April 20, 2019

South Africa’s provincial and national legislatures will be holding an International Women’s Conference during August. Speaking at the end of the two-day meeting of the Speakers’ Forum, Speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete said the conference will attract high powered delegations from countries across the world.

The Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill (MPRDA), after almost five years in the legislative pipeline, looks like it is headed for the Courts, or the rubbish bin, according to views expressed at recent parliamentary committee hearings. And it’s all due to a legal blip that Parliament should have seen coming.

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) aims to have indigenous languages taught in grade one in 2,585 schools next year. This would require that 1,612 schools be brought on board by then, up from the 973 or 27% of South African schools that currently offer “marginalised” languages in their teaching curricula. This is an admirable target, but it had some of the Members asking about how this could be achieved.

Not so, says Opposition. There are many more stuck at home. At a meeting of the Basic Education Portfolio Committee on the provision of education for disabled learners Hildegard Boshoff of the Democratic Alliance said she doubted the Department’s claim that there are only 11 000 disabled learners currently on school waiting lists.

The controversial December 2015 sale of South Africa’s entire oil stock reserve is so inexplicable and mysterious that even the Portfolio Committee on Energy’s discussion on the Minister’s preliminary report left more questions than answers. What didn’t help was that the preliminary report could not be released for public scrutiny, or even distributed to Committee members, because the Minister had been advised that that could contaminate a possible future criminal case.

Nearly 40% of South Africans who have engaged in Parliament’s law-making process have come to the conclusion that no one in the legislature is taking them seriously. This is a problem in a democracy that is premised on a commitment stipulated in the Constitution that commits us to representative and participatory democracy and provides for public access to and involvement in the legislative process.

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