South Africa

Parliamentary Monitoring Group

This week – The President and budget debates take centre stage

President Cyril Ramaphosa faces questions in Parliament on Wednesday during his first quarterly question session since being sworn in, 14 March 2018. Photo by Leila Dougan

A highlight in Parliament this week will be President Cyril Ramaphosa answering questions in the National Assembly on Tuesday.


This article was first published by PMG

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The President’s oral question session on Tuesday is the high point of the parliamentary week. The President 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 to ensure 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 quality of answers provided. Some argue that it is a choreographed exercise that does little to hold the Executive to account. To support this view, they point to the number of questions allowed, the vetting process, scripted response, soft questions asked by ANC MPs, long-winded statements camouflaged as questions and poor responses. Others point out that even though it is not a perfect mechanism for Executive scrutiny, it helps shape the public’s views and perceptions of the President. It’s an opportunity for him to present ideas, demonstrate leadership abilities and address specific concerns raised. The supplementary questions, in particular, show whether the President has a sound grasp of issues and is able to think on his feet. It is also a rare opportunity for legislators to interact directly with the President.

President Ramaphosa will be probed on a variety of issues this week. Read the questions here.

Following briefings and passing of Committee Budget Reports, focus now shifts to Budget Vote debates that commence on Wednesday and run until 24 May. These debates happen in the mini-plenary sittings of the National Assembly and are headlined by Ministers, their deputies, party leaders and senior MPs. These next few weeks will see lawmakers jump from committee work in the morning to budget debates in the afternoon. It is an exhausting time and will test the stamina of even the most hard-working MPs.

The Ministers for Basic Education, Science and Technology, Justice and Constitutional Development and Social Development will present their votes on Wednesday. They will be followed by the Ministers of Economic Development, Arts and Culture, Communications and Human Settlements on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Ministers of Rural Development and Land Reform and Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation will get their turn on Friday. These speeches often produce interesting announcements and sound bites that are likely to create big headlines.

See the full 2018 budget vote debate schedule here

You will find all the budget vote speeches here

R Mdakane, Y Phosa, B Mashile, LM Maseko, A Masondo, N Gina and XS Tom have been appointed in terms of Rule 54 to chair the mini-plenary sessions on Budget Votes Debates.

Elsewhere, it is Local Government Week in the NCOP. Delegates will meet with stakeholders to discuss and reflect on issues affecting local government with the aim of improving service delivery. This two-day event will culminate in a plenary session where lawmakers debate on Local Government Week Outcomes.

There is some interesting action in committee-land, with a few Cabinet Ministers set to make appearances. Also, it’s still raining reports as Committees push to finalise their reports ahead of the Budget Vote Debates. Here is a run down of the highlights:

The recent violence at the Moses Mabhida Stadium will be in the spotlight when a joint committee meets with the Premier Soccer League and SAPS to discuss the circumstances surrounding the incident and the responsibilities of both parties in terms of legislation.

The Standing Committee on Finance will receive a briefing from National Treasury on its Annual Performance and Strategic Plan (Budget Vote).

The Minister of Home Affairs and Director-General will brief legislators on the privatisation of a section of the OR Tambo International Airport to Fireblade Aviation.

ThePortfolio Committee on Energy will get an update from the Minister of Energy and Department on a variety of issues: Minister’s vision for the Department; Independent Power Producers (IPPs) and their Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), including relocation of the IPP Office to the Central Energy Fund (CEF), plans on resolving challenges confronting implementation of the National Solar Water Heater Programme, including implications of moving the installation phase of the programme to the CEF and IPP Office, as espoused in the APP, investigation into the sale of strategic fuel stock, Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) and Integrated Energy Plan (IEP), Nuclear New Build Programme, restructuring of the Central Energy Fund and its subsidiaries and legislative programme of the Department (update on the seven bills meant to be concluded within the current term – 2014-2019)

Scopa and the Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation will meet to discuss the terms of Reference of the Parliamentary Inquiry into the challenges facing the Department of Water and Sanitation.

The Joint Committee on Constitutional Review was given a mandate by the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces to review Section 25 of the Constitution, and other clauses where necessary, to make it possible for the state to expropriate land in the public interest without compensation. Extensive public participation is required in order to get the views of all stakeholders about the necessity of, and mechanisms for, expropriating land without compensation. An initialprogramme proposed at least three public hearings in each of the nine provinces to provide Members with an opportunity to get out into the field and consult with the public. The Committee will finalise its programme this week. The public has an opportunity to submit written submissions to the committee until 31 May 2018.

In between, there will be detailed legislating on the following bills: Public Audit Amendment Bill; Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill; Appropriation Bill; NEMLA Bill; Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Amendment Bill; and Foreign Service Bill. DM

View the full schedule here.

This summary is based on the schedule as it is published on Monday morning. The programme is subject to frequent updating so the link above needs to be checked daily to confirm the programme for the day


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