The Week Ahead: SONA debates & more in the spotlight

Feb. 13, 2017 (6 months ago)

Before we get in to this week's schedule, we have to make a quick comment about last week's dramatic events.

Sadly, this was not a surprise. This was a sequel to SONA 2015 and 2016. There were warning signs – heavy security, deployment of soldiers, threats by the EFF, media restrictions and conflicting statements from Parliament and the Presidency. All of this combined with a toxic political environment produced another low moment for the Fifth Parliament.

Even so, we - like most citizens - were left stunned by the violence, chaos and shameful scenes that played out during the State of the Nation Address. It overshadowed the speech and laid to bare the deep flaws in our democracy.

View the video here

The fallout has been swift with no shortage of finger-pointing and condemnation. Parliament has instituted an enquiry and is expected to receive a report on the investigation this week. Sanef has called on Parliament’s political and administrative leadership to address the securitisation of the legislature. Elsewhere, the DA will approach the courts about the presence of the South African National Defence Force and the excessive use of force by the Parliamentary security forces.

On to this week…

It’s taken a few weeks but Parliament is finally firing on all cylinders with plenty of action scheduled in both the main 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.

These debates allow the opposition a chance to respond to SONA but is often used as a means to attack the President and ruling party for not offering new ideas or addressing fundamental issues. In return, the ruling party hits back at the criticism and defends the President and government's record and proposals.

It is a highlight of the parliamentary calendar as all party leaders and a galaxy of heavyweight MPs will speak. The proceedings will be lively and raucous, with plenty of rhetoric, political jibes, heckling and even a few personal insults and slurs. Speaker after speaker will bear their political fangs and the presiding officers will be severely tested as they try to maintain control.

While most of the attention will be focused on the plenary, the committee corridor 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, lawmakers will get an update on the Integrated Energy Plan and the Integrated Resource Plan, a briefing on the 2016 Matric Results and hold public hearings on the Taxation of Sugar Sweetened Beverages.

Elsewhere, legislators will get a briefing by the Department of Home Affairs on the Green Paper/White Paper on the International Migration Policy. The Green Paper seeks to balance the primary imperatives of economic development, national security and international and constitutional obligations.

On the lawmaking side, MPs will be dealing with the Products Amendment Bill, National Forests Amendment Bill, National Veld and Forest Fire Amendment Bill, draft Property Practitioners Bill, Refugees Amendment Bill and Financial Sector Regulation Bill.

The Ad Hoc Committee on the South African Broadcasting Corporation Board Inquiry is set to resume its work. The Committee gave all participants in the inquiry time to consider its Interim Report and will now look at their responses.

The selection process for the Commission on Gender Equality will commence and stretch over a few days.

On Wednesday, the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation has a full agenda: it will discuss the outcomes of the AU summit January 2017, the implication of the admission of Morocco to the AU on Western Sahara and the future of AGOA in Africa under a Trump Administration.

On the same day, the other headline-grabbing meetings include:

A briefing by National Treasury and SASSA on their role, position and readiness in the implementation of SASSA’s institutionalization of social grant payment system

Presentation by the World Bank on their Report on the South African Economy

A briefing by the Health Ombud on the report into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 94 mentally ill patients in Gauteng Province

As far as legislation is concerned, the Red-Tape Reduction Bill, Protection, Promotion, Development and Management of Indigenous Knowledge Systems Bill and Extension of Security of Tenure Amendment Bill will be under scrutiny.

On Friday, the Constitutional Review Committee will deliberate on the 2015 public submissions.

View the full schedule here.

*In an earlier version, we indicated that the Joint Rules Committee will meet on Tuesday. This meeting was subsequently cancelled and this article has been amended accordingly.

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