August 20, 2019

Remember the song you sang as a kid: ‘there were ten in the bed and the little one said roll over ... so we all rolled over, now there are nine in the bed”. Parliament is an unlikely place to be reminded of nursery rhymes, but this was a committee meeting about the scourge of child murders in South Africa, and this old ditty had chilling implications when quoted in a submission to the Western Cape Social Development department.

The almost forgotten ‘Secrecy Bill’, which had civil society across the country up in arms when it was first introduced in 2010 as the “Protection of Information Bill,” could reportedly be back in the legislative pipeline if the State Security Agency (SSA) has its way. This beleaguered bill, in its last known iteration ironically named the Protection of State Information Bill, came up in the budget speech of deputy minister of State Security Zizi Kodwa. He gave no reason for reviving the controversial legislation.

The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), one of South Africa’s Chapter Nine institutions established in terms of the Constitution, has released an Investigative Report on the State of Shelters in South Africa, which finds that chronic under-funding and fluctuating subsidies provided by provincial Departments of Social Development have severely hampered their capacity to provide comprehensive services to women and their children.

The July announcement that Cabinet has endorsed the controversial National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill, which sets it well on its way along the legislative pipeline with the possibility of it being passed into law by July next year, has been greeted with reminders by civil society that the urgent priority remains to fix the public health service.

You are going to have to exercise some patience if you are waiting to see the sixth parliament get on with it. The official opening is the State of the Nation Address, which falls on 20 June, and that will be the first joint sitting of the new MPs. After that the plenaries begin with debates on SONA in both Houses. But the real work of parliament, as we know, happens in the committees, which only get going on 2 July.

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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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