South Africa: Legislative Sector Needs to Work Together to Identify Synergies - Deputy Speaker

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Parliament hosted a virtual Sector Parliaments Planning Session predicated on the theme: "Towards an Oversight Framework for Sector Parliaments". This is aimed as coming up with coordinated baselines and to share experiences on how best can the legislative sector incept a well-coordinated oversight framework on sector parliaments, that is implementable and research-based.

Speaking on the need to institutionalise and strengthen the sector's oversight accountability mechanisms on sector parliaments, the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly (NA), Mr Lechesa Tsenoli, emphasised that the legislative sector needs to work together to identify synergies to enhance the monitoring and implementation of domestic and other regional, continental and global development plans as part of its broader oversight mandate.

He said these may be attained by infusing sector parliaments' resolutions into legislative instruments of oversight, such as questions and motions, to enable the legislatures to hold the executive accountable. Part of which, he stated, is to ensure that the sector parliaments' resolutions become part of the planning and strategic framework of the legislatures, but also to ensure that they are monitored, evaluated and implemented so that they may see the light of the day.

Furthermore, he added, there is a need for capacity building in this regard in the legislative sector that will assist in promulgating evidence-based policy making that emanates from the resolutions of sector parliaments. "We need to acquire or harness requisite skills to enhance our capacity in this regard," he said.

"The need for the establishment of an LGBTI sector parliament has become a critical factor that needs urgent attention," he insisted. This is tied to the need to review the Women Charter's inputs and focus areas because there is an emerging thinking that more should be done to ensure that there is a gender-sensitive budgeting across the three spheres of governance.

Statistician-General on poverty mapping

In his contribution to poverty mapping, the Statistician-General, Mr Risenga Maluleke, gave a broad overview of the multi-dimensional poverty index. In Stats SA's observation, poor households, many of which earn R4 600 a year, tend to have more people than non-poor households, which earn five times more. And this tends to be skewed as well when it comes to not only their income, but their access to health and economic activities.

According to the Stats SA study, the Western Cape province has seen a decrease in the intensity of poverty compared to other provinces, but the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces have a high prevalence of people living in poverty.

Stats SA commended the contribution of government grants in alleviating the plight of the livelihood of many households that are vulnerable to hunger and poverty.

South Africa is ranked as one of the most unequal countries in the world - Dr Ayodele Odusola

Speaking on accelerated development in South Africa, Dr Ayodele Odusola, the Resident Representative for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in South Africa, delineated the main drivers of inequality in South Africa and what makes it rank as one of the most unequal countries in the world.

In his view, although there are inequalities in South Africa based on race, there are also inequalities between racial groupings. And for him, there must also be a policy that will give a strategic attention to this growing trend. But generally, he blamed the structural impediments of apartheid for some racially based inequalities which "deserve a policy focus that will address them in a dramatic way".

He cited education as one of the mechanisms that can assist in dealing with this dilemma. But as our education stands now, "its output is not linked to the labour market, and that also needs to be addressed".

Most of all, he flagged land reform as one instrument that has a potential to bring about the much-needed structural changes in the economy. "A win-win land reform programme that can entrust land in the lands of small-scale farmers and that can bring about inclusive economic reforms, can drive productivity and unleash the value chain of South African agri-business which is estimated at R70 billion."

In reference to the UNDP's interest in youth development in South Africa, he said they have, through their youth entrepreneurship programme, cultivated "a cohort of young entrepreneurs and the skills they imparted in them have given them access to finance because they are now deemed bankable by the banks." In his view, the role parliament can play in in reducing inequality, is to ensure that legislation is aimed at achieving equity.

Legislative sector to embrace digital technology for oversight

Ms Nomode Madubula, a representative of the Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC), looked broadly at the lack of coherent oversight capacity from legislatures to monitor budget allocations, and lack of capacity and coordination at various government levels, and the effects thereof on service delivery and gender budgeting. "There is a need to strengthen the research capacity of legislatures to be in position to track budget allocations. And to embrace digital technology for oversight. And to enable legislatures to effectively monitor the annual performance programmes of departments meant to reduce poverty, unemployment and inequality.

"Most of all, to be in a position to "address gender inequalities through fiscal policy by ensuring that all government departments' budgets and annual performances are gender-sensitive or include gender budgeting," she said.

Speaking under the same topic, the Chief Whip of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), Mr Seiso Mohai, said: "There is a greater urgency that, as Parliament, we must establish a sectoral parliaments oversight model to ensure a coherent oversight of sectoral issues."

He said this will require deep thoughts and imaginations from the stakeholders of the legislative sector "because it related to our research and policy analysis capacity to bring about defined strategic goals and outcomes".

According to him, the need for sectoral parliaments oversight model calls for a change in parliamentary programming. That will position the legislative sector "in its wider strategic and political context as a vehicle for accelerated service delivery, development and socio-economic transformation".

This may include, he suggested, the reviewing of whether the sectoral parliaments' issues cannot be assigned to relevant portfolio or select committees and beef up the research support of such committees.

This as a means to mainstream the aspirations of the youth, women, people living with disabilities, and the LGBTQI community as critical sectors of our society that are marginalised. He said this constitutes the greater urgency of our times.

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