Parliament. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Parliament. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

South Africa saw a presidential change‚ heated debate on the issue of land and increased legislation making its way through parliamentary processes in 2018.

Parliament said in a statement on Sunday the parliamentary committees — the Portfolio Committees of the National Assembly and the Select Committees of the National Council of Provinces‚ that constitute the engine rooms of Parliament — held 1‚446 meetings‚ embarked on 43 oversight visits to service delivery sites and held 21 public hearings with stakeholders and the public playing a critical role.

“Both houses of Parliament had decided to prioritise the conclusion of a series of pieces of legislation‚ in order to complete the 5th term on a high note‚ and in this regard 23 bills had been passed compared to the 18 passed in 2017‚” parliament said in a statement on Sunday.

By December 6‚ 2018‚ President Cyril Ramaphosa had assented eight of these bills passed by Parliament. The eight bills are:

- the Division of Revenue Bill (aimed at equitable division of revenue raised nationally among the national‚ provincial and local spheres of government);- the Public Audit Amendment Bill (aimed at giving the Auditor General the authority to deal effectively with adverse findings on public entities’ management of public funds)‚- the Extension of Security of Tenure Amendment Bill‚- the Appropriation Bill‚- the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill‚- the Labour Relations Amendment Bill‚- the National Minimum Wage Bill‚ and- the Labour Laws Amendment Bill.

Parliament described 2018 as a momentous year in the country’s democratic legislative sector‚ in part due to the election of Ramaphosa as president to succeed Jacob Zuma.

Using measured language‚ the parliament statement read: “In February‚ just two days before the State of the Nation Address‚ Parliament was in line with the Constitution central to the centre of South Africa’s presidential transition‚ which entailed the election of Mr Cyril Ramaphosa as President on 16 February 2018. On the same day‚ President Ramaphosa delivered the 2018 State of the Nation Address to the joint sitting of the National Assembly (NA) and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).”

“The matured manner the transition was handled by Parliament‚ was one of a series of historic milestones achieved by our young democracy. These milestones of 2018 affirmed the value of working together to entrench our hard-earned democracy‚ while fighting to root out any activities and tendencies that threatened it. Parliament’s contribution to realising the ideal society envisaged in our Constitution‚ has been evident in our continued efforts to raise the bar in delivering on our constitutional responsibilities of law making‚ executive oversight and promotion of public participation.”

“The vibrancy that characterised 92 plenary sittings of both houses of Parliament‚ the NA and the NCOP‚ bears testimony to our claims.”

These included debates on the economy‚ rising fuel prices‚ developments in the education sector and the land question.

“In holding the executive accountable for their actions‚ Parliament was consistent with over 4‚000 questions for written and oral replies by the national executive‚” it stated.

Together the President and the Deputy President appeared 15 times for oral replies to 81 questions in the NA and the NCOP.

Other highlights of 2018‚ said parliament‚ include the enquiries undertaken including the investigation into Eskom governance matters‚ Taking Parliament to the People and the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) that covered the length and breadth of the country.

“The CRC achieved what is arguably the most heated and vibrant engagement of all sectors of society towards the amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution. The CRC report was adopted and resulted in the National Assembly’s decision to establish an ad hoc committee to initiate and introduce legislation‚ to amend Section 25 of the Constitution in order to ensure that the expropriation of land without compensation is made explicit‚ as a legitimate option for land reform in South Africa.

“As we end the year‚ it is fitting for us to remember that it was on 16 December 1995 when South Africa first marked the Day of Reconciliation. That was also when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission held its first meeting. As Madiba said then: ‘This Day of Reconciliation celebrates the progress we have made‚ it reaffirms our commitment and it measures the challenges’. It is at these nodal points that‚ as Parliament and the nation‚ we must continue to reflect on progress and challenges experienced and find new innovative ways to accelerate the realisation of a fully democratic‚ non-sexist‚ non-racial and prosperous South Africa where all people enjoy a great quality of life.”

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