National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Parliament has instituted measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus pending a final decision on Tuesday on what further measures to adopt.

The presiding officers of parliament, National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise and National Council of Provinces (NCOP) chair Amos Masondo, will meet the whippery of political parties on Tuesday to discuss the way forward.

“A comprehensive announcement regarding the programme of both houses of parliament, the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces, will be made after the Tuesday meeting,” parliament said in a statement on Monday.

Parliament will go into a three-week recess from March 23 to April 13 so the decisions will essentially relate to proceedings for the rest of the week, which include committee meetings, a National Assembly plenary session on Wednesday afternoon, when ministers in the governance cluster are due to answer questions from MPs, and another plenary session.

Thursday is when Deputy President David Mabuza is due to answer questions.

In its statement, parliament said the plenary session of the National Assembly on Tuesday had been cancelled in the light of the national state of disaster declared by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday night.

“The National Assembly will now sit on Wednesday to conduct urgent business that would have been dealt with on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. This will include the consideration of the Division of Revenue Bill. Committee meetings will meet as scheduled until further notice.”

The NCOP has also cancelled public meetings scheduled for Thursday in three Gauteng municipalities. The public meetings were part of the three-day report back session of the NCOP’s programme, taking parliament to the people. The NCOP will meet only on Thursday to consider urgent business, including the intervention in the Tshwane metropolitan municipality that has been placed under administration.

Mathole Motshekga, the chair of the ad hoc committee to amend section 25 of the constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation, has also decided to postpone all committee activities, including the committee’s public hearings until further notice.

This was in light of the prohibition of non-essential gatherings of 100 people or more announced by Ramaphosa.

 “Up to now, we have seen hundreds of people attending each session at the public hearings. In light of this, we are mindful not to expose more South Africans to Covid-19, also known as the coronavirus,” Motshekga said. The committee was due to hold public hearings at parliament from Tuesday. It has already held hearings in the Free State, Mpumalanga, North West, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Gauteng.

The portfolio committee on co-operative governance and traditional affairs has also postponed until further notice a planned colloquium with the religious sector on the regulation of harmful religious practices, which was due to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday.

ensorl@businesslive.co.za