It’s another week where Parliament’s schedule is dominated by Budget Vote Debates.
These debates happen in the mini-plenary sittings of the National Assembly and are headlined by Ministers, their deputies, party leaders and senior MPs.
This period is usually frenetic as lawmakers jump from Committee work to attending budget vote debates on the same day. It is an exhausting time and will test the stamina of even the most hardworking MPs. Compared to last week, the schedule has eased a bit.
The main plenary event will be the debate on the Presidency's budget vote scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. In their speeches, the President and Deputy President are likely to talk about the administration's priority areas, give an update on special projects and talk about government's efforts to stabilise SOEs and attract investment to the country. The President could also use the opportunity to give detail on the intentions outlined in the SONA – something the speech was criticised as lacking.
We are also likely to see a re-run of the SONA debate where parties spared no punches in criticising and highlighting the failures of government.
One of the peculiarities of our parliamentary system is that there is no parliamentary committee that oversees the Presidency. According to the IFP, South Africa is unique among parliamentary democracies throughout the world and the party has repeatedly asked that this anomaly be corrected. Previously, the IFP leader has stated that “while the budgets of every government department are pored over and questioned before we come here to express our agreement or disapproval, the Presidency's budget is presented as a fait accompli, and we rise in this House with scant capacity to debate what is being spent, where it is being spent and how it is being spent”.
This topic was raised again during the first NA rules meeting in the Sixth Parliament and it was agreed that this proposal would be considered.
The other big highlight will be the debate on Parliament's budget (the NA and NCOP will be having separate debates), on Tuesday. In their speeches, the presiding officers are expected to underscore the role of Parliament in our democracy, highlight the responsibility placed on MPs, talk about challenges facing the institution, indicate that Parliament is inadequately funded, lay out their priorities of the Sixth Parliament and give details on how they intend to build on the legacy of the Fifth Parliament.
The Joint Financial Management of Parliament Standing Committee met for the first time last week and was briefed on Parliament’s plans for 2019/20.
For their part, MPs will use the opportunity to express their ambitions for the institutions. In addition, they will raise the numerous challenges facing it: insufficient funding provided to political parties, inadequate facilities and support to MPs, poor replies to questions by the Executive, lack of decorum in House as well as the shortcomings in the Rules and their application.
Other matters that will be raised sharply will be about Parliament’s inability to discharge its oversight duty as well as interventions that are needed to strengthen accountability and public involvement.
Beyond this, the other standout budget votes include: Justice and Constitutional Development and Defence and Military Veterans.
Over in the NCOP chamber, delegates will meet over multiple days and be occupied with policy debates. legislative business, and assorted reports.
View the plenary programme here
Away from plenary, there are several interesting meetings scheduled in the committee corridor. Here is a rundown of the highlights:
-It will be turn of NCOP committees to meet with government departments and entities to scrutinise their annual performance plans and budgets.
-A joint meeting of the Standing and Select Committees on Appropriations will meet on Tuesday to hold public hearings on the 2019 Appropriations Bill.
-The approved Ministerial Handbook will be in the spotlight when legislators get a briefing on it. The Handbook serves as a guideline for the benefits and privileges of the Ministers/MECs and their families in the execution of their duties during term of office and in some cases to the time thereafter. At the same meeting, the Department of Public Service and Administration will report back on the prospective state of the public service staff complement after reconfiguration: early retirements, severance packages and migrations. (Wednesday)
View the full schedule here.
The Week Ahead: Budget Vote Debates
Parliament will largely be consumed by Budget Vote debates this week.
These debates provide an opportunity for Parliament to discuss and then formally adopt the budgets of government departments and entities. The debates allow for Parliament, and the public, to be updated about what departments are doing, how they are performing and exactly how public money is being used in a forum larger than a Committee meeting.
Each debate lasts about 2.5 hours and take place in mini-plenaries i.e. breakaway sessions of the National Assembly. The Minister and Deputy Minister/s introduces the budget on behalf of the Department and MPs then debate the budget through a Speakers' List. Due to the tight schedule, multiple budget vote debates take place simultaneously in about three different venues. There are 25 debates scheduled for this week. A few of the standouts include National Treasury, Health, Human Settlements and Social Development.
You can find the full Budget Vote schedule here
After each vote has been debated, each House (NA + NCOP) must vote on the whole budget. The NA vote will take place in a marathon plenary sitting on Tuesday, 23 July, starting at 10h00 while the NCOP vote will happen later.
