The constituency period beckons with MPs due to depart at the end of the week and return to Parliament on 28 July. This second term of the 2020 parliamentary year will go down in history as meetings were conducted entirely on online platforms
The Coronavirus pandemic has seen a traditional, archaic and slow-moving institution transform into one trying to embrace experimentation and technology.
It has not been an easy undertaking. A lot of co-ordination was needed to enable MPs’ participation, support their use of technology and facilitate public involvement.
Not everything went smoothly but it worked well enough.
There is a fair amount of work to get through this week before the term comes to a close. Of critical importance will be the introduction of the emergency budget on Wednesday to address the financial challenges posed by the Covid-19 virus.
The Minister tabled the 2020/21 annual national Budget, including the Appropriation Bill and Division of Revenue Bill in February 2020.
At the time, there were no confirmed COVID-19 cases in South Africa. Since then, the coronavirus pandemic has brought the world to its knees causing a global health and economic crisis.
In March, the President declared a national state of disaster and country went into lockdown. The intention was to provide for an integrated and co-ordinated disaster management policy framework that focused on reducing the risk and mitigating the disaster.
In April, the government announced a broad range of interventions to address the worst effects of the pandemic on businesses, communities and individuals. This included a R500 billion support package to stabilise the economy and protect jobs.
In addition, the Minister indicated that a special adjustment budget would be tabled to modify the current Budget to provide for the rapidly changing economic conditions and enable spending on the COVID-19 response.
We are in extraordinary times and facing enormous economic challenges. The economy is expected to contract by 7%; there is a projected revenue loss of R285 billion and a ballooning budget deficit; millions will lose their jobs and the country’s debt continues to rise at an alarming rate.
The Minister will table an Adjustments Appropriation Bill, Division of Revenue Amendment Bill and Disaster Management Tax Relief Bill alongside his supplementary budget proposal.
Given the scale of the challenges and the constrained fiscal space, everyone will be watching to see how the Minister plans to tackle all of this.
Question Time is the other main chamber business in the NA chamber. This practice is an established part of the parliamentary day and gives MPs an opportunity to question the Executive about matters for which they are responsible.
Everything from specific programmes to big-picture policy to bread-and-butter issues and performance will be under the microscope. In practice, Question Time serves different objectives for governing party MPs and the opposition. In the case of the former, their questions are designed to give Ministers an opportunity to discuss the virtues of government policy. For the latter, it is a chance to confront the government for its actions and to highlight perceived inadequacies.
For all its limitations, this is usually an occasion of heightened interest and can sometimes be revealing.
Another stand out item on the programme this week is question time with the Deputy President. He will answer six main questions plus follow-up questions. Two of the standout questions are about Eskom and the coronavirus. Read the questions.
Meanwhile, select Ministers in the economics cluster will respond to the following questions.
Elsewhere, the NCOP will debate government’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday.
The following day, delegates will be briefed by the Auditor General of South Africa on the Local Government Audit Outcomes (MFMA 2018/19) Report as well as consider several bills.
Beyond this, the NCOP will receive a progress report on Thursday from the Minister of Basic Education and the nine MECs for Education on the re-opening of schools and measures in place to curb the spread of Covid-19 in schools.
The Legislature will host a Youth Parliament on Friday. The theme is: “Youth Power – Growing South Africa together in a time of Covid-19”. According to Parliament, about 180 young people amongst them Members of Parliament, Members of the Provincial Legislatures, and representatives of districts and metros across the country will participate in the event.
Highlights in the virtual Committee corridor include:
Tues 23 June:
Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs:
Briefing by Western Cape Provincial Government on its COVID-19 response plans
Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources and Energy:
Update by Mr F Arendse (Executive Director: Vantage Gold Fields) (Pty) Ltd on the issues raised with regards to Lilly Mine
Wed 24 June:
Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure:
Briefing by the DPWI on South Africa’s Infrastructure Investment Plan, which forms part of the Economic Growth Recovery Plan, post COVID19
Portfolio Committee on Communications:
Briefing by SABC on its turnaround strategy and matters incidental thereto
Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology:
Briefing by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), Univeristies South Africa (USaf), South African Union of Students (SAUS) and the South African Further Education and Training Students Association (SAFETSA) on saving the 2020 academic year
Thursday 25 June:
Portfolio Committee on Social Development: Briefing by the national and provincial Departments of Social Development (MECs and HODs) on the implementation of food distribution programmes; Update on progress made to respond to Covid19 pandemic issues
Joint Meeting: Standing Committee on Appropriations, Standing Committee on Finance, Select Committee on Appropriations and Select Committee on Finance: Briefing by the Minister of Finance on the 2020 Special Adjustments Budget
Committees provide a platform for the public to present views directly to MPs. Share your on the ground experience and expert information to the relevant committees. Critically, what questions should MPs pose to the Executive as they conduct their oversight work?
We have consolidated our reports on the COVID-19 related meetings here.
During the constituency period, MPs have a duty to: be available to the public, help solve problems and report back to their constituents on what is happening in Parliament.
The purpose of this period is to encourage MPs to remain in contact with the people they represent. To find your closest constituency office click here (please note that some information is still outstanding so this is work in progress)
View the schedule page here.
*This summary is based on the schedule as it is published on Monday morning. The programme is subject to frequent updating so the link above needs to be checked daily to confirm the programme for the day.
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