It's a busy week in the main chambers and committee corridor. Everything from the mini-budget speech, to the President and Ministerial question times, to debates, to legislative business, to motions and members' and ministerial statements dominate the plenary agenda.
All eyes will be on the Minister of Finance when he delivers the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) on Wednesday. The MTBPS outlines the economic context against which the 2017 budget is being formulated and sets out the spending framework for the next three years. It is an opportunity for government to modify expenditure and revenue patterns so that delivery is accelerated. The Minister has a tough job to do as he seeks to stimulate the economy, contain expenditure and avoid a ratings downgrade. All of this must be achieved against a background of low growth, high unemployment, extreme inequality and growing pressure to increase spending on higher education. The Minister also has to battle personal problems as he has a pending court appearance on a charge of fraud. Earlier this year, Treasury predicted that growth in the South African economy will be 0.9% in 2016. However, according to a recent IMF forecast, the South African economy will grow by just 0.1% this year. The Minister is expected to revise his forecast in line with this statement. Commentators and analysts have also added their voice to the debate, highlighting the five key challenges facing the minister in the MTBPS, namely weak GDP growth and an appropriate turnaround strategy; sustained budget deficits; containment of government debt; the current account deficit; and political uncertainty. With a bleak forecast and government revenue declining, South Africans will be watching to see what balancing act the Minister achieves.
Other NA plenary highlights include the statement by the Minister of Higher Education and Training on current developments in universities and a subject for discussion proposed by Dr M Motshekga titled: South African Jurisprudence, sitting comfortably with the Constitution or the need for change aligned with the principles and values of the Constitution.
The President's oral question session in the NCOP is another high point of the parliamentary week. Lawmakers will probe the President on a mixture of domestic and foreign matters – this includes international rating agencies, SA’s economic stability, establishment of the Presidential SOE Coordinating Council, moving the seat of Parliament, the reappointment of SAA Chairperson and Operation Phakisa. The President's appearances are usually marked by a familiar pattern: interruptions, point of orders, walkouts, unparliamentary language, sniping and removal of MPs from the chamber. It's not inconceivable that some of this will play out again.
Beyond this, the NCOP has scheduled a question time session with Ministers in the Economic Cluster. These days question time has an added dimension following complaints about the poor attendance of Ministers. The Deputy President gave an assurance that this issue is being taken seriously and attendance will improve. There is plenty of scope for party battles as many of the questions touch on bread and butter issues: farm evictions, illegal mining, small-scale commercial fishing rights and payments for drought relief.
You can view the full plenary programme here
There’s lots of action in Committee-land, with a few cabinet ministers set to make appearances. Everything from statutory appointments, to executive scrutiny, to internal reports, to big-picture policy will be under the microscope. This is also a week for detailed law-making, with issues ranging from unemployment insurance, films and publication, to revenue collecting, to national land transport, to financial sector regulation, to road traffic offences and border management all set to be deliberated on. Here is a rundown of the highlights:
On Tuesday, the Commission for Gender Equality and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs will brief legislators on the maiden bursary investigative report at Uthukela District Municipality. Earlier this year, the Commission ruled that the rewarding of bursaries to young women based on their virginity is unconstitutional. The maiden bursary was aimed at curbing teenage pregnancy. The municipality claimed it encourages young women to focus on their studies and discourages them from sexual activities.
Other noteworthy meetings are a briefing by the Minister of Economic Development on progress in the implementation of the New Growth Path and engagements with the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation on its annual reports and the Department of Environmental Affairs and Eskom on the renewable energy (IPP reduction of carbon emissions).
On Wednesday, the Select Committee on Communications and Public Enterprises will get an update on how the selling of spectrum will benefit government and the people of South Africa.
On the same day, lawmakers will hear from the Department of Social Development on the National Disability Policy.
On Thursday, the Minister of Finance will brief a joint meeting on the finance and appropriations committees from both houses on the 2016 MTBPS.
You can find a full list of meetings for this week here.
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