process was initiated in the Fourth Parliament and subjected to widespread consultation, lengthy meetings and multiple drafts. The EFF is opposed to several provisions in the new rules and is likely to challenge them.
You can find the full list of meetings here.
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