The fifth Parliament of the Republic of South Africa is approaching the end of the term, confident that it will conclude the last mile strongly, while establishing more solid foundation for the sixth Parliament. This engagement of diplomats, stakeholders and the media is one of many ways that Parliament uses to strengthen its interface with the people, account for its own work of law making, oversight and public participation to advance democracy and development in South Africa.
We introduced these briefings in November 2017 when we pledged to up the game of evaluating and reporting on our performance, in a manner that seeks also to strengthen our relations and build formidable social compacts towards building a South Africa of our dreams, a vision enunciated in the National Development Plan (NDP) and the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF).
We take pride in the fact that the first President of a free and democratic South Africa, uTat’uNelson Rolihlahla Mandela and the pioneer MP who nominated him as President in 1994, a struggle icon uMam’uNontsikelelo Albertina Sisulu, are being celebrated this year to mark the centenary since their birth. It all began in Parliament soon after the historic elections. Parliament has been at the forefront of national and international institutions celebrating the invaluable contribution of these iconic leaders, to humanity and the type of society, continent and the world we see today that progressively embraces social justice, human rights and the cause of the downtrodden. Our celebrations included a Students’ Parliament, a Youth Summit, the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s agreement to discuss the centenary during the 139th Assembly. As Parliament, we have pledged to learn from these icons in our efforts to build a more humane and prosperous society.
We are presenting this report at a critical time, when the global economic outlook remains subdued and at home, we are contending with a technical recession that demonstrates the headwinds confronting our economy. Our major enemies of unemployment, inequality, poverty and a range of development challenges, such as, land hunger, violent crime and a series of social ills, continue to rear their ugly heads. As Parliament, we are confronting these challenges, some of which are clinically chronicled by the High Level Panel in its report and recommendations that Parliament is processing. We have adopted a belt-tightening programme, initiated a debate on ways of reviving our economy from technical recession, and upped our game in providing legislative oversight to drive our recovery. We are confident of our turn-around.
Parliament has been given a clean audit by the Auditor General of South Africa for the 2017-2018 financial year, which means that the institution’s financial statements are free from material misstatements, and there are no material findings on reporting on performance objectives or non-compliance with the Financial Management of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act. Parliament leading by example in ensuring accountable and proper management of public funds as required by the law augers well for its oversight responsibilities over the executive.
As of October 5, Parliament had passed 11 Bills during 2018. The President assented to two of them � the Division of Revenue Bill (in May) and the Appropriation Bill (in July) � and these have been Gazetted.
The other Bills passed in 2018 are the Extension of Security of Tenure Amendment Bill; Liquor Products Amendment Bill; Public Audit Amendment Bill (a Committee Bill which gives the Auditor-General the authority to take remedial action on findings and recommendations and ensure that financial losses suffered by the state are recovered); Political Party Funding Bill; Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill; Labour Relations Amendment Bill, National Minimum Wage Bill; Labour Laws Amendment Bill ( a Private Member’s Bill which extends parental leave to fathers and adoptive parents, among other things); and the Protection, Promotion, Development and Management of Indigenous Knowledge Bill. All of these, except for the Protection, Promotion, Development and Management of Indigenous Knowledge Bill, have been sent to the President for assent.
There are 35 Bills before National Assembly Committees and 20 Bills before National Council of Provinces Committees. The 20 Bills before National Council Committees � and already passed by the National Assembly � are the:
1. Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill
2. Public Service Commission Amendment Bill
3. Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Bill
4. Films & Publications Amendment Bill
5. Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Amendment Bill
6. National Land Transport Amendment Bill
7. Border Management Authority Bill
8. National Forests Amendment Bill
9. Traditional Leadership and Government Framework Amendment Bill
10. Marine Spatial Planning Bill
11. Communal Property Associations Amendment Bill
12. National Health Laboratory Service Amendment Bill
13. National Public Health Institute of South Africa Bill
14. Defence Amendment Bill
15. Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill
16. National Research Foundation Amendment Bill
17. Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Amendment Bill
18. Independent Police Investigative Directorate Amendment Bill
19. Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Amendment Bill
20. National Credit Amendment Bill
In addition to the processing of and passing of these bills by the National Assembly and / or the National Council of Provinces, there are a number of international protocols and conventions that were approved in line with Section 231 (2) of the Constitution that requires the approval of certain international agreements to commit the country.
