The Office of the ANC Chief Whip extends its well wishes to Members of Parliament as they wrap up their parliamentary work for the year 2016. The 2016 parliamentary year was one of the most significant in the history of this institution, the ANC and the country as it signalled the midterm for the 5th Democratic Parliament and the 20th anniversary of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. We salute our public representatives for their dedicated and selfless service rendered to the people of South Africa during this year.
2) Rules review and adoption of new rules of Parliament
One of the watershed moments this year was Parliament’s adoption and implementation of the new and overhauled rules of the house. Chapter 1 to Chapter 9 of the Rules of the House had not been revised since the establishment of the democratic Parliament in 1994. Chapter 10 – 15 had been amended but not reviewed. The adoption of the new rules was a culmination of a four year process. The intention of the new rules was to enhance the governance of the House business, and to align it firmly with the Constitution, current convention and practices – such as the use new media by members of parliament to facilitate the work of members.
The rules of debate and rules of conduct of members in the house were also not tight enough to ensure consistency and order during sittings of parliament. Rule 92, for example, has sufficiently been developed to curb any potential abuse regarding Points of Orders.
This process has also strengthened rules on oversight over the executive, including ensuring that questions are answered. If a written question is not answered, it becomes an oral question and vice versa. This strengthening of the rules have ensured that the executive do not duck their responsibility to account before parliament.
Most importantly, the decorum of the house has also been strengthened in relation to gross disorderly conduct by members. The rules now make provision for members acting in a gross disorderly manner to be ejected from the house if they refuse to act in a dignified and orderly manner. It is for the first time that parliament has an avenue to remove any person who acts in a gross disorderly manner using the rules. This ensures that the Parliament of the Republic maintains its dignity as the legislative arm of state representing the people of South Africa.
Parliament has embarked on a crucial process of auditing all legislation passed by the institution pre and post 1994. This process will culminate in an audit of all laws ever passed by parliament and their consistency with the constitution.
On the other hand, Parliament has also appointed a High Level Panel led by Former President Kgalema Motlanthe, which is reviewing legislation, assessing implementation, identifying gaps and will propose action steps that impact on specific areas. We are thus looking forward to the report of this High Level Panel in 2017.
The two processes will strengthen Parliament’s legislative function, ensure that any unconstitutional laws are eradicated and reinforce their positive impact on the lives of the people.
Parliament has, amongst others, passed the Higher Education Amendment Bill in May 2016. This Bill sets out fixed transformation goals and oversight mechanisms, imposing stricter oversight over universities’ spending of government subsidies, and gives the higher education minister greater powers to intervene in under-performing universities.
Furthermore, a multiparty committee of Parliament was sent to engage with various stakeholders during the students’ fees protests. This was in line with the need for parliament to be close, to listen and to be responsive to the needs of our people.
In total, Parliament this year passed 18 Bills. There are currently 27 Bills before both the committees of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces.
4) Constitutional Court Judgement Against Parliament
Arising from the Constitutional Court judgement with regards to how parliament erred in its handling of the report of the Public Protector on Nkandla; our Caucus has committed to ensuring that such a situation does not arise again. To this end, the ANC took a dim view of the Minister of Police and his statements regarding how parliament dealt with the Head of Independent Police Investigate Directorate (IPID) following the Constitutional Court judgement on the issue. The ANC will continue to uphold and defend the constitution and the laws of our country.
5) Local Government Elections
Members of Parliament were released on time to engage on campaign activities for the 2016 Local Government Elections held in August. We’ve learned that we cannot take for granted the trust our people have put on us. We’ve also learned that we need to bridge the social divide between our public representatives and their constituencies. We have decided that we need to spend equal time in our constituencies doing constituency work as well as in parliament. We have therefore set up a task team to work out the modalities of this resolution, as decided by the ANC Midterm Caucus Lekgotla.
6) Mid-Term Review Lekgotla
We held our Midterm Review Caucus Lekgotla at Parliament in October 2016 to take stock of our performance in Parliament, assess the progress of implementing the Movement’s policies and programmes, confront and thrash out challenges and obstacles, and reinforce and intensify Parliament’s service to the people of South Africa.
The Midterm Lekgotla committed to cleanse and detoxify itself of reputational impairment, ensuring a radical shift and improvement in how we function in Parliament. The unanimous and unambiguous consensus emerging out of the Lekgotla was that it shall no longer be business as usual. The ANC in Parliament will in both words and deed, regain moral high ground, vigorously advance clean governance, champion the fight against corruption, shun incompetence and decisively deal with ill-discipline. Ethical moral uprightness shall serve as the guiding principle of our parliamentary work.
The Lekgotla has resolved that harsh sanctions be meted against particularly delinquent public representatives who sabotage the work of Parliament and its ability to pass important decisions. It is for this reason that a list of MPs who missed two important sittings that dealt with the division of revenue bill have been hauled before the disciplinary committee to account. The outcome of this committee will be announced at the conclusion of the disciplinary process.
7) Transparency and openness on appointments
Parliament has adopted an open and transparent process in appointing heads of chapter 9 institutions. Interviews for the appointments of head of chapter 9 institutions such as the Public Protector, Human Rights Commission, Public Service Commission and the Inspector General were done in the glare of the media and the public. The public fully participated in these processes by making submissions on these candidates to ensure that the best candidate was selected by parliament for recommendation for appointment by the President.
Thus the principle of transparency and accountability were enforced. From these good examples, we have now ensured that appointments to statutory bodies are transparently done with the involvement of all stakeholders, including the public and civil society.
8) Enhanced Oversight and Accountability
We have enhanced oversight over the executive and its organs. The issue of the SABC Board is one example where we are actively intervening to arrest the crisis in our state owned organs. This enhanced oversight is what has led to the inquiry which is currently underway into the SABC Board and its decisions.
The ANC has ensured that other entities, including their Ministries, have been made to appear before Parliamentary Portfolio Committees. For example, the Hawks, Eskom and SAA, to mention a few, were all called to account to parliament. This was particularly important in light of the public concerns raised with regard to these state institutions.
We remain unwavering in our resolve to ensure Parliament fulfils its oversight obligations transparently, openly and without fear or favour.
9) Going forward
Our focus going forward is on reconnecting with those we have lost touch with through the equal division of time in constituencies and Parliament. We also aim to continue strengthening our oversight in the interest of the people.
We wish all Members of Parliament, their loved ones, and all South Africans a Merry Christmas and happy New Year. May you be safe throughout the festive season.