MPs hol­i­day as bills pile up

In­tro­duc­tion of laws should be done at a rea­son­able pace to avoid an avalanche of leg­is­la­tion that needs to be passed

CityPress - - News - AN­DISIWE MAK­I­NANA an­disiwe.mak­i­nana@city­press.co.za

Par­lia­ment’s ex­tended break in win­ter comes at a time when the ex­ec­u­tive has raised con­cerns about leg­is­la­tion be­ing held up in the leg­is­la­ture. The DA has ac­cused the ANC of “shut­ting down” Par­lia­ment to pro­tect Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa’s ad­min­is­tra­tion from scru­tiny and of be­ing “ex­cep­tion­ally derelict in ex­e­cut­ing their con­sti­tu­tional du­ties”.

The party claimed that the move un­der­mines Par­lia­ment’s abil­ity to ful­fil its con­sti­tu­tional man­date and its abil­ity to process leg­is­la­tion is now also dras­ti­cally cur­tailed.

But the ANC ex­plained that all it wanted was a 50%-50% bal­ance be­tween par­lia­men­tary ses­sions and par­lia­men­tary con­stituency work, a de­ci­sion taken at its midterm re­view cau­cus lek­gotla last year.

The party was con­cerned that the dis­pro­por­tion­ate al­lo­ca­tion of time in con­stituency work had in the past re­sulted in MPs spend­ing more time in Par­lia­ment than in­ter­act­ing with the con­stituen­cies they rep­re­sent, thereby cre­at­ing a gap be­tween MPs and their con­stituen­cies.

In­ter­est­ingly, the hag­gling and the de­ci­sion to take an ex­tended break from the par­lia­men­tary precinct came just two weeks af­ter Na­tional As­sem­bly Speaker Baleka Mbete told a meet­ing of the Na­tional As­sem­bly’s pro­gramme com­mit­tee on March 15 that Deputy Pres­i­dent David Mabuza, in his po­si­tion as the leader of gov­ern­ment busi­ness, had in­di­cated that mem­bers of the ex­ec­u­tive had ex­pressed con­cerns about leg­is­la­tion be­ing held up in Par­lia­ment due to the pace of pro­cess­ing bills.

Mbete in­di­cated it had al­ways been un­der­stood that the in­tro­duc­tion of leg­is­la­tion should be done at a rea­son­able pace to avoid an avalanche of leg­is­la­tion that needed to be passed within a par­tic­u­lar pe­riod. She said the chal­lenges ex­pe­ri­enced by Par­lia­ment should be ad­dressed.

But the meet­ing of the joint pro­gramme com­mit­tee two weeks later adopted an ex­tended con­stituency frame­work tak­ing MPs away from Par­lia­ment from June 18 to Au­gust 13, a move op­posed by the DA and the Free­dom Front Plus, which spec­u­lated that the gov­ern­ing ANC wanted to use the time for elec­tion­eer­ing.

There are 32 bills be­fore Par­lia­ment, 10 of which were in­tro­duced to the leg­is­la­ture in the last quar­ter of 2017 and are still be­ing con­sid­ered by par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tees. Among those bills are the three pro­posed labour laws that will re­sult in the in­tro­duc­tion of the na­tional min­i­mum wage later this year.

Of the re­main­ing 22, only three had been “in­tro­duced” so far, in­clud­ing the Di­vi­sion of Rev­enue Amend­ment Bill and the Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Bill.

Six of them are sched­uled to be pro­cessed only in the third term [July to Septem­ber] as they are re­lated to the medium-term bud­get pol­icy state­ment and the re­main­ing 13 were still with the var­i­ous de­part­ments. ANC chief whip Jack­son Mthembu was the first to warn that if the pieces of leg­is­la­tion are not with Par­lia­ment by end of May, the leg­is­la­ture could not be ex­pected to do any jus­tice to them. “There­fore, these bills that are here that are sup­posed to be 22 are not be­fore Par­lia­ment. We can­not be talk­ing about bills that are not be­fore us to fi­nalise when we have noth­ing to fi­nalise.

“If they don’t come by the end of May, they are there­fore not be­fore Par­lia­ment and the only time we can fi­nalise them is in 2019 if they come af­ter May,” he told the meet­ing of the joint pro­gramme, a view sec­onded by the chair­per­son of the na­tional coun­cil of prov­inces [NCOP] Thandi Modise, who said that “if they [the bills] come in 2019, they will not be dealt with at all by the NCOP”.

