South Africa: Parliament's 2017 Report Card, According to Parliament

Here's Parliament's own report for the year. It's left out all the messy bits, like mass walkouts by MPs, repeated calls for "order" in the House, Ministers ignoring requests to appear before Committees, Members' absenteeism, motions of no confidence in the president....but read for yourself and decide if your Parliament passed muster.

Parliament, Tuesday 12 December 2017 - Parliament exercised its constitutional tasks with renewed dedication and diligence during 2017.

This was demonstrated in 50 debates during 92 plenary sittings of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces. The debates provided a national forum for public consideration of issues like the State of the Nation Address, violence against women and children and the Constitution's provisions on land reform and expropriation. Questions for oral reply and written reply also played a role in overseeing executive action. Questions for oral reply featured on 31 occasions during plenary sittings. The President appeared before Parliament five times for oral replies to questions and answered 30 questions. The Deputy President appeared 10 times and answered 60 questions. In addition, 4 236 written questions were put to the President and the National Executive (the Deputy President and Cabinet Ministers) and a total of 3 560 questions had been responded to by November.

Parliament's activism and responsiveness was also on display in the work of committees. By November, parliamentary committees had held 1 458 meetings, 95 involving oversight visits and 28 involving public hearings. There was also the inquiry into developments at the South African Broadcasting Corporation, current inquiries into allegations of state capture and ongoing scrutiny of the South African Social Services Agency's management of social grants. The Standing Committee on Public Accounts, the Standing Committee on Finance and the Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration have also called for further consideration of developments surrounding Steinhoff. Parliament will continue implementing the Constitution's requirement that it oversee and scrutinise executive action. This includes ensuring information needed is provided to enable this exercise of scrutiny and oversight.

As at 5 December, Parliament had passed 18 of 33 Bills under consideration and the President had assented to nine. Bills passed included the Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment Bill (to strengthen South Africa's ability to prevent and punish financial crimes like money laundering, illicit capital flows, tax evasion, corruption and bribery and financing of terrorism), the Protected Disclosures Amendment Bill (with extra safeguards for whistleblowers) and the International Arbitration Bill. This Bill provides for recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards. The National Legislature also initiated legislation. The Labour Laws Amendment Bill, a Private Member's Bill, which the National Assembly passed in November, provides for parental leave for fathers and for adoption and surrogacy leave. The draft Political Party Funding Bill, from the Ad Hoc Committee on Political Party Funding, introduces regulations that will, for the first time, govern private donations to political parties represented in Parliament and the Provincial Legislatures. The proposal to amend the National Credit Act, from the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry, aims to promote responsible lending and to protect vulnerable consumers. The legislative proposal to amend the Public Audit Act, from the Standing Committee on the Auditor General, aims to give the Auditor General the authority to deal effectively with adverse findings on public entities' management of public funds.

Recommendations from the independent panel, chaired by former President Kgalema Motlanthe which assessed the application and impact of the laws of our democracy, will further enrich lawmaking and oversight. The Speakers' Forum, a structure of Parliament and the Provincial Legislatures, appointed the panel in January and received its report in November.

Participation in international and regional parliamentary organisations - like the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the Pan African Parliament - continued with energy and unity of purpose.

As we bid farewell to 2017, we reaffirm our determination to continue building an activist people's Parliament, responsive to the people's needs, driven by the goal of a better life for all.


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