The week ahead: Youth issues and oral questions take centre stage

The programmes in the main chambers offer a blend of members' statements, policy debates, legislative business, oral questions to the Deputy President and Economic Cluster and a joint debate to mark Youth Day.

During his question session in the National Assembly (NA) on Wednesday, the leader of government business will have to, amongst other issues, address questions about the new e-toll dispensation, the performance of parastatals and the “deployment of political cadres in strategic positions while they are not competent”. Afterwards, the Ministers in the Economic Cluster will be probed on a range of issues. Watch out for some hard hitting questions to the Ministers of Energy, Finance and Mineral Resources concerning the nuclear build programme, the sale of non-strategic assets, the withholding of transfer of the equitable share to 60 municipalities and the non-compliance of mining companies.

The challenges facing young people in the country will come under intense focus when MPs debate Youth Day on Thursday. Just like last year, issues relating to education and unemployment are expected to dominate the debate.

Over in the committee corridor, the legislature has arranged a full programme with a few meetings likely to produce big headlines. Here is a run down of the highlights:

On Tuesday, MPs will get an update on government's plan to revitalise distressed mining towns. The President made a commitment in last year’s SONA to revitalise distressed mining areas and reported this year that a total of 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.

With Youth Month in full swing, it is fitting that the Select Committee on Economic Development will be briefed by the NYDA on its functional programmes, and how the Agency’s programmes are aligned to government policy objectives to create work particularly for young people.

Recently, there was some confusion and controversy around the Department of Trade and Industry’s clarification notice and subsequent withdrawal on the BEE Codes of Good Practice. The Department will get an opportunity to clarify and set the record straight when it meets with MPs to discuss the issue.

The Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence will conduct open interviews for the inspector general of intelligence post. This decision came about after numerous appeals for transparency from lobby groups after a round of secret interviews in March. Meanwhile, the Portfolio Committee on Communications will finalise its report recommending candidates for appointment to the ICASA Council.

On Wednesday, the Portfolio Committee on Police has scheduled a follow up briefing with the South SAPS and its stakeholders on the Criminal Justice System modernisation.

There will be added focus on youth issues when the Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration/ Planning, Performance, Monitoring, and Evaluation receives a briefing by the NYDA on the reviewed National Youth Policy. Elsewhere, the Department of Higher Education and Training will update MPs on its plans to eradicate shortage of student housing in Higher Education and Training Institutions.

Legislators will get an update from the Davis Tax Committee on its work. According to a Business Day article, increases in VAT appear to be a more likely outcome than hikes in other forms of taxation, judging by the content of a report released for public comment by the Davis Tax Committee.

The Department of Trade and Industry’s briefing on the Draft Liquor Policy will be closely followed. One of its controversial provisions – to increase the minimum legal age for drinking alcohol from 18 to 21 years – has already attracted media attention. The Department published the Policy for comment last week.

In between, there is some legislating as MPs finalise the Financial and Fiscal Commission Amendment Bill and Refugee Amendment Bill. With respect to the latter, the Mail and Guardian had challenged the constitutionality of section 21(5) of the Refugees Act which conferred an absolute confidentiality on Refugee Appeal Board (RAB) proceedings. The Constitutional Court ruled in favour of the Mail and Guardian and declared the provision to be unconstitutional. It however provided an immediate reading-in remedy which, as a result, allowed the media and the public access to the RAB proceedings in appropriate cases. The ruling was handed down in 2013. It ordered Parliament to correct the defect with two years as from the date of the judgment. The two-year period would come to an end on 26 September 2015. The Committee had tabled an amendment bill to correct the defect in time. Lastly, there will be a briefing by National Treasury on the Eskom Special Appropriation Bill and the Eskom Subordinated Loan Special Appropriation Amendment Bill. The former will enable the appropriation of the R23 billion allocated to the power utility, while the latter will allow for the conversation of the R60 billion existing subordinated loan to the company into equity.

Click here for the full list of meetings.

*The report has been amended to reflect the changes made to the programme. Meetings of the Select Committee on Petitions and Executive Undertakings and the Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements were cancelled.


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