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2019 Parliament Preview

It’s an election year so we can look forward to a frenetic schedule and disjointed calendar as the National Legislature is first dissolved and later re-constituted after the elections. We can also expect an unpredictable timetable and two State of the Nation Addresses.

The Fifth Parliament term ends on 6 May. According to the Constitution, elections must take place within 90 days after that, so no later than 5 August. The election date has not been proclaimed but indications are that it will be in May.

In the remaining days of the Fifth Parliament, political decisions will have to be made about what outstanding parliamentary business can be dropped for lack of time as MPs actually depart by 29 March 2019. However they can be called back for "emergency" business right up until 6 May. If one recalls, this did happen at the end of the Fourth Parliament in April 2014 when MPs had to return to scrutinize former President Zuma’s response to the Public Protector’s report on Nkandla.

Pre-Elections

The State of the Nation Address is 7 February and the Budget Speech 20 February.

There is no gentle introduction to this final session as MPs deal with several major items. Top of the agenda is for Parliament to table, process and pass a Constitutional Amendment Bill before the end of the 5th Democratic Parliament in order to allow for expropriation without compensation. At its last sitting in 2018, the National Assembly established an Ad Hoc Committee to initiate and introduce a constitutional amendment and report back to the House by 31 March 2019. The ANC concedes that the deadline is ambitious but if it is not completed it wants a progress report from the Ad Hoc Committee. Heated, divisive debates (both in and outside of Parliament), legal challenges (or threats of legal challenges) have been a feature of this entire process so far. Predictions are often difficult to make but in this instance it’s easy to forecast.... things will continue in the same vein and possibly escalate as we get closer to the elections.

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See: Section 25 review process

The other immediate priority is the big and important appointments that Parliament must make. This includes filling vacancies at the SABC, CGE, MDDA, PanSALB and confirming a new IPID head.

There are 62 Bills in Parliament so there will be a big push to put the finishing touches on as many of them as possible before the legislature’s term expires. This is in keeping with previous cycles where the majority of Bills are passed in the dying days of a parliamentary session.

See: Legislative Performance/Output in Parliament (2006-2017)

Given the time constraints, one question stands out: will these outstanding Bills be subjected to proper scrutiny and ultimately survive any constitutional challenge?

Key pieces of legislation which are expected to be finalised this term include the Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, National Credit Amendment Bill, Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill, Carbon Tax Bill, Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill and Traditional Courts Bill - barring political decisions to halt them.

See: List of current Bills before Parliament

Parliament has other pressing issues to address: publishing the 2018 Registrar of Members Interests and its 5th Term Legacy Report as well as finalising state capture investigations and outstanding ethics inquiries.

One thing is certain: MPs might show up but they will be focused on campaigning as parties try to one-up each other to win public support. This means plenty more finger-pointing, squabbles, grandstanding, brinkmanship, jousting, endless promises and sound bites....(sigh!)

Post-Elections

Of course, the election results will determine the composition of the new Parliament and its trajectory: how many parties will be represented and who will have the majority.

According to the IEC, nearly 300 parties have registered to participate in the elections.

When the Sixth Parliament is sworn in, the legislature can look very different to the current one: there could be more women, younger MPs, fewer and/or new parties, higher turnover rate of MPs and a reduced majority for the ANC. As parties put together their lists and people jockey for positions, it is worth reflecting on this.

Depending on the result, it’s possible to imagine a stronger and more vibrant Parliament or a weaker one.

The planned reconfiguration of government (assuming the ANC wins) will impact on Parliament. In the National Assembly, there is a corresponding oversight committee for each government department. If several departments are clustered, then the same will apply to the relevant committees.

Organisationally, the new Parliament will immediately be preoccupied with the following: appoint parliamentary leadership, hold a second State of the Nation Address, set up new structures and orientate/train new MPs.

Other tasks include electing a new President, passing department budgets, making new appointments (Deputy Public Protector, Parliamentary Budget Office Director and Registrar of Members’ Interest) and beginning its oversight and legislative work.

