South Africa

PARLIAMENTARY MONITORING GROUP: The Week : SONA Debate and Legislation top the agenda

It has taken a few weeks but Parliament is finally firing on all cylinders with plenty of action beckoning in both the main chamber and the committee corridor.

This article first appeared here The main events will be the joint debate on the State of the Nation Address on Tuesday and Wednesday as well as the President’s reply on Thursday. The debate allows the opposition to give a rebuttal to the President’s speech and is a highlight of the parliamentary calendar as all party leaders and a galaxy of heavyweight MPs take part. The debate follows a predictable path: the opposition attacks the President and governing party for not offering new ideas and highlights all their failures. In return, the governing party defends the President, the government's record and proposals and points out weaknesses in the opposition. Speaker after speaker bear their political fangs and the presiding officers are severely tested as they try to maintain control. With an election just months away, it is inevitable that there will be even more jibes, rhetoric and heckling than the norm. While most of the attention will be focused on the plenary proceedings, the committee corridor has also scheduled a number of meetings that will generate attention. Here is a run-down of some of the most interesting meetings: The Department of Basic Education will brief lawmakers on the state of school readiness for 2019. The briefing is usually wide-ranging covering topics like learner admissions and registration, undocumented learners, teacher provisioning, learning and teaching support materials, basic infrastructure and learner transport. The department will also present on the outcomes of the National Senior Certificate examination. (Tuesday and Wednesday) The Portfolio Committee on Police will evaluate the current anti-gang strategy of the SAPS at its first meeting of 2019. Civil society groups and community leaders from Gauteng, the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Free State have been invited to the meeting to give testimony on their experiences and concerns about law enforcement in gang infested areas. Also on the agenda is an engagement with Metro Police Chiefs on Budget/Structure/Performance and High Profile cases. (Tuesday and Wednesday) Uncollected IDs, voter registration and the use of cell phones by frontline office staff at Home Affairs will be in the spotlight when the Home Affairs Committee meets. (Tuesday) The Standing Committee on Appropriations will be briefed by the Office of the Chief Procurement Officer on the deviations and expansions during the Second and Third Quarters of 2018/19. (Wednesday) Violence and disruptions have affected several higher learning institutions as students protest over accommodation, historical debt and problems with the NSFAS. MPs will look to tackle these issues as they meet to discuss the current impasse and strategies in place to ensure that the academic programme in not halted. (Wednesday) The Standing Committee on Finance will get a briefing on the Nugent Commission of Inquiry into Tax Administration and Governance at SARS. The President received the final report in December 2018. Amongst other things, the Commission recommended that the new Sars commissioner rehires former employees that were forced out of the organisation. (Wednesday) The Department of Public Service and Administration will brief MPs on the Public Service Graduate Scheme and its effort to support departments in appointing youth into learnership, internship and artisan programmes. (Wednesday) On the lawmaking side, MPs will consider several bills: these include the National Land Transport Amendment Bill; Civil Union Amendment Bill; Customs and Excise Bill; PIC Bills; Financial Matters Amendment Bill; Electronic Communications Amendment Bill; AARTO Amendment Bill; Airports Company Amendment Bill; Air Traffic and Navigation Services Company Amendment Bill; Electoral Amendment Bill; Overvaal Resorts Limited Bill; National Credit Amendment Bill; Copyright Amendment Bill; Performers’ Protection Amendment Bill and Health Laboratory Services Amendment Bill. DM View the full schedule here. This summary is based on the schedule as it is published on Monday morning. The programme is subject to frequent updating so the link above needs to be checked daily to confirm the programme for the day

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