The second day of the Sectoral Parliaments’ Planning Session was dedicated to provincial legislatures’ inputs. By way of introduction, the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly (NA), Mr Lechesa Tsenoli, commended the inputs made by different experts the previous day. He cited the dramatic multi-dimensional South African poverty picture brought to the fore by Statistician-General, Mr Risenga Maluleke’s presentation.

In the same breath, he praised the insight brought by Dr Ayodele Odusola’s presentation’s startling comparison of South Africa’s socio-economic to other countries and global trends to give a clearer picture of the magnitude of South Africa’s inequalities based on race, class and gender.

The speakers from various legislatures delineated similarities in the issues they raised pertaining to the respective experiences of their women, youth, people living with disabilities and workers’ parliaments. There seems to be a consensus that issues raised in them should find expression in the departments’ annual performance plans and these departments should be held accountable during their appearances before the parliamentary committees.

This arises from the common concern that there seems to be no oversight framework that takes into consideration the resolutions of these sectoral parliaments. And as such, there is always a difficulty of assessing and monitoring their implementation by the executive.

Some speakers suggested that the chairpersons of the parliamentary committees and committees of the legislatures should be the champions of programmes in the sectoral parliaments, especially programmes that relate directly to the mandate of their respective committees, to ensure that legislatures are responsive to their needs. To underline this commitment, they suggested that there should be feedback sessions on the resolutions taken in previous sectoral parliaments. 

The idea of a more robust public education around the teething issues that occasion these parliaments should be undertaken prior to their sittings, to improve their efficacy.

In his closing remarks, the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), Mr Amos Masondo, commended the idea of such a planning session. For, in his view, it afforded the legislative sector a platform of engagement to consider critical issues concerning the sector’s interface with civil society and government on matters arising from sectoral parliaments. And how these sectors can be utilised to facilitate the socio-economic advancement of those still trapped in poverty, that have to bear the brunt of inequality and unemployment, so that “they may also have full access and enjoyment of the rights and privileges enshrined in our Constitution”.

He also admitted that there is an urgency to streamline national oversight processes to be responsive to the sectoral parliaments’ resolutions. And to “to ensure that these parliaments have measurable objectives that can help to improve the policy objectives of Vision 2030 as stipulated in the National Development Plan”.

He also aligned himself with the view that proposes the infusion of sectoral parliaments’ resolutions into the legislative sector’s oversight mechanisms, such as motions, questions, ministerial debates as a means to be responsive to the needs of the constituencies that constitute the various sectoral parliaments.

He said the need to utilise technology to improve the quality of legislatures’ oversight, public participation and education cannot be overemphasised. “We should utilise technology to trace progress, the efficacy of our oversight interventions, to educate, empower and the improve socio-economic conditions of our citizens.”

By Abel Mputing
8 October 2020