Meanwhile, the NCOP chamber has scheduled one plenary sitting this week. The agenda includes motions and electing NCOP delegates to fill positions on the Pan African Parliament, Judicial Service Commission and Magistrate Commission. The National Assembly has already elected its Members to serve on these bodies
In the Committee corridor, many Committees will continue to pore over the strategic and Annual Performance Plans of Departments and their entities or finalise their reports. Committees have only had a week to conduct these critical oversight meetings, adopt their Budget Reports and then prepare for the debates this week. Many argue the time constraints could affect the rigorousness of the oversight process even more so given that there is a high percentage of new MPs having to comprehend information completely new to them.
Beyond the budget meetings, there are other noteworthy items scheduled: On Tuesday, there will be a Joint Rules Committee to establish the joint structures of the Houses. The Joint Committees had to cancel all meetings last week (to elect their Chairpersons) because the Joint Rules Committee first needs to meet to approve of any joint structures. Because of this, the National Assembly Planning Committee resolved that an ad hoc committee on intelligence be created to consider and pass the budget of the State Security Agency – ordinarily, this would be done by the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence but the structure technically does not yet exist. It is anticipated that the joint ad hoc structure will be established this week and hold meetings shortly thereafter
The Standing and Select Committees on Appropriations will jointly be briefed on the 2019 Appropriation Bill.The Appropriation Bill is part of the National Budget, which Minister of Finance presented to Parliament in February. The Bill allocates state funds to specific state entities (Wednesday)
The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services will meet with the Public Protector to receive the Chapter Nine’s APP. While the agenda line is set, there is no doubt MPs will probe other aspects of the institution which have dominated media headlines. At the same time, the Speaker of the National Assembly has referred the request to initiate removal proceedings against the Public Protector to the Portfolio Committee (Wednesday)
The Select Committee on Security and Justice will be briefed by the NPA on the legal procedures to follow in reviewing the President’s decision to remove Adv Nomgcobo Jiba and Adv Lawrence Mrwebi from their positions in the NPA (Wednesday)
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
Committees have been meeting for the past week with departments and their entities to scrutinize strategic and annual performance plans, budgets and performance targets in preparation for reports to be considered by the House. The focus now shifts to the House budget vote debates that commence tomorrow, 9 July and run until 18 July 2019.
Budget vote debates provides an opportunity for Parliament to discuss, and then formally adopt, the budgets of government departments and entities that are funded through a parliamentary vote.
The Sixth Parliament is now fully in swing! Chairpersons have been elected and Members are furiously busy scrutinizing performance plans and budgets. This would be a useful time to familiarize yourself with some parliamentary parlance, that is language! We’ve all heard about points of order, tabling reports and calls for division but do you know exactly what this means?
Well, we’ve got you’ve covered!
The State of the Province Address is a localised version of the State of the Nation Address where Premiers reflect on their achievements and communicate their programmes of action. In past years, many provinces have held the event away from the legislature, in places such as sports grounds and university campuses. This is done to bring the legislature closer to the public and to accommodate more people at the event.
See an infographic on the post election 2019 SOPA schedule below:
The Sixth Parliament is slowing kicking into gear with four plenary sittings scheduled this week.
The main events will be the joint debate on the State of the Nation Address on Tuesday as well as the President’s reply on Wednesday.
Tuesday’s session will be a marathon sitting starting at 10am and will run into the evening.
The debate is a highlight of the parliamentary calendar as all party leaders and a galaxy of heavyweight MPs take part.
The debate will follow a predictable path: the opposition will give a rebuttal to the President’s speech and attack him and the governing party for not offering new ideas. They will also highlight the government’s failures.
Spoiler: we got a preview of what the opposition will say and they are unimpressed
In return, the governing party will defend the President, as well as the government's record and proposals. They will also point out weaknesses in the opposition.
Based on past events, the proceedings will be lively and raucous, with plenty of rhetoric, political jibes and heckling. Speaker after speaker will bear their political fangs and will be reminded to confine their inputs to the debate.
During Thursday’s plenary, the NA will elect three House Chairpersons for the duration of the body. Each has been assigned a specific function:
House Chairperson: Internal Arrangements
House Chairperson International Relations
House Chairperson Committees
Read more here
Parliament participates and has respresentation on various bodies. In keeping with this commitment, the National Assembly will elect and designate legislators to represent the intutition in the following organisations:
-Pan-African Parliament (South Africa is represented in the Pan-African Parliament by five members of Parliament)
-Judicial Service Commission (Six members of the National Assembly are to be designated to the Judicial Services Commission by the National Assembly, at least three of whom must be members of opposition parties represented in the Assembly)
-Magistrates Commission (Four members are to be designated by the National Assembly from among its members, at least two of whom must be members of opposition parties represented in the Assembly)
The NCOP is also set to meet and elect house chairpersons.