Parliament fully recognises that active citizenry is a defining feature of any working and sustainable democracy. To advance the realisation of our ambitious mandate of promoting public participation, Parliament has stepped up levels of communication and unmediated engagement of the people through various programmes.
During the period under review the National Council of Provinces took its flagship Taking Parliament To The People (TPTTP) programme to the Eastern Cape, Free State and Gauteng, where thorough oversight work was conducted, public meetings and hearings were held to track the impact of development interventions on the quality of people’s lives.
The engagements affirmed our decision to undertake a three-phased TPTTP, starting with preliminary visits, a core visit that fully engages the Executive at all three spheres and a follow up visit after 12 months to assess progress made. We must still return to Gauteng before the end of the year to continue to look at the impact of migration in our efforts to deepen co-operative governance in the context of promoting development.
The Joint Constitutional Review Committee of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces embarked on an intensive and extensive programme of consulting people and exploring possible amendments to Section 25 to enable the expropriation of land without compensation. It is one of the most democratic, transparent and publicly involved processes since the advent of the democratic Parliament in 1994. Because of the volume of public participation and comment it has received, the committee has requested an extension until November to report on its work to the two Houses. It demonstrates the seriousness with which Parliament to seeks to address land reform.
During this period, the engine rooms of Parliament � its Portfolio, Select or Joint Committees �convened meetings to address a range of issues. They reached out to numerous service delivery sites, conducted oversight visits and processed bills, scrutinised and supported the approval of departmental strategic and annual performance plans with budgets with periodic sessions to hold Departments accountable.
Particularly noteworthy is the work of the National Council of Provinces, following the decision by the Cabinet in May to invoke Section 100 (1) of the Constitution, effectively putting the provincial administration of the North West under administration. Section 100 of the Constitution states that the national government may intervene in a province when “a province cannot or does not fulfill an executive obligation in terms of the Constitution or legislation.”
The Constitution requires the NCOP to exercise oversight when this section is invoked and to conduct its own assessment that the National Executive observed all procedures and circumstances for the intervention. The Constitution states that intervention must end if the NCOP disapproves of the intervention within 180 days after the intervention began or after 180 days has not approved the intervention. The NCOP is also required by the Constitution to review the intervention regularly and may make any appropriate recommendations to the national executive while it continues.
The NCOP established the Ad Hoc Committee to Inquire into the Intervention in the North West Provincial Government in terms of section 100 of the Constitution and this committee has been undertaking site visits to the North West. It has also been assessing facts brought before it by the Inter-Ministerial Task Team, the North West Provincial Government, the National Treasury and the Auditor-General, on issues of governance, accountability, compliance with legislative prescripts, supply-chain management, infrastructure, accruals, specific contracts, corrective measures, and monitoring and evaluation.
Other committees that engaged in the public participation process are the Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform which held public hearings on the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill and the Ad Hoc Committee on the Funding of Political Parties which held its public hearings on the Political Party Funding Bill.
The social media presence of Parliament, particularly the Twitter account, has grown substantially achieving a 27% rate between October 2017 and September 2018, against a generic increase rate of 4% nationally. As a result, Parliament’s Twitter account is rated as the fourth biggest account in the public sector with half a million followers that constitute 6% of the total Twitter followers in South Africa, and growing. This will be strengthened, especially given the more youthful society Parliament has to serve.
One of the outstanding features of the South African Parliament is its boldness and ambitious programme of self-evaluation and assessment through independent mechanisms such as research and appointment of eminent persons to reflect Parliament to itself. Two research projects were commissioned, one led by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) to assess levels of stakeholder satisfaction with parliamentary services, and another led by IPSOS to evaluate public awareness, understanding, rating of Parliament’s performance and levels of public participation.
