The Week Ahead: President, Vuwani Protest & Legislation in the spotlight

The President's oral question session is the high point of the parliamentary week.

He is required to answers 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.

Over the years, questions have been raised about the form, frequency and effectiveness of these sessions. Foremost, are queries about the type of questions posed and the quality of the answers provided. Some argue that it is a choreographed exercise and does little to hold the executive to account. They point to the number of questions allowed, the vetting process, the scripted response, the shielding by the presiding officers and the (in their view) non-responses to support their argument. The counter view is that even though it is not a perfect mechanism for executive scrutiny, it helps to shape our views and perceptions of the President. The supplementary questions, in particular, shows whether the President is knowledgeable, 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 tomorrow’s session, the President will be probed on a range of issues including the Nkandla judgment, his statement about the judiciary, Operation Phakisa, violent protests in the country and his appointment to a UN Panel.

Since the start of the Fifth Parliament, the President's appearances have been marked by the following patterns: interruptions, intervention by the presiding officer, walkouts, unparliamentary language, sniping and forcible removal of MPs. Just over a week ago, when he last attended, there were walkouts, calls for him to resign and he was branded a “thief” and “illegitimate”. Can we expect more of the same tomorrow? Most likely.

Beyond this, the National Assembly is set to debate ways to resolve the crisis in Vuwani to restore the people’s rights to human dignity and basic services. The DA called for the snap debate following the burning of more than 20 schools in the area in violent protests sparked by the Municipal Demarcation Board’s decision to incorporate Vuwani into a new municipality.

In addition, the main chamber will consider and pass 4 bills, including the Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment Bill, Appropriation Bill, Immigration Amendment Bill and Unemployment Insurance Amendment Bill.

Elsewhere, the NCOP has scheduled a broad programme including motions, policy debates and the consideration of legislation and committee reports.

There are several important meetings taking place in the committee-corridor. Here is a run down of the highlights:

On Tuesday, the NA Rules Committee will hold its first meeting for the year and its agenda is full:

  • Consideration of Report of Subcommittee on Review of National Assembly Rules

  • Implications of the recent Constitutional Court judgment (Nkandla Judgment ) for the National Assembly Rules

  • Process for amendment of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act, 2004 (No 4 of 2004)

  • Consideration of request for establishment of a portfolio committee for Budget Vote 1 – The Presidency

Lawmakers will receive a briefing by the Electoral Commission of South Africa on voter registrations and preparation for the Local Government Elections for 2016, including its plans to add addresses or particularities of voters on the voter’s roll. This is the second update to Parliament this year following an earlier engagement in February. The foremost concern to MPs and others is whether the elections will go ahead as planned or if voters will be disenfranchised following the failure of the IEC to verify the addresses of 12-million registered voters. The matter is before the Constitutional Court and it is expected to clarify the matter soon.

The Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources will deliberate on the comments received from the National House of Traditional Leaders on the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill.

National Treasury and the South African Revenue Service will present their latest quarterly reports to Parliament.

The Department of Transport has introduced 2 bills in Parliament – the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Amendment Bill and the National Land Transport Amendment Bill. The former bill will incorporate outstanding e-toll bills into normal traffic fine and violations processes.

Parliament has arranged hearings with National Treasury on the Municipal Infrastructure Grant roll-overs for the past 5 financial years (2011-2016). The Grant was approved by Cabinet in 2003 and is aimed at providing all South Africans with at least basic services (sanitation, electricity and basic infrastructure) by financing the cost of basic infrastructure for the poor. The under-spending of MIG funds, lack of proper monitoring and evaluation of the utilisation of MIG funds and capacity constraints within municipalities have been ongoing concerns for many years.

The Ad Hoc Joint Committee on Appointment of Board of Members to the National Youth Development Agency will discuss the findings on the security checks and verification of qualifications of candidates. In March, the committee had appointed 7 new Members to the board but had to abandon that process following threats of legal action by one of the unsuccessful candidates.

On Wednesday, the lawmakers will hold a hearing on the House of Traditional Leader’s Petition on the alleged failure by the Western Cape Government to recognise a House of Traditional Leaders in the Western Cape Province.

The Portfolio Committee on Social Development has set aside a full day to discuss the National Disability Policy.

On Friday, the Police Committee will meet with the Firearms Registry and the Firearms Appeal Board. There have been concerns about the Registry for many years due to the huge backlog of licence applications, an unreliable database and corruption.

See the full meeting list schedule here.


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