The week ahead – President to answer oral questions

It's a week of farewells and loose ends.

The constituency period beckons, with MPs due to depart on Friday and return on 12 April. But a fair amount of heavy-duty business will be done before they go with lots of action scheduled in the main chambers and committee corridor.

The main plenary event is the oral question session with President Zuma on Thursday where he will be probed on several controversial issues. Two of the questions – from the DA and EFF respectively – concern the appointment and removal of Mr David van Rooyen as Minister of Finance and the reappointment of Mr Gordhan as the Minister of Finance.

One of the questions will turn the spotlight on social grants. The IFP will ask the President to consider establishing a commission of inquiry to investigate the illegal deductions of social grants. Every month, money is deducted from the accounts of hundreds of social grant beneficiaries without their permission. As early as 2011, Black Sash raised concerns with SASSA about the unauthorised, undocumented and irregular third party debit deductions from the accounts of grant beneficiaries. The organisation has a “Hands off our grants” campaign, to educate the public and document cases of unauthorised deductions. According to the IFP, the ministerial task team established to look into this has been unable to resolve the ongoing concerns. Civil society and beneficiaries will be listening closely to the President’s response on this matter.

HOOG Picture: - "Hands Off Our Grants" campaign/Photographer: Erik Miller

The appointment of a new Inspector-General of Intelligence was resuscitated last week by the National Assembly when it revived a report from the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence on the nomination of Burgess. Lawmakers are set to vote on the matter on Wednesday. The matter was postponed last year after the ruling party failed to get the two-thirds majority support for its preferred candidate. The DA has vowed to block the appointment.

In addition, the NA chamber is scheduled to sit for long hours hearing ministerial and members’ statements, voting on several bills and approving assorted statutory instruments and committee reports.

Meanwhile, the NCOP Chamber has arranged two sittings to consider various reports and have two debates. The first debate, planned for Tuesday, is titled Debate on World Consumer Rights Day: Advancing our national resolve to protecting the social and economic welfare of consumers and the second one is a Debate on Human Rights Day, scheduled for Thursday.

Here is my run down of the meetings that will produce the big headlines:

On Tuesday, the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs will consider a report of candidates recommended by a panel led by the Chief Justice to fill a vacancy within the Electoral Commission. The vacancy arose following the resignation of Ms Reanette Taljaard.

Different committees will meet to discuss and receive briefings on a variety of topics: these include broadband rollout, the implementation of the Rolling Stock Fleet Renewal Programme, the Grand Inga Project and the burden of health and disease in South Africa.

A few committees have arranged strategic planning workshops. The strategic plans give committees an opportunity to identify their mandate as well as to develop a programme of action for the duration of their term.

In between, there will be some detailed legislating as committees process and discuss the Immigration Amendment Bill, the Higher Education Amendment Bill, the Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment Bill and Remote Gambling Bill.

On Wednesday, the Department of Trade and Industry, Eskom and Transnet will brief legislators on efforts to promote localisation, beneficiation and support to small and medium enterprises.

The Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation will get a progress report on climate change interventions, the status of drought in South Africa and the disbursement of the drought relief fund to provinces.

On the lawmaking side, MPs will discuss the Foreign Service Bill and Children’s Amendment Bill.

The constituency period will last three weeks (22 March –11 April). During this time, 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 these periods is to encourage MPs to remain in contact with the people they represent. For more information about constituency offices and to find your representative, click here and here.

You can find the full list of meetings here.


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