Committee meetings will commence on 2 July. In anticipation of this, Parliament is expected to announce the committee memberships this week.
*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.
1. What is the SONA?
It is an annual address given by the President to a joint session of Parliament and marks the official opening of the legislature. It is designed to be a report on the economic and social state of the nation, and includes a review of the past year and priorities for the current year. This is a special and unique occasion where all three arms of the state are in the same place together.
In a general election year (such as this one), two State of the Nation Addresses are delivered.
2. Time and place
SONA will be delivered on Thursday, 20 June 2019 at 19:00 to a prime time tv audience. Since 2010, SONA has been delivered in the evening to give more South Africans an opportunity to listen to the address. The setting is the same as always: the National Assembly Chamber.
The theme for this event is: “Let's grow South Africa together as we celebrate 25 years of freedom”.
4. What will the President say?
The speech will seek to build on previous speeches and commitments. The speech will also be an opportunity for the President to layout his plans and vision (see also inauguration speech) to grow South Africa.
5. Who are the key guests at the State of the Nation Address?
Guests include former Presidents and Deputy Presidents, former presiding officers of Parliament, the judiciary, Premiers and Speakers of provincial legislatures, the heads of Chapter 9 institutions, religious leaders, business owners, trade unionists, school learners, civil society organisations, traditional leaders, members of the diplomatic corps and the Mayor of Cape Town. The President’s special guests include local and foreign people who have made a positive contribution to society and achieved extraordinary things.
A total of 1 200 guests of various categories have been invited for this event. The National Assembly gallery can only accommodate 720 people, so the overflow are accommodated in other parts of the parliamentary precinct.
The budget for SONA is set at R2 million. For the February SONA ceremony, Parliament budgeted just over R2m but ended with a total spending of R1.6m.
Once again, there will be no post-Address dinner for MPs and guests. The drastic reduction in the event marketing and advertising budget has also boosted cost containment measures.
7. When do political parties get to respond to the SONA?
The debate on the State of the Nation Address is scheduled for 25 June and the reply by the President is set for 26 June.
The debate allows the opposition to give a rebuttal to the President’s speech while those from the governing party defend the President and government's record and proposals.
8. What is the format of the ceremony?
The ceremony involves a mounted police escort and a military ceremonial motor escort, the lining of the President’s route to Parliament by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), a national salute by the Ceremonial Guard of the SANDF, a military band, a salute flight by the South African Air Force and a 21-gun salute.
Various aspects of the public participation elements have been cut back in order to save costs and to account of the expected bad weather. Elements cut include the Imbongi, junior guard and civil guard who form a guard of honour for the state procession. The Eminent Persons, who are usually selected from provinces on the basis of their outstanding achievements in their respective fields, will also not be part of the ceremony. Nine lucky winners of radio competition selected from each of our provinces to attend the joint sitting have also not been included for this event.
9. Where can I watch?
You can catch the live broadcast on SABC Radio, SABC TV, various other news broadcasting channels and Parliament TV (DSTV Channel 408). It will also be streamed on Parliament’s YouTube channel
Becoming an MP can be a complex and difficult journey. In many respects, the job is viewed as one which requires experience and therefore suited to older people. Meanwhile, women face all sorts of hurdles when running for elected office. This includes discrimination, patriarchy, violence and the ever present glass ceiling. According to the 2018 Statistics South Africa's (Stats SA) mid-year population estimate report, more than half of the population (51%) is female and young people between the ages of 15 to 34 years old constitute 35.7% of the total population. Given these statistics, it is worth reflecting on the age and gender composition of Parliament (the National Assembly specifically) to see how this is reflected in this body.
Looking at the sixth Parliament, the data shows that it is still male dominated and disproportionately older. However, a comparison with previous and other parliaments show that progress is being made in both areas.
*Numerically, the following parties have the highest amount of young MPs: DA (20), ANC (14) and EFF (6).
In terms of proportionality, the top ranked parties are: FF+ (30%), IFP (28.6%) and DA (23.8%).
At the start of the Fourth Parliament, the National Assembly table staff reported 68% new MPs. The turnover for the start of the Fifth Parliament was better with around 60% new MPs. The number of newcomers also decreased at the start of the Sixth Parliament with 58% being freshmen lawmakers.
*This data is based on data as of 7 June 2019
While all the attention is focused on the national legislature, it is easy to overlook the state of gender and youth representation in the 9 provincial legislatures.
One province has achieved gender parity, while 4 have nearly reached this mark. Provinces are however are a long way off when it comes to youth representation, with the highest being at 14% and 7 having single digits.