Hold on tightly, it’s going to be a loud, interesting and unpredictable year.

Important dates on the parliamentary calendar so far

The first term of Parliament and the last term of the Fifth Parliament (7 February to 29 March 2019) will see the first major event of the year, the State of the Nation Address (SONA) delivered by President Ramaphosa on 7 February 2019. The President will deliver the speech (his second), to a special joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). The debates on the SONA will be held on 12 and 13 February 2018 and the President will reply to the debate on 14 February 2018.

On 20 February the Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni will deliver the 2018 Budget Speech. This year, in addition to the focus on South Africa’s growth forecast and inflation rate, the Minister will probably focus on much publicised issues such as education, the unemployment rate and how to plug the budget shortfall.

Other highlights on the parliamentary programme include the last voter registration weekend scheduled for 26 and 27 January 2019. Although the date has not yet been finalised, the 2019 general elections will take place in May 2019. .

See infographic below for the most important dates on the parliamentary calendar so far:

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Infographic: Parliament 2018 - review in numbers

The conclusion of the parliamentary calendar year sees the Fifth Parliament shut its doors for 2018 after what has surely been one of the most tumultuous political years. People's Assembly takes a look at what happened behind the scenes in the halls of the Legislature with this snapshot of the work done by public representatives.

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Mr Charel Jacobus De Beer (ANC)

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What is your political background? How did you come to join your political party and become an MP? I am a paid up member of the ANC in good standing - a public representative since 1998 to 1999 as a Member of the Provincial Legislature (MPL) in the Northern Cape and from 2000 to 2009. I joined the ANC in 2004. In the legislature I served as chairperson of the Safety and Liaison (2004-2009) and Constitutional Affairs (2004-2005) portfolio committees. Since 2009 I have been an MP in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) serving as chairperson of the Select Committee on Finance; acting chairperson of Appropriations Committee; and since May 2017, the chairperson of the Ad Hoc Committee on North West Intervention. To become an ANC candidate branches nominated me and the ANC deployed me. From 1998 to 2004 I was a National Party MPL.

What does your job as an MP entail? I am a legislator, i.e. making laws through the parliamentary process. I represent the people of South Africa in Parliament. I am chairing the committees as indicated above in the NCOP - holding the executive and the three spheres of government accountable.

What are you finding most challenging about the Fifth Parliament? The changes in the parliamentary programme that impact on our committee work.

Which constituency office have you been assigned to? Give examples of constituency work you engage in. I am deployed to the Kamiesberg municipal area with constituency office in Garies which is a very rural area. My constituency work include meeting with constituents on an appointment arrangement in my PCO but also doing house visits , door to door. Some of the work includes:

  • Visiting the 15 schools in my deployment three times a year

  • Visiting the police stations, clinics and hospital at least twice per quarter

  • Visit each of my 15 towns once per quarter to meet the people

  • Meetings with stakeholders in agriculture, fishing communities, educators, outreach programmes, etc.

Does Parliament do a good job of holding the Executive to account? If not, what can be done to improve this? Parliament is doing its best to hold the Executive to account but can do better. Enough time is needed to conduct committee meetings to do thorough work. The NCOP have its flagship programme: Taking Parliament to the People which has improved since 2014. Follow-ups are crucial in doing oversight and monitoring what actually was delivered to the people. The people come first.

Are you happy with the proportional representation system or are you in favour of electoral reform? The PR system allows smaller parties to be represented in Parliament, but accountability of MPs and MPLs can be improved.

Is Parliament’s public participation model adequate or robust enough that it affords enough public participation before a law is passed? The NCOP increased its committee oversight weeks, which allows for robust oversight but also public participation. Public participation is crucial in lawmaking. Committee meetings are also open to the public and we must make the public more aware of it.

