The Week Ahead: Spotlight on President, rules and Nkandla Committee

After a low key week, the National Assembly chamber has shifted gears and arranged a busy programme, which includes ministerial statements, policy debates, oral questions and the processing of assorted bills and statutory instruments. It’s rather quieter in the NCOP chamber, where internal work dominates and any kind of contested vote is unlikely.

The main plenary event will be President Zuma’s oral reply session on Thursday as MPs probe him about the separation of powers, foreign direct investment, BRICS and African peacekeeping iniatives. All of this is a prelude to the most eagerly anticipated question, which comes right at the end of the question session. Here, the EFF will ask the President when he plans to pay back the money used for the construction of non-security features at his Nkandla residence as directed by the Public Protector. This is not the first time that the party has asked this question and on each occasion the House subsequently descended into chaos. To counter these disruptions, the National Assembly adopted new rules last week to forcefully eject unruly MPs. Meanwhile, the EFF has vowed to challenge these new regulations. This will be an interesting test of nerve for the presiding officer and other role players if the EFF decides to test the new rules.

It's a pretty intense week in committee-land, with visitations from a fair chunk of the Cabinet, 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 Ad Hoc Committee on the Police Minister’s Nkandla report will meet to deliberate its draft report. The opening skirmishes were won by the ruling party as it voted against a proposal to call the Public Protector and any other witnesses (apart from the Ministers of Public Works and Police) to appear before the Committee.

Even though the Committee is expected to conclude its work and report back to the House by 7 August, there will be no shortage of drama as opposition parties register their disagreement. Far from reaching a conclusion, this issue remains inexhaustible and its referral to the courts is inevitable.

Lawmakers will get a briefing by Department of Basic Education on school safety, violence and bullying at schools. Elsewhere, the Minister of Trade and Industry will brief MPs on the Industrial Policy Action Plan and the status of African Growth Opportunity Act.

The public hearings on the Expropriation Bill are set to continue. 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 contrasting views with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) backing it and the banks have warning that it could dilute property rights, deter local and foreign investors and hurt the economy.

The briefing by the Office of the Auditor-General on the local government audit outcomes will be is an important matter. Released in June, the findings show that “while the financial management of municipalities in SA improved in the 2013-14 fiscal year, this achievement was eclipsed by a 34% spike in unauthorised expenditure over the same period”.

Fracking remains a controversial issue with many stakeholders threatening to take government to court if it goes ahead with plans to undertake this practice. The Department of Mineral Resources briefing on this matter will therefore be keenly followed.

On Wednesday, the Select Committee on Petitions and Executive Undertakings continues to hear petitions from Members of the public. This Committee has worked with unusual rapidity and has gone almost unnoticed.

Legislators will be briefed by the Civilian Secretariat for Police and other parties on the White Paper on Police. The document was published earlier this year for public comment.

In addition, MPs will get a briefing on the 2015 Mining Charter audit and transformation in the mining sector as well as the progress report on water licenses and its implications for economic development in South Africa.

On the legislative side, the committee corridor will consider and deliberate on the Refugee Amendment Bill, the Agrément South Africa Bill, draft Taxation Laws Amendment Bill, the Tax Administration Laws Amendment Bill, the Medicines and Related Substances Amendment Bill, the Children’s Amendment Bill and the Children’s Second Amendment Bill.

You can get the full list of meetings here.


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