The Week Ahead: Budget debates and 'Taking Parliament to the People' dominate

For the past two weeks committees have been meeting with departments and entities to pore over their strategic and annual performance plans, budgets and performance targets and prepare reports for consideration by the House.

The focus now shifts to the budget vote debates that commence tomorrow and run until 12 May. These debates happen in the Extended Public Committees (EPCs), which are mini-sittings of the National Assembly, and are considered an alternative forum for debates. It is an exhausting time and will test the stamina of even the most hardworking MPs.

The Ministers for Justice and Correctional Services and Mineral Resources will present their votes on Tuesday. They will be followed by the Minister of Trade and Industry on Wednesday, and his colleagues in the Departments of Economic Development, Higher Education and Training, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Police on Thursday. The Ministers of Home Affairs and Energy will get their turn on Friday. These speeches produce some interesting and topical talking points, and lead to votes which are expected to be contested by the opposition.

Over in the NCOP, the main (and only) business will be a visit by the delegates to the Eden District Municipality to report back on the Taking Parliament to the People initiative. A year ago the NCOP took a week-long visit to the area to meet with communities to hear their concerns. The programme brings together the National, Provincial, and Local spheres of government in order to address service delivery issues in the targeted area and is one of the vehicles used by the NCOP to conduct oversight over the executive. Click here to read the Report.

This is a week for detailed law-making, with issues ranging from labour laws, to higher education, to protection of orphans, to broadcasting, to revenue collecting, and combating financial crimes such as money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

Apart from a couple of sparky sessions, it’s all a bit bland in committee-land as most committees finalise their Budget Vote Reports. Here are the highlights:

On Tuesday, the National Credit Regulator will brief lawmakers on research with respect to debt forgiveness in other countries. According to the same entity as at September 2015, out of 23.11 million credit active consumers: 12.70 million (55.0%) are in good standing and 10.41 million (45%) are impaired. This briefing follows a recent meeting with the Department of Trade and Industry on government’s plans to tackle overindebtedness of households and offer consumers more protection.

Expect some headlines out of the meeting between MPs and the SA Rugby Union. On the agenda is an update on EP Kings issues and the status of governance and transformation in provincial unions.

Watch out for the interplay between the Minister of Basic Education and opposition legislators when she briefs Parliament on matters of concern in the education sector. The Dreams to Reality Foundation highlighted some of the following challenges (and will also likely be raised at the meeting):

  • Children are coming out of the schooling system without having mastered the three basic R’s of education that is the ability to Read, wRite and do basic aRithmetics.

  • South African teachers do not have the basic pedagogic and content knowledge competencies needed to impart the skills needed by our learners.

  • Inadequate organisational support to teachers and bureaucracy in the educational department.

  • Constant shift in South Africa’s educational curriculum.

  • Failure of the Provincial Education Departments to deliver on their core responsibilities.

  • South African learners do not have a culture of reading and lack the motivational push to learn from their community and families.

  • Teacher late-coming, absenteeism and an inability to enact the basic functions of teaching are endemic in many South African schools.

  • Lack of basic amenities, infrastructure and learning resources in South African townships and rural schools.

  • Many learners in South African townships and rural areas come from families affected by poverty and hunger. Compounding the problem of course is that the majority of these learner’s parents are themselves having little or no education themselves.

  • A lost generation of learners (drop outs) who are not educated nor working because of the state of South Africa’s education system.

One issue that is expected to be raised sharply is the power dynamics at play between SADTU and the state. The Minister’s decision to delay the release of the “Jobs for Cash” report will be examined.

On Wednesday, the dti will brief lawmakers on its new unit called Investment South Africa.

The Multi-Party Women’s Caucus will get a briefing on plans to ensure 50/50 representation in the upcoming local government elections.

See the full budget debate schedule here.

See the full meeting list schedule here.


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