What are you passionate about? This applies both in a political/professional arena as well as personally. To make a positive difference in people's lives through the work I do: to make things happen; to listen; to think and act; to enhance good governance, sound financial management and accountability; and to enhance ethical leadership. I am passionate about being an activist fighting corruption and being an activist that stand up for what is right. Personally, I am passionate about my wife, children and grandchildren.

What is your message to South Africa? South Africa belongs to all who live in it. Let's all be builders of a better country, respect each other and to be more caring about my fellow South Africans in understanding their circumstances. Assist the poor and vulnerable in the community where we live; root out racism and corruption and stand up for that what is right as enshrined in the Constitution. Let's follow the example of President Mandela. South Africa is a great country with great people. Let's make it greater.

To learn more about this Member, visit his profile.

More MP blogs.

#Elections2019: Who are you voting for?

For the final voter registration weekend South Africa's 22 932 voting stations will open from 08h00 to 17h00 on Saturday 26 January and Sunday 27 January 2019 to allow new voters to register and existing voters to update and to check their registration details. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has indicated that the national elections will take place on a Wednesday in May 2019 - the official date has not yet been proclaimed.

Please check your voter registration status online, SMS your ID number to 32810, or check on the IEC's mobile app.

As election fever slowly builds, we want to know who South Africans are voting for. If you already made up you mind, let us know below:

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#Elections2019: The Youth Vote

Ahead of the 2019 national and provincial elections, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is gearing up for the last voter registration weekend scheduled for 26 and 27 January 2019. Voting stations will be open from 08h00 to 17h00 on both days to allow new voters to register and existing voters to update and to check their registration details. Total registered voters is currently at 26 046 218 against a voting age population (VAP*) of just under 35 million.

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According to the IEC, currently, young people eligible to vote constitute more than 15 million of the country’s population. A mere 16% of South Africans between the ages of 18 and 19 and only 54% of the country’s population between the ages of 20 and 29 are registered to vote in the upcoming elections.

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Recently, City Press broke it down and said that 'if the current number of unregistered citizens under the age of 30 were to all register and vote for one party in the 2019 elections, that party would win by a resounding majority'. This meant that the biggest impact any party (opposition parties in particular) hope to make in the elections will come down to who captured the youth majority. This is reminiscent of the 2008 Obama "Yes We Can" winning campaign where 55% of Americans aged 18 to 29 voted - the second highest youth voter turnout in the country's history.

The IEC has focused its attention on the younger voting age population (VAP) group.

Review of Parliament 2018....

2018 was a bumper year of parliamentary business.

With the year done and dusted, we review some of the legislature’s activities and highlights from this period.

Delayed SONA and new President

The Fifth Parliament has given us a lot of “firsts”. Another such milestone was achieved early in February when the Legislature postponed the State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Even by this Parliament’s unpredictable standards, this was an extraordinary decision.

The stated rationale for the postponement was to “create room for establishing a much more conducive political environment in Parliament”. In reality, Parliament was in limbo and a bystander as internal party politics (the ANC negotiating the exit of the President) seemingly usurped parliamentary processes.

To jog your memory by way of timeline: SONA was supposed to take place on 8 February but the event was postponed on 6 February. President Zuma resigned late evening on 14 February. The following day, Parliament held a special sitting to elect a new President. On Friday 16 February, President Ramaphosa delivered the State of the Nation Address.

This change brought about a noticeable shift in Parliament’s (read opposition lawmakers) interaction with the President. The former President’s appearances were characterised by rancour, noise and even violence. This has dissipated.

Section 25 review battle

It’s a fact that land is a highly divisive and emotional issue in South Africa. People have strong views on the topic.

It was therefore inevitable that any proposal dealing with property rights would cause a political tremor and eclipse everything else.

In February 2018, the Joint Constitutional Review Committee was mandated by the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces to investigate mechanisms through which land can be expropriated without compensation. This set in motion a process that resulted in unprecedented levels of interest and submissions. Public hearings –spread out across all 9 provinces - were often packed to capacity as South Africans from all walks of lives participated in the process. At times Parliament was overwhelmed and battled to cope with the 630 000 written submissions. It even hired an outside service provider to help but this brought its own challenges and complications.

