MPs will be relieved that the grueling budget vote schedule is nearing the end. This process began in February with the training of MPs on the processing of the budget votes and was followed by committees meeting with various departments and entities on their strategic plans, annual performance plans and budgets. Committees then had to consider and finalise their reports ahead of the budget debates that commenced at the beginning of the month.
Parliament has planned several activities this week to mark Africa Day . This includes: - A public discussion by leading academics and civil society representatives on unity and integration on the continent - Signing of a special pledge about Africa Day - A joint sitting to debate Africa Day. The theme of the debate is: ”We are Africa - united in our diversity in advancing the ideals of Agenda 2063”
Elsewhere, the Presidency’s Budget Vote is expected to feature prominently in the headlines. This will be debated over two days (Tuesday and Wednesday) and will conclude with the President’s reply to the debate.
In his address last year, the President highlighted that his government “…will continue to prioritise five key areas this term - education, health, rural development and land reform, the fight against crime and corruption as well as creating decent work”. His speech will no doubt relate to and build on these objectives.
As with his previous appearances, this will be a robust encounter with the President having to defend a wide ranging of charges, such as the performance of various departments and entities, his appointments, his overseas travel, legislation he is considering, his office’s spending and his failure to release the Marikana Report.
Opposition parties are also likely to renew their calls to have a dedicated oversight committee on the Presidency. In the past the IFP has pointed out that “South Africa is unique among parliamentary democracies throughout the world. Every year, in this House, we debate our Presidency's budget without having had the benefit of scrutinising it in a parliamentary oversight committee”.
The Committee corridor has arranged some intriguing meetings. Here is a run down of the highlights:
On Tuesday, the Municipal Demarcation Board will brief MPs on progress made in the delimitation of the municipal wards in preparation for the Local Government Elections in 2016. According to most experts, these elections will be “hotly contested” and the determination of geographic boundaries will have a bearing on the outcome.
The spotlight will be on the Portfolio Committee on Communications when it shortlists candidates for the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) Board and receives a Legal Opinion relating to the removal of SABC Board members.
Legislators will discuss the effects of migration and climate change on municipalities as well as the impact of the carbon tax.
On Wednesday, there will be a briefing on the future of the Shale Gas Industry. Government recently announced that it had commissioned an investigation into the possible impacts and potential mitigation opportunities of shale gas if it is found in the country.
The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform will share with MPs the report of the Human Rights Commission on the systematic challenges facing land restitution in South Africa. Land remains an emotional issue in South Africa and this discussion will be keenly followed by observers.
On Friday, the Portfolio Committee on Labour has arranged a workshop on the National Minimum Wage with the Small Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) industry. This is a continuation of the public hearings that have been held across the country with different sectors. In his 2014 State of the Nation Address, President Jacob Zuma stated that the National Minimum Wage must be investigated as a mechanism to alleviate poverty and inequality. The participants have included labour unions, employer organisations, academics and experts, who have differed widely and cited varying statistics and data (sometimes even contradictory) to support their position, with views ranging from non-committal, rejection, qualified support and outright support.
MPs will also spend a considerable time this week making laws as they conduct hearings and deliberate on the following bills:
Agrement South Africa Bill Expropriation Bill Performing Animals Protection Amendment Bill Rates and Monetary Amounts and Amendment of Revenue Laws Bill Remote Gambling Bill Medical Innovation Bill Appropriation Bill
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