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- International & intergovernmental relations
- Public perception
- Audit outcome
- Parliamentary Institute
- Priorities for 2022
Although the country and the world continue to face the scourge of the Covid-19 pandemic, Parliament has managed to forge ahead and exercise its constitutional tasks with renewed dedication and diligence during 2021.
The National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces, through their Houses and committees, continued to adapt to the new communications technology-based way of working while progressively phasing in the physical aspect of its business. Through increased physical work, Parliament continued to strengthen its interface with the people in pursuit of its law-making, oversight and public participation programme. Physical oversight visits, public hearings, committee meetings and certain ad hoc meetings of Parliament increased this year compared to the previous year. The NCOP’s House sittings recently moved from virtual to hybrid, joining the NA which began its hybrid business last year.
Parliament’s constitutional mandate of law-making was successfully executed. It passed 22 of the 25 Bills that were introduced, with 23 of them assented to by the President. Key among the Bills which Parliament passed during the period under review were gender-based violence Bills that are aimed at enhancing the government’s fight against women and child abuse.
They are: the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Bill, and the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill.
Other Bills passed include the Recognition of Customary Marriages Amendment Bill, the Customary Initiation Bill, the Local Government: Municipal Structures Amendment Bill, the Auditing Profession Amendment Bill, the Upgrading of Land Tenure Rights Amendment Bill, the Correctional Services Amendment Bill, the Liquor Products Amendment Bill, the Division of Revenue Bill, the Appropriation Bill, the Special Appropriation Bill, the Second Special Appropriation Bill, and the Criminal Procedure Amendment Bill.
As an activist Parliament that is responsive to the needs of the people, the institution continued to strengthen and tighten measures to ensure greater accountability and oversight over the executive. As of 2 December, parliamentary committees held 936 virtual meetings, 71 of them involved departmental budget review reports while 52 of them were about the implementation of legislation.
Parliamentary committees also embarked on 30 oversight visits and conducted 83 public hearings on different Bills that included Land Expropriation Bill, Children’s Amendment Bill, and Gas Amendment Bill.
Both Houses held sittings that dealt with debates on issues of national importance, reports, policy, and Bills. The NA held 38 hybrid sittings and 46 virtual mini-plenaries during the period under review. Of the 38 sittings, 25 were dedicated to debates, 3 were on topics that included roll-out of Covid-19 vaccination plan, bullying at schools and DNA crisis at police stations.
The NCOP had 32 sittings (24 virtual and 8 Hybrid) and 6 debates. Questions for oral and written replies also played a role for the accountability of the executive. For the first time since 1994, Parliament reviewed its Rules on written questions to the Executive with a view to strengthening mechanisms to hold the Executive accountable for unanswered questions from MPs.
The NA Rules now allow for the Speaker of the NA to consider a reprimand in the sitting of the NA if there is non-compliance or lack of improvement by the Executive in answering questions. As a last resort, the Speaker could escalate the matter through a formal complaint directed to the Leader of Government Business.
There were 387 oral questions with 376 replies provided and 3090 written questions with 2746 replies provided by Cabinet members. A total of 64 executive undertakings were recorded.
Within the context of its mandate to oversee co-operative governance, the NCOP also held 5 ministerial briefings that increased collaboration among the three spheres of government on a variety of matters, particularly matters relating to measures put in place to contain the spread of Covid-19 across the three spheres of government and alleviate the hardships imposed on the majority of the people.
During the ministerial briefings, Ministers accounted on various matters that included interventions to address youth unemployment and poverty; progress on the expansion and acceleration of the Covid-19 vaccination programme; implementation of the National Infrastructure Plan for employment creation and development; school drop-out and the fiscal and economic impact of the July 2021 public violence, looting and destruction of property.
4. INTERNATIONAL & INTERGOVERNMENTAL RELATIONS
With the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions, Parliament intensified intergovernmental relations and international programmes.
The NCOP had 10 Notices of Interventions in terms of section 139 of the Constitution in this regard. These included the Lekwa Local Municipality, Ditsobotla Local Municipality, Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati District Municipality, Nqutu Local Municipality, Central Karoo District Municipality, Umkhanyakude District Municipality, Emadlangeni Local Municipality in OR Tambo District Municipality, Dr J S Moroka Local Municipality and Tswaing Local Municipality.
South Africa’s parliamentary diplomacy continued to gain ground in regional, continental and global multilateral parliamentary structures. South Africa’s delegates were elected to serve in the executive committees of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) Africa Region during its Abuja-Nigeria conference and the Commonwealth Speakers and Presiding Officers Conference (CSPOC) at its 17th session in Kigali, Rwanda. Gauteng Speaker, Ms Ntombi Mekgwe, was elected as Treasurer of the CPA Africa Region, while the NCOP Chairperson, Mr Masondo was elected as a Member of the CSPOC Executive.