As expected, there was no unanimity on this and ultimately the majority view prevailed, which recommended that Section 25 of the Constitution be amended to make it explicitly clear that expropriation of land without compensation by the state in the public interest should be one mechanism to address the injustices of the past. Before the report could be considered by both Houses, the first legal challenge was mounted by Afriforum. This application was viewed as premature and dismissed by the Western Cape High Court. Now that the report has been adopted by both chambers, others (the DA has raised questions about procedural flaws) are queuing up to take the legal route to halt the pending constitutional amendment.

Process wise, there is still a lot more to be done though. A Constitutional Amendment Bill – to give effect to the report – has to be introduced in the National Assembly. Before introduction, the draft bill has to be gazetted for 30 days to allow for public comment. Upon introduction, the bill will be subjected to the normal scrutiny and public participation process. Because the bill will seek to amend a section of the Bill of Rights, at least two thirds of National Assembly members must support it. The National Council of Provinces can only pass such a bill if at least six provinces support it.

At its last sitting for the year, the National Assembly established an Ad Hoc Committee to initiate and introduce a Constitutional Amendment and report back to the National Assembly by 31 March 2019. The ANC concedes that the deadline is ambitious but if it is not completed it wants a progress report from the Ad Hoc Committee. On the same day, another important piece of the puzzle was added: Cabinet approved publication of the Revised Expropriation Bill for public comment. The revised bill will give expression to the amendment by providing explicit circumstances under which land expropriation in the public interest may be done without compensation.

Legislation

2018 was a big legislative year. Parliament passed 23 bills and considered dozens more.

This is unsurprising as the legislative output in a pre-election year typically surpasses any other normal year. This is as a result of dealing with the backlog that has accumulated over time as well as the pressure from the government to finalise its legislative agenda before the elections.

See: Legislative Performance/Output in Parliament (2006-2017)

Amongst the bills passed were a trio of labour bills - Labour Relations Amendment Bill, Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill and the National Minimum Wage Bill – as well as the Public Audit Amendment Bill, Political Party Funding Bill and Competition Amendment Bill.

The passage of several bills – which are still in the legislative pipeline – like the National Credit Amendment Bill, Road Accident Benefit Schemes Amendment Bill, Cybercrimes and CyberSecurity Bill, Customary Initiation and Copyright Amendment Bill - was fraught and sparked a lot of debate.

There are currently 62 bills in the highways and byways of both Houses. The majority of these unfinished Bills are expected to be finalised in early 2019.

There was an uptick in Private Members’ Bill introduced this year (11). Whatever the motivation and merit of their legislative proposals, MPs exercised their right and as a result 2018 saw the largest number of bills introduced by individual MPs in a single year. Generally, these sorts of bills face a tough hurdle as they are – in the main - introduced by opposition lawmakers who are trying to convince a government that it has to implement a law that it did not decide to introduce. That said, there have been some noteworthy victories. The Labour Laws Amendment Bill was passed and signed into law. The Civil Union Amendment Bill appears on track to achieve the same but the controversial Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill was rejected.

We reported last year that the National Assembly Programme Committee requested Parliament’s Constitutional and Legal Services Office (CLSO) to identify Acts enacted prior to 1994 which are still on the statute book. The purpose of this was to identify legislation that is potentially offensive or that contains discriminatory language, for repeal or amendment. Over 1000 pieces of legislation were found to be in this category. It was agreed that each piece of legislation will be referred to the relevant portfolio committee and its support staff will liaise with the departments affected to ensure it is repealed or amended. Owing to time constraints, committees did not get a chance to work on this so this task will be handed over to the Sixth Parliament as a legacy item.

