Parliament gets the ball rolling

Sunday, June 2, 2019

A number of key Parliamentary meetings are scheduled for next week to take forward the process of putting in place enabling structures and systems for the newly constituted Houses of Parliament. 

This follows President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of his Cabinet earlier this week and the President advising National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise and National Council of Provinces Chairperson Amos Masondo as 20 June as the date for the State of the Nation Address to a joint sitting of Parliament. The Constitution empowers the President to call such a sitting.

“The sixth democratic Parliament is setting up its systems to fulfill its constitutional functions of oversight, law-making and facilitating public participation for the next five years. 

“Meetings of the Chief Whips’ Forum and the NA Rules Committee are being arranged for Wednesday and a joint meeting of the programme committees of the NA and NCOP is being finalised,” said Parliament in a statement at the weekend.

The NA Rules Committee, scheduled for Wednesday, has on its draft agenda proposed guidelines and determinations for the sequence of standard items at NA plenary sittings, such as, questions to the President, Deputy President and Cabinet Ministers. 

Also on its draft agenda is a discussion aboutthe clustering of government portfolios; the formula for appointing NA whips; establishment of the Subcommitee on Review of NA Rules and appointment of its chairperson; composition of the NA Programme Committee (NAPC) and establishment, naming and composition of NA portfolio and standing committees; and designation of NA members to various other bodies.

A meeting of the NA Chief Whips’ Forum is scheduled to precede the meeting of the NA Rules Committee.

“A Whip is a member selected by a party represented in Parliament to assist in organising party business, keeping members informed of party and parliamentary business, ensuring that members attend committee meetings and debates in the House, arranging for their members to speak in debates. In the NA, the Chief Whip of the majority party has duties also relating to NA proceedings,” it said.

Arrangements are also being made for a meeting of the NAPC and the NCOP Programme Committee. This meeting would schedule, into the parliamentary programme, the President’s State of the Nation Address, Members of Parliament (MPs) debating it at two joint sittings of the NA and NCOP and the President’s reply to the debate at a joint sitting on the third day. 

The meeting of the NAPC and the NCOP Programme Committee would also schedule key issues for consideration of both the NA and NCOP for the rest of the year, for example the Appropriation Bill and the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement.

Then, following their joint meeting, the programme committees of each House would schedule forthcoming law-making and oversight issues for their specific Houses.

“Standing, portfolio and select committees of the NA and NCOP are the engine rooms of Parliament’s work. It is in these committees, which usually match up with the Cabinet structure, that members of the public can make regular representations for Parliament to carry out its duties of law-making, scrutinising and overseeing executive action.”

The induction programme for MPs, started after the May election results were declared, continues this month of June with information and discussion sessions. 

Issues for these sessions include MPs’ constitutional mandate and responsibilities, MPs’ interests, ethics and Code of Conduct; MPs’ conduct and participation in plenary sittings of the NA and the NCOP and in committee meetings of the two Houses; the Parliamentary Budget Office; law making and public participation, MPs’ facilities and benefits, security at Parliament; and relations with the media. –