The Week Ahead: President & Legislation in the spotlight

The President's oral question session is the high point of the parliamentary week. He is required to answer questions of national or international importance once per term in accordance with the annual parliamentary programme. The questions are sifted and published beforehand in a process involving the Speaker, to ensure that only questions satisfying the set criteria are put to the President. Four supplementary questions, arising from the reply to a question, are allowed. The supplementary questions, in particular, show whether the President has a sound grasp of issues and is able to think on his feet. A poor display/performance can not be disguised. It is also a rare opportunity for legislators to interact directly with the President.

In Wednesday's sitting, the President will be probed on a range of issues including the 2017 university fees; the proposal of the Inter-Ministerial Committee to look into the closure of the accounts of Oakbay Investments (Pty) Ltd by major banks; whether government has done enough to avoid a ratings downgrade; the nature of the country's economic diplomacy over the next decade; and whether he and/or his legal team instructed the Minister of Mineral Resources and/or the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to lodge applications to interdict the release of the Public Protector’s State of Capture Report.

Since the start of the Fifth Parliament, the President's appearances have been punctuated by a familiar pattern: interruptions, intervention by the presiding officer, walkouts, unparliamentary language, sniping and forcible removal of MPs. During his last appearance, President Jacob Zuma complained about being abused by opposition parties whenever he addressed parliament and asked the House Speaker to take action to address the issue. So what can we expect this time around? I am afraid it's likely to be more of the same given recent events and pronouncements.

Beyond this, the main chambers have arranged a joint sitting to commemorate the 16 Days of Activism for no violence against women and children and will debate a resolution on the repeal of apartheid legislation.

Owing to a lack of quorum, the National Assembly was unable to pass the Division of Revenue Amendment Bill on two occasions last week. The ANC chief whip said the ruling party took full responsibility for the bill not being passed, adding that disciplinary action would be taken against ANC MPs who were not in the House on Tuesday and Wednesday without leave. MPs will get an opportunity to fix this when the Bill is up for consideration again on Tuesday. In a media statement last Friday, Treasury said the failure to pass this bill and the Adjustments Appropriation Bill could affect the provision of services to several government institutions.

The NA chamber will finalise several other money bills including the Rates and Monetary Amounts Amendment of Revenue Laws Bill, Rates and Monetary Amounts and Amendment of Revenue Laws (Administration) Bill and Taxation Laws Amendment Bill. The NCOP chamber will also finalise legislation in the form of the Higher Education Amendment Bill and Unemployment Insurance Bill Amendment Bill.

Elsewhere, the DA will be having internal elections this week to elect the new management of the party’s caucus in Parliament. Many MPs of varying seniority and repute are chasing the 16 positions and the outcome will provide an intriguing glimpse of the party’s future.

It's a busy week in committee-land, some very big and serious issues in play, and a couple of meetings where sparks look likely to fly. Here is a run down of the highlights:

On Tuesday, the MPs will interview shortlisted candidates to fill two vacancies in the ICASA Council and recommend persons to be appointed as Public Service Commissioners.

On the lawmaking side, committees will deal with the Children’s Second Amendment Bill; Taxation Laws Amendment; Tax Administration Laws Amendment Bill; Rates and Monetary Amounts and Amendment of Revenue Laws and Rates and Monetary Amounts and Amendment of Revenue Laws as well as consider the way forward in processing of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill.

On Wednesday, the Department of Basic Education will brief MPs on the “Jobs-for-Cash” Report. The release of the report has been delayed several times and the South African Democratic Teachers Union, which has been implicated in capturing 6 of the provincial education departments, has been highly critical of the investigation and leaked findings.

On the same day, other noteworthy meetings include a hearing on irregular, fruitless & wasteful expenditure by the Department of Social Services and SASSA; briefing by the Department of Mineral Resources on the “polluter must pay” principle and the progress that has been made regarding the implementation of the regulations pertaining to the Financial Provision for Prospecting, Exploration, Mining and Production Operations, briefing by the Department of Higher Education and Training on its adjusted budget for 2016/17, petition on the current situation in Palestine and briefing by the Department of Traditional Affairs on the state of traditional affairs in South Africa.

In terms of legislative business, everything from labour laws, to competition practices, medical innovation, and financial Sector Regulation will be discussed.

On Thursday, public hearings on the Traditional and Khoi-San Bill will commence today and run till 09 December 2016, starting in Northern Cape and followed by the Western and Eastern Cape provinces. Public hearings in the remaining provinces will resume in 2017 when Parliament reopens. The Bill, which provides for among other things, statutory recognition of the legitimate Khoi-San leadership and communities, has been in the legislative pipeline since 1997.

On Friday, there will be a briefing by Parliamentary Legal Advisers on the legal opinions on 2015 public submissions.

In addition, the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation will get input from the Departments of Home Affairs and Public Service and Administration on the Foreign Service Bill; as well as a briefing from the South Africa Jewish Board of Deputies in response to the presentation by South African Jews for a Free Palestine.

View the full schedule here.


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