The traditional instruments for public engagement such as Taking Parliament to the People (TPTTP), Provincial and Local Government Weeks, public education workshops, public visits and tours to Parliamentary precinct, were amongst programmes adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The independent research outcomes reflect a 12% decline in respect of public access to Parliament through these means.
Notwithstanding the decline, Parliament is encouraged by the resilience and the quick adjustments and intervention made to sustain public engagements through quick adoption of enabling information and communication technology solutions. Hybrid sessions of the 1994 Women Charter Review Sessions across provinces and districts, Provincial Men’s and Women’s Parliaments were held.
5. PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS
Parliament remains unmoved in its commitment to evidence-based decision making, programme design and objective tracking of outcomes of its work. For six consecutive years, we have commissioned annual public and stakeholder surveys to measure, among other things, public awareness, understanding of Parliament by citizens, image or performance rating, the satisfaction of stakeholders with a range of services we provide, as well as access to and use of numerous tools for public and stakeholder participation in Parliamentary processes, as the Constitution implores us to.
We share with pride that after increasing public awareness of Parliament since 2015, we have sustained that level of awareness at over 90% and were unshaken by the Covid-19 pandemic. We are rated amongst the best in the world in this respect. Six-in-ten people understand Parliament’s mandate. After a three-year decline of performance by the Parliamentary Constituency Offices, we observed a turnaround in the 2020/21 financial year with Member and Stakeholder satisfaction increasing by 13% and 10% respectively, albeit from a low base of one-in-three people.
With our focus on outcomes-based planning, execution and evaluation of Parliamentary programmes, we are building on the High-Level Panel outcomes to place poverty eradication, eliminating inequality, reduction of unemployment and public safety as key areas our work must impact on.
6. AUDIT OUTCOME
Parliament continued to achieve a clean audit for the seventh consecutive year. Also, critical to note is that, despite the declining fiscal allocations caused by deteriorating economic conditions exacerbated by the onset of Covid-19, the control environment remained strong, as the Audit Committee, Internal Audit and the Risk Management capacity progressively improved.
7. PARLIAMENTARY INSTITUTE
The South African Parliamentary Institute (SAPI) was launched on 9 December 2021 by the South African Legislative Sector, providing a beacon of hope for the accelerated development of the requisite human capital. The Institute boasts of a Board of Directors with eminent persons from the sector and a number of industries under the stewardship of the NA Deputy Speaker, Mr Lechesa Tsenoli and NCOP Deputy Chairperson Ms Silvia Lucas.
We reaffirm our determination to continue building an activist people’s Parliament, responsive to the people’s needs, driven by the goal of a better life for all.
PRIORITIES FOR 2022
As we conclude the 2021 programme of Parliament, much work lies ahead of us in the year 2022. The NCOP will mark 25 years since its inception on 6 February. In this regard, it has intensified its oversight programme and will for the first time since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic almost two years ago, embark on a Provincial Week oversight programme. The programme is part of the oversight tools of the House and seeks to regularly conduct physical visits to oversee service delivery within the three spheres of government, hold their executives to account and follow up on the commitments the executives made to the people.
Also planned for the new year, the NCOP will conduct a special workshop to train the delegates on the application of the new House Rules. The House has just concluded a set of new rules to regulate its business and strengthen the fulfilment of its constitutional functions.
The House will also conduct a crucial workshop on cooperative governance and intergovernmental relations, whose objective is to oversee cooperation between the three spheres of governance and to monitor the implementation of constitutional interventions in municipalities.
Meanwhile, the NA has prioritised the processing of the three Bills, the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill, the Expropriation Bill, and the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill.
The NHI Bill which is currently before the Portfolio Committee on Health seeks to provide universal access to quality health care for all South Africans as enshrined in the Constitution. The Constitution recognises healthcare as a fundamental human right. The committee completed public hearings in various provinces and will resume with its virtual hearings on 18 January to consider inputs from various stakeholders.
The Portfolio on Public Works and Infrastructure took the Expropriation Bill to the provinces to afford the people an opportunity to express their views on the Bill. The Committee will now consider submissions received during the call for public submissions and deliberate on the Bill clause by clause. The purpose of the Bill is to repeal the existing Expropriation Act of 1975 to provide a common framework in line with the democratic Constitution to guide the processes and procedures for the expropriation of property by organs of state and to provide for certain instances where expropriation with nil compensation may be done in the public interest.
The Electoral Laws Amendment Bill, which must be processed and finalised before 10 June 2022 in terms of the Constitutional Court deadline, is scheduled for introduction by the Department of Home Affairs to Parliament early next year.
President Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver the State of the Nation Address on the 10th of February 2022, followed by the Budget Speech by the Minister of Finance.
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