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State capture Inquiries & other inquiries

In mid-2017, the Portfolio Committees on Home Affairs, Mineral Resources, Public Enterprises and Transport were directed to investigate accusations of state capture involving Ministers. While no specific deadline was set for the outcome of these investigations, the committees were urged to begin with the work and report their recommendations to the House urgently. Fast forward 18 months and the progress is mixed. The committees stalled for long periods for a variety of reasons: this includes prioritising other parliamentary business, delays by the House Chairperson and Speaker to provide funding, difficulty in securing the attendance of witnesses and being mired in process debates etc.. The Public Enterprises Committee – tasked with exposing the rot at Eskom – was the first committee to kick start the inquiries and incidentally the first to report back to the House. The Committee worked tirelessly, had many late nights and demonstrated what cross-party cooperation can achieve.

The Home Affairs Committee – looking into the Gupta naturalisation – has made substantial progress with its inquiry while the other two committees (Mineral Resources and Transport) have barely got off the ground. Maybe it’s because there is a Judicial Commission of Inquiry investigating state capture, but whatever pressure or urgency there was on these committees (if any existed in the first place), it now seems absent.

All four Committees are cooperating with the Judicial Commission of Inquiry and Parliament has handed over meeting transcripts and documentation to this body.

Read: more about the state capture inquiries in Parliament

There were also mixed results with two other parliamentary inquiries. First, the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry resolved last year to conduct an inquiry into Transnet’s compliance with its local public procurement policy. The Committee cited a busy schedule for not pursuing the inquiry but indicated that this will be followed through in the new year.

Second, there was supposed to be joint inquiry by the Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation, SCOPA and the Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration into the functioning of the Department of Water and Sanitation. The joint committee was meant to focus on human resources management, infrastructure projects, contract management and project management, implementing agents, ministerial directives to water boards, investigations, raw water revenue, governance of the water entities and reconfiguration of the Department. Due to the workload of the other committees, SCOPA decided to conduct the inquiry on its own.

High Level Panel (HLP) Recommendations

The mandate of the HLP was to review the impact of post-1994 legislation in accelerating change and transformation. As part of this work, the Panel identified gaps, laws that need strengthening and made recommendations. Parliament published the Panel’s report in 2017.

In 2018 a committee was set up to look at the Report and refer its recommendations to the relevant committees to respond to, in particular what legislative interventions they would make. It was agreed that the report and the recommendations would form part of Parliament’s legacy report. At one of the Joint Rules meetings it was noted that the High Level Panel report was an excellent document that can guide Parliament and Committees and the body of knowledge, information and the public participation that went into it should not be wasted. It is curious though why this report was ignored by the Joint Constitutional Review Committee and the Panel not invited to make an oral submission.

Committees, Plenary Sittings

Committees remain a vital platform where the real work of Parliament takes place. They provide lawmakers a unique opportunity to hear directly from experts, organisations and citizens who are interested in or affected by a particular issue. It also affords them more time to fully examine a topic and they are not held back by the constraints affecting plenary sittings.

More than 1 400 Committee meetings were held this year. Committees dealt with important topics including food security, municipal debt, listeriosis, corruption, draft Integrated Resource Plan and canned hunting to name a few.

It’s hard to pick a few standout Committees but here is just a small selection:

The Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) sat more than 40 times and has been at the forefront of tackling wayward SOEs and departments – think SASSA, SABC, SAA, Water & Sanitation. SCOPA Members are refreshingly unified in pursuit of making institutions account for wasteful or irregular expenditure from the public purse.

Apart from its legislative commitments, the Standing Committee on Finance had a full plate dealing with Steinhoff, VBS, illicit tobacco and the 1% VAT increase.

In terms of volume of meetings, no one comes close to the Trade and Industry Committee, which was primarily occupied with multiple pieces of important and complex legislation. The National Assembly’s passing of the National Credit Amendment Bill (debt relief bill) was a major achievement as a complex Committee-drafted bill that was started in 2016.

This year there have also been a number of disruptions of Committee meetings - in May, an economic transformation meeting descended into chaos after guest speaker and BLF leader, Andile Mngxitama, was kicked out for calling the Chairperson of the Trade and Industry Portfolio Committee, Joan Fubbs, a fascist. The Chairperson of Finance, Yunus Carrim, took exception to this and insisted that BLF leaves. A confrontation then ensued.

