The Week Ahead: Question sessions, higher education & legislation

It's a big week in the NA chamber with MPs scheduled to sit for long hours to consider several bills and assorted committee reports.

The major plenary highlights will be the question sessions involving the Ministers in the Social Services Cluster and the Deputy President on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. Everything from specific scandals to controversies around current legislation to big-picture policy and foreign matters will be under the microscope.

Lawmakers are also set to make statements and debate an issue of national importance - empowering young South Africans.

The NCOP chamber is also full of activity and offers a blend of legislative business, executive scrutiny, motions and the processing of assorted statutory instruments and reports.

President Zuma’s annual address to the NCOP, scheduled for Thursday, is the main event. The theme for this year’s address is”Working together to build on the advances of our democracy for a better life for all”. Just as in past years, the President is expected to talk about the importance of the NCOP and its achievements; as well as the successes of his government.

Beyond this, there will be more squabbles between the ANC and the DA as they lodge complaints against MPs from both parties to the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members Interest. The ANC wants that body to investigate the leader of the opposition and 10 other DA members for not fully complying with financial disclosure requirements. In return, the DA has asked that 7 ANC MPs and 2 from the EFF, who made late submissions, be investigated.

There's some important Committee action this week. Here is a run down of the highlights:

On Tuesday, the Department of Human Settlements will brief MPs on the intervention in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality in relation to delivery, performance and expenditure. The timing of this engagement is fitting given a recent Business Day report, which stated that the department withheld grant funds from the City of Cape Town, Ekurhuleni, Buffalo City Metro, City of Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, City of Tshwane, eThekwini and Mangaung, saying the metros had failed to prove they had spent previous allocations on housing projects.

Legislators will get an update on the readiness for elections from the Department of Cooperative Governance and the Independent Electoral Commission.

On Wednesday, the Police committee will further deliberate on the Rule 201 Inquiry; get a briefing by Hon Mbhele on the Critical Infrastructure Bill and hear from SAPS on policing at National Key Points, particularly in relation to the recent breaches at Parliament.

Eskom will brief MPs on its 2014/15 annual report and financial statements. The power utility struggled to keep the lights on earlier in the year and had to receive an emergency bailout last year. Eskom has avoided loadshedding for the past few months and National Treasury is optimistic about its ability to turn electricity supply around.

The focus on funding for universities is set to continue as a joint parliamentary committee holds hearings on the 2015 MTBPS, with a specific focus on Higher Education. The Department of Higher Education and Training; the Council on Higher Education and Business Unity South Africa are expected to take part in the hearings.

There will be a fair amount of legislative lifting as many committees finalise, continue or commence their work on various bills. These include the Expropriation Bill, Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill, Finance Bill, New Development Bank Special Appropriation Bill, Defence Laws Repeal Amendment Bill, Taxation Laws Amendment and Tax Administration Laws Amendment Bills, Medicines and Related Substances Amendment Bill, Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment Bill.

You can find the full list of meetings here.


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