Parliamentary Monitoring Group

The Week: Debates on urgent matters of national public importance

By Parliamentary Monitoring Group 10 September 2018
Caption
Parliament of the Republic of South Africa, 6 February, 2018. Photo: Daily Maverick

The constituency period beckons with MPs in the National Assembly due to depart at the end of the week and return to Parliament on 8 October 2018. The term for NCOP delegates will conclude a week later.

This article was first published on the PMG website

There is no opportunity to go through the motions as a fair amount of heavy-duty business will be done before MPs go.

The NCOP has scheduled a varied programme in the main chamber this week. It will sit over three days and the main highlight is Questions to the President on Tuesday.

President Cyril Ramaphosa will be probed on a variety of issues including the governance of SoEs, expropriation of land without compensation and remarks by the president of the US.

Read the questions here

Beyond this, the NCOP House has scheduled two debates where it will discuss the inadequate funding and low salaries paid by government to Grade R teachers, especially in KwaZulu-Natal, and Heritage Day: Preserving cultural heritage for future generations.

Elsewhere, debates, a ministerial statement and Questions to the Deputy President dot the NA plenary programme this week.

The major points of interest in will come from three high-profile urgent debates (known as urgent matters of national public importance). The rules make it possible for individual Members to request the Speaker to allow discussion of matters they consider of sufficient immediate public importance to take precedence over other programmed business in certain circumstances. 

Three legislators have persuaded the Speaker that their issues fall into this category. The following debates have been scheduled:

– Debate on urgent matter of national public importance (NF Shivambu): The plight of Fees Must Fall activists 

Debate on urgent matter of national public importance (The Leader of the Opposition): Ideas for economic revival following recession 

Debate on urgent matter of national public importance (M Hlengwa): Escalating fuel prices

Government Ministers may make oral statements to Parliament which usually addresses major incidents, government policies or actions. Each political party is allowed an opportunity to respond to such a statement. On Tuesday, the Minister of Higher Education and Training will make a statement on the developments at the National Students Financial Aid Scheme. In a recent Cabinet statement, government stated that progress has been made to clear the backlog of outstanding payments to students.

In addition, the Deputy President will have his regular engagement with lawmakers to answer oral questions and will be probed on domestic and international issues.

Legislation, Committee reports and an international instrument are other agenda items that will be considered by MPs.

See the full programme here

The Committee Corridor is packed with a number of interesting meetings. Here are the highlights:

Tuesday

The South African Police Service (SAPS) will release its annual crime statistics to the Police Committee. According to some experts, this provides a useful indication of the crime situation in the country but it does not reflect the full reality and other information – like victim surveys – should be considered. Last year, the former Minister acknowledged the many changes in police commissioners in recent years contributed to inefficiencies that negatively impacted on the police’s ability to combat crime. 

The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs has invited the Ministers of Home Affairs, Police and Chief of the Tshwane Metro Police to discuss the security situation in and around the Desmond Tutu Refugee Reception Office. The Committee will also finalise its preparations on the Inquiry on the Naturalisation of the Gupta family. The committee has concluded the initial phase of the inquiry and has identified gaps which need to be clarified by certain people to assist the committee to arrive at a conclusion.

Wednesday

Last month, the Constitutional Review Committee met to discuss a preliminary report on the written submissions. The emerging trends showed that 59,6% thought the Constitution should not be amended, 40,14% believed that the Constitution should be amended and only 0,27% were undecided. Parliament procured the services of an outside service provider to draft the report on submissions received. Some Committee Members felt the report was unfairly biased towards the view that the Constitution should not be amended. They asked how about the service provider’s composition, what terms of reference was given to it, about the vetting of its staff and who was monitoring its work. The Committee agreed to call in the company to account for all the issues raised by Members and requested that written submissions be forwarded to all Members.

The Portfolio Committee on Labour will receive a briefing from the Department on the National Minimum Wage Regulations.

Stakeholders will give their responses to the Finance Committee on the VAT panel report. At a previous meeting, the Chairperson said, unless convinced otherwise, the majority felt the VAT hike should have a time frame for review. This must be signalled to the Executive and they must respond to stakeholder inputs sympathetically. 

Parliament’s Draft 2019/20 Budget and Annual Performance Plan will come under the microscope when the Acting Secretary briefs the Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament on this topic.

Thursday

The Department of Basic Education will provide extensive details of the preparations for the 2018 NSC examinations, covering the readiness of the system to conduct examinations and interventions to ensure learners are fully prepared. Progress on the system readiness included setting and moderation of examination papers, registration of exam centres and candidates, appointment of markers, ensuring security with the printing and storage of question papers and establishing criteria for enrolment of progressed learners. The Department implemented learner support programmes in each province, such as extra weekend, morning and afternoon classes, with winter schools being a major intervention. Learners were also able to benefit from educational programmes flighted on television channels, while teachers were being assisted with development programmes. 

Friday

Parliament’s Joint Rules Committee established the Sub-committee on the Report of the High-Level Panel to make recommendations about processing the Panel’s key findings. This Sub-committee has identified short, medium and long-term legislative interventions and parliamentary committees to which they should be referred. The Standing Committee on the Auditor-General will begin looking at the recommendations pertaining to the Auditor-General of South Africa.

In between, there will be detailed legislating as MPs consider the following bills: National Land Transport Amendment Bill, Banks Amendment Bill, National Environmental Management Laws Amendment Bill, Competition Amendment Bill, Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill, Films and Publication Bill, Ikamva National e-Skills Institute Bill, National Qualifications Framework AmendmentBill, Plant Breeders’ Rights Bill, Plant Improvement Bill and Small Enterprise Ombud Service Bill.

During the constituency period, MPs have a duty to be available to the public, help solve problems and report back to their constituents on what is happening in Parliament. For more information about constituency offices, click hereDM

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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