Later in May, a Labour Portfolio Committee meeting on the national minimum wage was disrupted by alleged SAFTU activists. In October, BLF members were forcefully ejected after disrupting a Home Affairs Portfolio Committee meeting with the Oppenheimers on the Fireblade Aviation private terminal at OR Tambo International Airport.

All three incidents were raised with Parliament's executive - while the Constitution and Rules of Parliament are clear that members of the public are free to observe meetings, they are barred from participating and impeding the work of the Committee. There was talk of laying charges but it's unclear how such matters are to be handled in future.

Side note: Civil society organisations wrote to the Speaker to voice concern about the number of closed or partially closed meetings in 2018. There was one particularly bad incident where the parliamentary protection services barred the media from attending a Water and Sanitation committee meeting. This action was condemned by the ANC chief whip.

With the elections looming large in 2019, MPs used every possible parliamentary occasion - question time, Members’ statements, debates, whatever – to target hot button election issues in scoring points over their opponents. Debates in the main chambers were often passionate and covered an array of topics such as state capture, the relationship between Parliament and the Executive, the functioning of government departments, the economy and jobs, land, the fuel price, the performance of municipalities and state owned companies, the living conditions of farm workers and nationalisation of banks.

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Oversight and Attendance

Members of the Executive, including the President and the Deputy President, availed themselves routinely to answer Oral Questions in both the National Assembly and NCOP.

That said, truancy by some Ministers remained a constant concern despite repeated demands to address this. The opposition were critical of the Executive for missing Question Time. Committees were also often frustrated when Ministers or their Deputies fail to pitch up for key meetings. Last year, assurances were made that those who miss scheduled Committee and plenary sittings can be sanctioned but there has been little evidence of this.

Following a 2017 resolution, the Leader of Government Business provides Parliament with regular updates on outstanding written questions.

There was a spike in MP attendance at Committee meetings in the final year of the Fifth Parliament, with most achieving double digit increases in attendance.

The best attended Committees according to PMG data are: SCOPA, Police and Transport.

See: PMG Attendance Overview

Appointments

Parliament’s role includes recommending to the President the appointment of certain office bearers. 2018 was relatively quiet in this regard as most of this work has been deferred to next year.

This year, Parliament recommended three individuals to the President for appointment as commissioners to the Independent Electoral Commission.

The Portfolio Committee on Communications re-started the process of appointing new board members for the MDDA.

An Ad hoc Committee advertised for Commissioners to serve in the Commission for Gender Equality as Commissioners.

The Portfolio Committee on Arts and Culture interviewed candidates for appointment to the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB).

Drama has centred on the SABC board appointments. The Communications Committee process to fill four vacancies from 2017 stalled and was belatedly revived. However in December 2018, another four board members resigned in protest about ministerial meddling, which has left the board inquorate. The Committee has decided to rely on the existing advertisement out in the public to fill all eight vacancies as a matter of urgency

There appears to be a departure from the benchmark that was set in 2016 for transparency and greater public involvement. This year, only names, not CVs, have been published for the public to comment on and in the case of Pansalb the public was asked to comment on the candidates during the course of the interviews – instead of before – and given a reduced time to comment.

Court Matters

If you are keeping score, Parliament had some success and failures in the courts this year.

The Western Cape High Court upheld Parliament’s right to discipline the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) for disrupting a sitting of the National Assembly in 2014.

Public participation – or the lack thereof - seems to be the Legislature’s Achilles heel yet again. In South African Veterinary Association vs Speaker of National Assembly and others, the Constitutional Court ruled that both the National Assembly and the National council of Provinces failed to facilitate meaningful public involvement on the insertion of the word “veterinarian” into the Medicines and Related Substances Act.

Parliament successfully defended AfriForum’s application to prevent it from considering the report of the Joint Constitutional Review Committee.