Mbete’s deputy, Lech­esa Tsenoli, was also not happy with how the ex­ec­u­tive planned bills, not only be­cause of the many le­gal chal­lenges that con­front Par­lia­ment but also be­cause of the poor qual­ity of work that was done on bills and the strain on the NCOP.

“Those short cuts, we said to them, we are not mak­ing them any­more.

“They will have to deal with the re­al­ity that they will have to post­pone leg­is­la­tion,” said Tsenoli.

But Corné Mulder of the Free­dom Front Plus, said the fact that those bills ex­ist in­di­cates that the ex­ec­u­tive wants Par­lia­ment to leg­is­late on those is­sues.

He warned his col­leagues in Par­lia­ment that when they dis­cuss their pro­gramme they ought to take into con­sid­er­a­tion that the ex­ec­u­tive plans in terms of the per­cep­tion that Par­lia­ment is avail­able to process the leg­is­la­tion.

DA chief whip John Steen­huisen main­tained that the ANC was pri­ori­tis­ing its own “elec­tion work” over hold­ing the ex­ec­u­tive to ac­count and from fo­cus­ing on Par­lia­ment’s leg­isla­tive duty espe­cially for an in­sti­tu­tion that al­ready had a leg­isla­tive back­log.

“I be­lieve that this ex­tended ris­ing pe­riod is go­ing to sig­nif­i­cantly im­pede our abil­ity to do our work.

“We cur­rently have 32 pieces of leg­is­la­tion be­fore the Na­tional As­sem­bly and 11 be­fore the NCOP,” said Steen­huisen.

The list of bills be­fore Par­lia­ment ex­cludes at least two draft laws – the Min­eral Pe­tro­leum and Re­sources De­vel­op­ment Amend­ment Bill and the Ex­pro­pri­a­tion Bill that were sent back to the leg­is­la­ture by former pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma for pro­ce­dural con­sti­tu­tional rea­sons. The Gupta fam­ily’s con­tro­ver­sial pri­vate Bom­badier jet, ZS-OAK, is back in the coun­try.

On Fri­day night, a Rap­port team saw how the jet, the sub­ject of a court bat­tle be­tween the Gup­tas and their Cana­dian fi­nanciers, landed at Lanse­ria Air­port, north­ern Jo­han­nes­burg, just af­ter 10pm.

Not one of the Gupta broth­ers, some of whom are wanted by the Hawks, was on the flight from Dubai. Only two pi­lots, both South Africans, were on board when po­lice and cus­toms of­fi­cials boarded the plane. It also ap­peared as if the plane’s dis­tinc­tive reg­is­tra­tion num­ber, ZS-OAK, had been made less vis­i­ble so that it couldn’t be seen from afar.

This was prob­a­bly the jet’s last flight as ZS-OAK. Af­ter the Bom­badier landed, it was taken to a nearby hangar where the fuel was drained and the reg­is­tra­tion num­ber would be re­moved un­til the fu­ture of the jet was de­cided in court.

The plane’s re­turn from Dubai fol­lows an or­der of the High Court in Jo­han­nes­burg. The court in­structed that the plane be back in the coun­try by April 3 for safe­keep­ing un­til the court case in Bri­tain had been fi­nalised. The Gup­tas ap­plied for leave to ap­peal. Their ap­peal will be heard on April 24.

The court bat­tle is be­ing waged by Ex­port De­vel­op­ment Canada (EDC), the Cana­dian de­vel­op­ment bank which lent the money for the jet to Stoner­iver, which leased the jet to the Gup­tas.

The EDC in­di­cated it will op­pose the Gup­tas ap­peal ap­pli­ca­tion and ask the court to find the broth­ers guilty of con­tempt of court. It was only af­ter the Cana­di­ans lodged their ar­gu­ments in court that the Gup­tas sent the plane back on Fri­day.

The com­pli­cated court bat­tle is not just tak­ing place in South Africa where the plane is reg­is­tered, but also in a Bri­tish court where the case will be heard over sev­eral months. – Erika Gib­son, Rap­port

PHOTO: DEON RAATH

CLEAR THE AIRSTRIP The Gupta broth­ers were nowhere to be found when their pri­vate jet, ZS-OAK, landed at Lanse­ria Air­port, north of Jo­han­nes­burg, on Fri­day

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