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

There's both high policy and low politics on display in the main chambers this week. The National Assembly offers a blend of members' statements; processing of committee reports; discussions of national importance, legislative business and oral questions to the Deputy President and the Governance Cluster. The programme is a bit more pedestrian in the NCOP chamber, where only one day has been scheduled for ministerial statements, legislation and debate. In addition, the legislature has planned a joint sitting to mark 16 Days of Activism on No Violence Against Women and Children under the theme Count me in: Together moving a non-violent South Africa forward.

The rules make provision for an MP to request the Speaker to place a matter of public importance on the Order Paper for discussion. Two MPs have exercised this right and have selected topics that are likely to provoke some bare-knuckle politics in the Chamber. The first debate is on the expanding and crippling water crisis in South Africa and the second debate is on the introduction of a national minimum wage as a means to fight poverty and inequality. No doubt, we can expect heated exchanges and strong rhetoric during the debates.

Another plenary highlight is the oral question session with Ministers in the Governance Cluster, where they have to respond to a range of issues such as moonlighting by public servants, initiation practices and the cost of the 16 Days of Activism on No Violence Against Women and Children. In addition, the leader of government business will be appearing before the National Assembly for a consecutive week and will be probed on a variety of external and domestic issues.

There are several big issues and a few loose ends gradually being knitted together in the committee corridor. Here is a rundown of the highlights:

On Tuesday, the Public Works Committee will continue its line-by-line scrutiny of the Expropriation Bill and is expected to vote on it later that day. The Bill seeks to align the Expropriation Act of 1975, with the final Constitution and to provide for the expropriation of property for a public purpose or in the public interest. The proposed law has been met with fierce opposition in some quarters.

The Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs has organised a joint meeting with three committees - small business development, rural development and land reform and human settlements - to discuss the revitalisation of mining towns, township economies and small business. The President made a commitment in his 2014 SONA to revitalise distressed mining areas and reported this year that R2.1 billion has been ring-fenced for this purpose with R290 million approved for Informal Settlement Upgrading in Mpumalanga, North West, Gauteng, Northern Cape, Limpopo and the Free State.

Lawmakers will consider the Taxation Laws and Tax Administration Laws Amendment Bills and take part in a workshop on the Protection of Personal Information Act. The Act sets conditions for what companies can do with information about their customers. President Jacob Zuma signed the Act into law on 27th November 2013. The actual commencement date of the Act is still to be determined by the President. Businesses will have one year from the commencement date to comply or face significant consequences, including a R10 million fine or 10 years in jail.

In late 2014, the Minister of Police appointed a reference group, which included legal, intelligence and organisational skills experts, to advise and deal with a host of concerns facing the police service. The Minister will of Police will brief MPs on the work of this reference group on Wednesday.

Experts predict that a water crisis is looming as the country faces its worst drought in over 20 years. With this in mind, the Department of Water and Sanitation has been asked to brief legislators on the status of drought in South Africa; its strategies and interventions in respect of drought and the disbursement of drought relief funding to provinces.

Public hearings on the Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment Bill, 2015 Medium Term Budget Policy Statement, Finance Bill and New Development Bank Special Appropriation Bill are all expected to take place on this day as well.

On Friday, the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services and entities will brief MPs on broadband rollout.

You can find the full list of meetings here.


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