See: Litigation involving Parliament page

In brief

Labour relations: Parliament learned that in the past few years, many professional staff members were reported to have resigned. Reasons advanced for this were the five year fixed-term contracts, expensive accommodation in Cape Town, and an unpleasant work environment. A parliamentary section manager also committed suicide on the precinct. This sparked inquiries about the security arrangements in Parliament and staff working conditions.

Parliament published the 2017 Register of Members’ Interest. According to the legislature, all Members who were legally obliged to disclose did so; however, there was concern about the growing number of late disclosures. 10 October 2018 was designated as the deadline for disclosures in 2018. It’s unclear when this will be published but the Joint Committee resolved to accept all disclosures submitted after the deadline.

The NCOP's Taking Parliament to the People took place in Gauteng this year. In the preceding years, the Free State, Eastern Cape and Western Cape were the selected provinces. The programme is conducted in three legs: the pre-visits earlier in the year, the main event and a report-back session (a year later) to follow-up on commitments made. The new Parliament will be expected to do the follow up.

Parliament passed rules to remove a president from office in terms of section 89 of the Constitution to give effect to a Constitutional Court judgement.

Parliament has published its First Term 2019 Programme. There is still a lot of urgent business outstanding. A major project is Parliament’s Legacy Report. This document will give a critical assessment of the institution’s performance over the past five years as well as make recommendations to the Sixth Parliament.

Committees: Who put in the work in 2018?

Committee proceedings, often referred to as the 'engine room of Parliament, is where MPs deliberate on bills, and scrutinise and report on the annual budget and strategic plans of the departments and entities they oversee. This is where it is determined whether government departments are delivering on what they promised and whether they are spending the public money they receive in a responsible manner.

While the workload of a committee can vary depending on the department and entities or pieces of legislation it needs to process, it is clear that some have a much heavier work load than others.

Some committees dealt with groundbreaking issues this year and you can give input here, but have a look at the National Assembly committees in terms of number of meetings below:

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Mr Risimati Mavunda (ANC)

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What is your political background? How did you come to join your political party and become an MP? I am part of the 1976 generation and I hail from a rural area in the Mopani region in Limpopo. I started school quite late at the age of 12 yrs where our language of instruction was Afrikaans by choice in some subjects, but with the blanket imposition of the Afrikaans medium problems obviously arose. Uprising against Afrikaans medium reached rural schools through student exchanges and movements between Soweto and rural communities. At some point we lost a teacher to dismissal because he had been disseminating and teaching about terrorism and politics around 1977. I finished my Junior Certificate (JC) in 1979 and moved to Johannesburg to find work.

In 1979 whilst looking for work in Braamfontein and the Johannesburg CBD I was asked to produce my dompas, but was beaten up by the security police and detained for two weeks because of a flawed dompas issued to me. Each time leaving detention one would be sent to Mortar Bay, whereupon white farmers would be invited to come and buy young and old black as farm labourers. Whilst at these farms all of the black labourers would be locked up in some shack guarded by dog units for a week labouring for no pay until the sentence was served up.

Having permanently relocated back to Giyani in the same year of ’79 I managed to get employment at Phalaborwa Mining Company on 12 December 1979. I immediately was registered with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in 1980 where I became a shopsteward and convener for NUM at that mine. I remained a NUM shopsteward until 1987 when I left the mine. In 1985 however; when The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) was launched in Port Elizabeth, I had attended as a delegate from the mine I worked at. My political education centered on communism through the United Democratic Front and the South African Communist Party (SACP). I left Phalaborwa at the end of my employment under duress because of the threats we received from fellow unionists for our union activities.

I returned to school where I finished my matric in 1989 where political activity was gaining momentum around Giyani but in a scattered fashion. Having been appointed a temporary teacher by the then homeland from 1990-1993, in 1994 comrades in the Mopani region elected me to run the first democratic elections in Mopani as a presiding officer. By this time I had joined the ANC officially on the basis of the dual membership with the SACP.

