South African parliament. Picture: GCIS
South African parliament. Picture: GCIS

Parliamentary committees that have up to now been limited under the lockdown to dealing with Covid-19 issues will this week begin to undertake their normal work of oversight over the executive.

The virtual meetings of committees have so far been successful and enabled them to broaden the scope of their work to cover the annual performance and strategic plans and budgets of departments.

Apart from parliamentary committee meetings, further ministerial briefings to elaborate on the level 4 lockdown regulations might also take place this week.

Parliament went into recess in mid-March just after President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster, and its committees began to hold virtual meetings recently, often being briefed by ministers on what their respective departments were doing in relation to the lockdown.

Eleven virtual committee meetings will be held on Tuesday, while five will be held on Wednesday and seven on Thursday.

Tourism industry

Highlights will be a briefing by tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane on Monday on the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the tourism industry and the mitigating measures taken by the department.

There will be a joint meeting on Tuesday of parliament’s two finance committees, which will be briefed by the National Treasury and the SA Revenue Service (Sars) on their strategic plans and budgets. Sars commissioner Edward Kieswetter is likely to relate how the tax authority is dealing with the Covid-19 lockdown and what effects this has had on revenue collection. After the meeting he will hold a virtual media conference to deal with this issue as well.

The communications committee will be briefed by the financially distressed SABC on its annual performance plan and budget, and executives of the public broadcaster will no doubt be grilled by MPs on what it will be doing to establish it on a sound footing.

Of particular interest will be the briefing public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan is expected to give on Wednesday on the latest developments in state-owned companies. He will brief a joint meeting of the public enterprises portfolio committee and the select committee on public enterprises and communications. Given the controversy over the government’s attempts to salvage the bankrupt SAA in opposition to the views of its business rescue practitioners, Gordhan’s responses to MPs’ questions are likely to be intriguing.

SAA’s business rescue practitioners Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana have proposed either winding down the airline, which would involve retrenching all employees, or applying for its liquidation. The company does not have funds to pay salaries beyond April after the government refused to give it more cash. SAA has received R16.5bn from the fiscus over the past decade while amassing losses of R28bn.

However, in a separate process trade unions and employees have held talks with Gordhan with the aim of establishing “a new financially viable airline”. They have signed a leadership compact to achieve this. The government has indicated that it is not prepared to give up on SAA and perhaps Gordhan will enlighten MPs on the way forward.

Also on Wednesday, parliament’s two transport committees will be briefed by transport minister Fikile Mbalula on progress made with regard to the production of the new driver’s licence card.

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