Daily Maverick

The week: Expropriation debate resumes in Parliament

Parliament of the Republic of South Africa, 6 February 2019. Photo: Daily Maverick

It's a busy week in the main chambers. Everything from Executive Question Time, to debates, to legislative business, to statutory appointments and motions dominate the plenary agenda.

This article was first published on the PMG website

In the National Assembly, the main highlight is the oral question session with the Ministers in the Governance Cluster. The practice of oral questions is an established part of the parliamentary day and gives MPs an opportunity to question the Executive about matters for which they are responsible. Many of the questions touch on bread and butter issues and/or high-temperature business. There are ongoing complaints from the opposition about the poor attendance of ministers, with some being repeated offenders. The Deputy President has given repeated assurance that this issue is being taken seriously and attendance will improve. Many will be keeping an eye to see if he has cracked the whip.

The Rules allow MPs to propose a subject for discussion – this mechanism provides an opportunity for the House to debate a particular topic without being required to take a decision at the end of the debate. It is meant to be a dynamic style of discussion, in which MPs generally respond to the points made by other speakers rather than reading out formal, set-piece speeches – though this is seldom upheld. This week, the subject for discussion put forward by UDM leader, Mr B Holomisa, is titled: Working towards an integrated and comprehensive infrastructure development strategy to fight poverty, inequality, unemployment and underdevelopment

Beyond this, legislators will recommend candidates for appointment to the IEC, consider assorted Committee reports and pass several Bills.

Elsewhere, it’s also big week in the NCOP chamber where the main business is the oral question session with the Deputy President.

Read the questions here

Two debates are also scheduled on the programme:

Debate on the successes and failures of provincial governments in South Africa since the start of the 5th Parliament in 2014

Debate on International Literacy Day: “Literacy in a digital world: Taking measures to leverage the economic potential of the 4th Industrial Revolution.”

There is plenty of noteworthy action in the Committee corridor. Here is a run-down of the highlights:

Tuesday

The work of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review is likely to eclipse everything else this week. The Committee was given a mandate by the NA and the NCOP 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. The Committee undertook an extensive nation-wide public hearing process from June to August. Prior to that, the public submitted written comments. From those written submissions 30 participants (representing the agricultural sector, academics, civil society organisations and the religious sectors) will be making oral submissions this week.

Click on the link for the draft programme of the hearings, which is subject to change: https://tinyurl.com/ycyuezhf

Recently, the Joint Committee met to discuss a preliminary report on the written submissions. The emerging trends showed that of the 149,886 submissions, 60,157 indicated that Section 25 of the Constitution must be reviewed while 89,327 indicated that Section 25 should not be reviewed. There were 402 submissions that were undecided. This showed that 59,6% thought that the Constitution should not be reviewed, 40,14% thought that the Constitution should be reviewed while only 0,27% were undecided.

The high line trends for those that do not want the Constitution to be reviewed speak to the fact that the Constitution in its current form already allows for expropriation without compensation. With regards to socio-economic issues, the arguments used mainly talk about the fear of loss of investment and donors, possible job losses, threats to food security and shortages and the risk of junk status. Another view that was expressed is that this whole exercise is dividing the nation instead of uniting it. Some trends showed that instead of amending the Constitution, alternative solutions to Land Reform should be found.

On the side of those who supported the review of the Constitution, there is a strong view that there needs to be a recognition of the historical injustices. The current landowners acquired such land unfairly and that requires rectification. Those in favour talked about the legal entitlement of farm labourers to keep possession of land they have lived on and owned over years. Proponents further argued that land expropriation promoted nation building and equality. It would restore the dignity of the people that lost their land and reclaim the people’s cultures. We can expect these arguments to be emphasised again during the hearings. (Tuesday – Friday)

The Portfolio Committee on Communications will receive a briefing from the Department of Communications on its amended Annual Performance Plan. In addition, the Committee will short-list candidates to be interviewed for vacancies on the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) Boards. Both appointments will be heavily scrutinised given the liquidity crisis at the public broadcaster and the governance challenges at the Agency.

Scopa will get an update from the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) on investigations of high profile cases. This is a follow-up briefing: earlier this year the Directorate informed lawmakers on the investigations involving former acting SAPS National Commissioner, General Khomotso Phahlane, two cases of ‘defeating the ends of justice’ by SAPS members and allegation of a corrupt relationship between members of Crime Intelligence and the service provider Brainwave.

The Minister of Energy and the Department will brief MPs on the Updated Integrated Resource Plan. Cabinet approved the publication of the Plan for public input. According to government, the finalisation of the IRP will provide the necessary certainty to industry players as well as consumers in so far as security of electricity supply in the medium to long term is concerned. (Tuesday)

The City of Cape Town will be the latest municipality to appear before the Select Committee on Finance to report on its performance; including the fiscal position, revenue management, spending, infrastructure delivery and progress made with the implementation of the Integrated Development Plan (IDP). National Treasury had reported that the City’s audit outcomes had regressed. In addition, Treasury indicated that the most common matters impacting audit opinion across all eight metros include: Material losses (water and electricity); Material impairment of consumer debtors; Irregular and unauthorised expenditure; Restatement of corresponding figures; Non-compliance with SCM Processes; Ineffective political and administrative leadership; Slow response in improving internal controls and addressing key risk areas and Inadequate consequences for poor performance and transgression

Wednesday

Markus Jooste, former Steinhoff CEO, will appear before a joint parliamentary committee to answer about the nature, causes and consequences of the sudden collapse of Steinhoff’s share value that resulted in investors and pension funds losing billions of rands, and thousands of jobs being threatened internationally and in South Africa. The former CEO had previously refused Parliament’s invitation to appear and finally relented after a summons was issued. The former CFO was subjected to a 10-hour grilling last week; this week could be similar.

The Civilian Secretariat for Police, Department of Mineral Resources, Department of Water and Sanitation will present quarterly performance reports.

Parliament’s Joint Rules Committee established the Subcommittee on Report of the High-Level Panel to make recommendations about processing the Panel’s key findings. This subcommittee has identified short, medium and long-term legislative interventions and parliamentary committees to which they should be referred. The Portfolio Committee on Labour will begin looking at the recommendations pertaining to the labour sector.

HIV and Aids, TB and STIs will be in the spotlight when the South African National Aids Council briefs MPs on the 2017-2022 National Strategic Plan.

The Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises will deliberate on the Eskom inquiry report. This initial report will be sent to implicated persons to respond to the allegations against them before a final report is drafted.

The Portfolio Committee on Social Development will hear from the DSD on the effectiveness of the food distribution centres in terms of their operations, budget allocation and expenditure, the difference they make in increasing access to food and how they are linked to co-operatives and Community Nutrition Development Centres.

Friday

Legislators will discuss the implementation of the Education Infrastructure Grant with the following stakeholders: National Treasury; National and provincial Education departments; National and provincial Public Works departments; Constructed Industry Development Board and Financial and Fiscal Commission.

In between, there will be some high-powered lawmaking on debt relief, payment of royalties to performers, copyright, road accident benefits, land rights, regulation and distribution of online material, national qualifications, banks, road traffic offences, land transport, e-skilling and property practitioners. 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.

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