In 2000 during the first local government elections I was elected a ward councilor and immediately sent to the Mopani District Municipality. A vacancy opened up in Giyani Local Municipality and I was deployed back there in 2001. In 2002 I was appointed as a speaker for that municipality after the resignation of the municipal speaker. When ANC village branches were started in 1995, I had become a chairperson from then until 2010 when I was elected Giyani sub-regional chairperson of the ANC. I remained at the municipality until 2011.

In 2012, I attended the ANC Mangaung general conference as a branch delegate from Giyani. In 2014 during the list processes of the national and provincial elections the ANC deployed me to Parliament.

What does your job as an MP entail? When I arrived in 2014 I was deployed to the Portfolio Committee on Energy. On Mondays and Fridays I do constituency work.
On Tuesday and Wednesday mornings I either attend Energy or Higher Education portfolios so that Thursday mornings we have caucus as the ANC. Tuesday and Thursday afternoons are dedicated to plenary sessions.

What are you finding most challenging about the Fifth Parliament? Serving two masters simultaneously is not easy while also keeping up to date with educational self development. I do have to acclimatize to the digitisation of parliamentary work.

Which constituency office have you been assigned to? Can you give examples of constituency work you engaged in? My constituency is in Maroleng (Hoedspruit), Mopani district in quite a rural area, where my duty is to see to it that our people’s concerns and needs are routed to the relevant departments. Because the area is known for food production farming, our biggest crisis there is around human settlements, education and social services challenges. There were grade 12 learners without identity documents (IDs) who I am assisted to get Home Affairs to expedite the issuing of those IDs as it was key to their writing the matric exams. Moreover we are also assisting the elderly with similar issues with Home Affairs.

Does Parliament do a good job of holding the Executive to account? If not, what can be done to improve this? Not all the time because it seems to be attitudinal and depends on your age and position you occupy within the movement. There are executive members that simply dismiss you as a MP and do not want to account to us as committees sometimes when we require them. Even as AN individual MP you can submit a request from your constituency as a member of the energy portfolio and a particular Minister of Energy at that time; simply acknowledges receipt of correspondence and nothing ever comes out from that. Therefore I am not happy how Ministers account to us. In addition, the period Ministers stay as executives probably affects how they relate to us. It seems that the longer one would have been a Minister, the more entitled comrades are and seem to refuse to account to us as Parliament. If a comrade could be a Minister for one or two terms and then return to Parliament it would make them more responsive to Parliament. It will also deal with the issue of entitlement because going to the executive is through appointment by the party.

Are you happy with the proportional representation system or are you in favour of electoral reform? I would prefer for the system to be amended because there are quite a few challenges therein. One finds the PR councilor completely derelict of their duties due to the territoriality exhibited by ward councilors about how and what the PR councilor cannot do and can do within the wards assigned to both. Instead of complementing each other you find that destructive competition between councilors of the same party. I would prefer that training on how PR and ward councilors complement each other be emphasised as there are enough policies in this regard but little to no enforcement of how local government is supposed to operate. PR councilors must account for the responsibilities given them together with ward councilors to the Speaker of the said municipality.

Is Parliament’s public participation model adequate/ robust enough that it affords enough public participation before a law is passed? We can certainly allow more time and resources to go into sourcing a mandate from the public on the laws we are developing for our citizens. We could and should be using our constituencies and specific periods set aside for this to source public opinion for Bills that will affect them directly or indirectly. This would be better enabled by Parliament providing us the legal capacity to simplify the legal jargon in specific laws.

What are you passionate about? This applies both in a political/professional arena as well as personally? I am probably in the best position to fulfill all my passions in that I am of service to the people of South Africa, but if I was not a politician, I probably would have been farming.

What is your message to South Africa? South Africans should definitely vote for the ANC as current beneficiation socio-economically has been brought about through the struggle for freedom and achievement of such by the ANC. My plea is that for South Africans to not judge the entire ANC on the basis of Risimati Mavunda’s misconduct as an individual.

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