The Week Ahead: It’s all about lawmaking, debates and budget hearings

There's both high policy and low politics on display in the National Assembly chamber this week. Everything from a motion of no confidence debate in the President, to oral questions to the Deputy President and Ministers in the Economic Cluster and members' statements dominate the agenda. Over in the NCOP, no sittings have been scheduled in the main chamber as delegates devote their time to committee work and internal matters.

It's nearly a year since the DA unsuccessfully brought a motion of no confidence against President Zuma. There's every chance that the latest attempt will also suffer another massive defeat. The official opposition called for the debate following last December's surprise Cabinet reshuffle, which resulted in a public outcry and caused the Rand to collapse. As part of their petition, the DA has requested for all 72 Ministers and Deputy Ministers to be excluded from the vote as “there was a glaring conflict of interest between their official responsibilities and their private interests”. They further asked that MPs who do vote must also be able to do so via secret ballot. In a new move, the DA has called on the public to sign an online petition to show their support for the motion. Meanwhile, the ANC has rejected calls for a secret ballot and accused the DA of abusing and misusing motions of no confidence. The motion will be debated on Tuesday.

Another plenary highlight is the oral question sessions with the Deputy President and Ministers in the Economic Cluster. An interesting part of the exercise is how the questions are structured and framed as MPs simultaneously try to get their talking points across and ask a question. The leader of government business will be probed on race relations in the country, the selling of under performing SOEs, implementation of the minimum wage, and the SA Post Office. Ministers will also have to respond to a variety of issues - these include plans to avoid a ratings downgrade, saving jobs in the mining sector, government’s new nuclear build programme, compensation for the families of the victims of the Marikana incident, SAA turnaround and restructuring at SARS.

This is a week for detailed law-making, with issues ranging from higher education, to government spending, to land expropriation, to performing animals, to whistle blowers and immigration under consideration in different bills in both houses.

There’s lots of action in Committee-land, with several cabinet ministers set to make appearances. Here is a rundown of the highlights:

On Tuesday, the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services will brief MPs on the state of the Department of Correctional Services.

The Minister of Home Affairs will update lawmakers on the progress made by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Immigration Regulations, asylum statistics in the country and the last festive season travel statistics.

There will be a joint meeting of the Standing and Select Committees on Appropriations and Standing and Select Committees on Finance to receive a presentation from the Financial and Fiscal Commission and the Parliamentary Budget Office on 2016 Budget.

The Departments of Basic Education and Telecommunications and Postal Services will brief MPs on the provision of ICT in schools. Red meat and poultry producers will give an update on the impact and response to the current drought.

On the legislative front, the following bills will be considered: Performing Animal Protection Amendment Bill, Expropriation Bill, Justice Administered Fund Bill and the Protected Disclosures Amendment Bill. The latter Bill introduces a duty to inform employees or workers who have made disclosures and to provide for immunity against civil and criminal liability under certain circumstances. The Bill further aims to create an offence for the disclosure of false information.

Behind the scenes, the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and the Subcommittee on Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests continue to meet behind closed door.

On Wednesday, legislators will hold hearings on the Embrace Dignity Petition. The petition calls for an end to of all forms of oppression against women, including prostitution and sex trafficking.

Different committees will meet to discuss and receive briefings on a variety of topics: these include the implementation of the job losses agreement in the mining sector, localisation and public procurement drive, the Special Economic Zones regulations and the third quarter financial and performance report for the Department of Public Enterprises and state-owned companies.

Clause by clause deliberations on the Higher Education Amendment Bill are also set to begin.

Parliament's Finance committees will begin scrutinising the 2016 budget. They have called for written submissions on the fiscal framework and revenue proposals and will hold hearings to allow the public to air their views and interrogate these submissions.

As with other bills, the budget bills are discussed in the relevant parliamentary committee, in this case the Standing and Select Committees on Finance. Both committees have organised public hearings for Thursday on the Revenue Laws Amendment Bill.

The budget theme continues on Friday when National Treasury provides responses to the public hearings on the budget.

Also, the Subcommittee on the review of the National Assembly Rules will consider guidelines required by the newly drafted rules.

See meetings schedule here.


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