December 15, 2019

Notes from the House publishes a regular column of briefs about the things that go on in Parliament that you wouldn’t normally see. This is not fake news – though you may wonder if all of it can possibly be true.

One of Parliament’s chief objectives is oversight, and the tool it uses for this is Question Time. Questions for oral or written reply can be put to the President, the Deputy President and Ministers, and gives Members of Parliament the opportunity to monitor the Government’s service delivery. Except that many answers leave South Africans with more questions. Here are some examples.

A meeting of Parliament’s Health Portfolio Committee held at the end of March to discuss the proposed Choice of Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill ended rather dramatically amid much anger and mud-slinging, none of which had anything directly to do with the highly charged issue of abortion.

Discussions on the Traditional Courts Bill have been going around in the same circle for ten years, and what the law-makers are skirting, it would seem, is the Constitution itself; they cannot tramp over it, nor can they walk away from it.

The long-running Traditional Courts Bill regularly returns to Parliament for debate. Here is a transcript of the presentation by Mr K Ahirudhra, Head: Parliamentary and International Policy, Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), who addressed the Women in the Presidency Committee.

One of Parliament’s chief objectives is oversight of the executive, and a tool it uses to achieve this is Question Time. Questions for oral or written reply can be put to the President, the Deputy President and Ministers, and gives Members of Parliament the opportunity to monitor the government’s service delivery. However, much of the time the answers leave South Africans with more questions and few answers. Here is a small sample.

The heady combination of Ramaphoria and Zumaphobia appears to have re-energised Parliament, especially in the Committee rooms where the parliamentary duty of oversight is mostly carried out.

The 2018 Fiscal Framework and Revenue Proposals along with the Report of the Standing Committee on Finance was adopted in Parliament by a hefty 191 ayes to 81 nays, confirming yet again how the mood in Parliament so often fails to reflect the feelings of those outside the precinct where the citizens live.

The danger the governing party poses to democracy is that it continues to blur the lines between the state and the party. This became particularly evident when it came to changing the president.

The status of Parliament’s inquiry into state capture now appears uncertain, after it finally got off the ground in August 2017 after months of fraught to-ing and fro-ing.

About Us

Notes from the House is an independent online publication that tracks and monitors Parliament’s role in fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities to improve the lives of South African citizens. Published by Moira Levy with the support of the Claude Leon Foundation.

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