We are delighted to announce that public awareness of Parliament of South Africa has increased to 88% and comparable with among others the European Parliament, that enjoys 93% awareness levels among the EU citizens, as benchmarked by IPSOS.
Forty-one (41) percent of South Africans understand the three-legged mandate of Parliament, which also compares relatively well with the 49% of UK citizens who responded in the affirmative. We welcome the 57% approval ratings of Parliament’s performance, while concerned about the 37% that think that Parliament is responsible for executing policies, while those who they said do not know increased by 6%. Clearly, there is great room for improvement and a comprehensive and a mass-based civic education campaign is necessary to empower citizens and enhance their participation.
The oversight role of Parliament continued during this period to grow in leaps and bounds through reliable engagement of the President and the Deputy President to periodically lead in accounting to the legislature, both the NA and the NCOP.
The Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) established to provide independent economic and fiscal advice to the Parliamentary Committees was affirmed through the passing of the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Amendment Bill. The PBO has progressively improved in providing evidence based advice to enable the legislature to better scrutinise and amend Money Bills, sharpen oversight of Executive operations against the National Development Plan and the Medium Term Strategic Framework.
Parliament has embraced the concept of the 4th Industrial Revolution and, as a premier institution of the people of South Africa, it has taken upon itself to be at the forefront of driving the readiness of all segments of society for its onset. We held a round-table discussion of pinnacle players within the Executive and academia and set in motion one of the most energising and progressive readiness programmes. We seek to get every sector of the South African society, including the most vulnerable, such as, the institutions for abused women, children and needy girl-children, to buy-in and optimise the opportunities created, while minimising the challenges posed by the 4th Industrial Revolution.
Despite an enabling legislative framework, gender transformation and equity remain a challenge in most workplaces globally and in South Africa. The number of women in executive and influential positions in most corporates and organisations remains disturbingly low. The findings of the Commission on Gender Equality seem to support this view. The Commission noted that minimal progress is being made in respect of gender transformation and equity in the workplace. To address this challenge, we have designed and started the implementation of a structured programme to accelerate the pace of gender transformation in society in general and in the Administration of Parliament. The Women in Leadership programme, conceptualised as part of a range of programmes designed to improve leadership and management capabilities, is designed to unleash the potential of talented women managers and team leaders so that they can grow and assume positions of more responsibility and influence in future. We are pleased at the interest by women in our Parliament in this programme.
One of the pillars of our strategic plan is to build institutional capacity to take the work of Parliament and the legislative sector, in general, to a higher level. The volatility that characterised labour relations over the past few years has given way to stability and collaboration. The HSRC findings demonstrated a 43% approval rating of Parliament as an employer of choice but more work is required to address the 33% of staff who perceive their employer negatively.
Strides are being made in co-ordinating the whole of the legislative sector, as championed by the Speakers’ Forum. The High Level Panel report has been endorsed as part of the legacy of the 5th term for handover to the 6th legislatures for actioning. The Speakers’ Forum has endorsed the establishment of a central bargaining chamber for the legislative sector and approved plans for setting up a Parliamentary Institute that will champion the development of appropriate human capital for advancing the development goals of the legislative sector and the South African society in general.
As we approach the end of the year and the end of the fifth term, Parliament is seized with ensuring that it concludes this year strongly, while also preparing for ushering in the 6th Parliament. As valued stakeholders in every endeavour we take to improve people’s quality of life, we cherish your responsiveness and participation in shaping how we interface with you. The HSRC report demonstrated that 54% of stakeholders appreciate Parliament’s delivery of services to them. This is a composite indicator of a series of variables we are evaluating with stakeholders, with some registering higher than 70% figures while others show dismal performance in the eyes of stakeholders. We pledge to work on issues you raised during these engagements.
Source: Parliament of the Republic of South Africa