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As the fifth parliamentary term comes to an end in a few months’ time, the Presiding Officers of the national Parliament and provincial legislatures held a special summit to reflect on developments in the legislative arm of the state over the past five years.

In the summit which is organised by the South African Legislative Sector (Sals), the Speakers’ Forum, an organisation of Speakers and Deputy Speakers of the National Assembly and the provincial legislatures, as well as the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Province, had discussions on reflections and developments in the sector in the fifth parliamentary term.

The Sals Legacy Summit held in Parliament under the theme: “Building on the Legislative Sector Gains of the 5th Parliamentary Term”, was opened by National Assembly Speaker Ms Baleka Mbete, who is also the Chairperson of the Speakers’ Forum.

Officially opening the two-day summit, Ms Mbete reflected on various topical issues affecting the legislative sector, including international relations engagements, oversight and budget allocations to Parliament and the provincial legislatures.

One of the outstanding developments by the sector in the fifth parliamentary term, the Speaker said, was the commissioning of the High Level Panel (HLP) on the Assessment of Key Legislation and the Acceleration of Fundamental Change.

The panel, which was chaired by former President Kgalema Motlanthe, handed over its report to the Speakers’ Forum in November last year and that report will form part of the Legacy Report to be handed over to the sixth democratic Parliament after the general elections next year.

Another important matter which could not be finalised in this term, is the Legislative Sector Bill, which will also be referred to the next Parliament.

“We are confident that as we conclude the last mile, we are strong and have established a more solid foundation for the next term. We are using this summit to reflect on developments and evaluate our achievements, the major focus is to discuss and review developments over the past five years and advise on future direction,” she told the summit.

The Speaker also emphasised the need to mainstream the National Development Plan (NDP) to the work of Parliament and legislatures and make it a key element of their strategic planning and the Sector Oversight Model.

She said the alignment of the legislative sector’s strategic planning and oversight model to the NDP will ensure the successful implementation of this plan, which seeks to end hunger, poverty and inequality by the year 2030.

She also called on Parliament and the legislatures to use all resources at their disposal to fight corruption and ensure good and clean governance.

Ms Mbete also used the opportunity to pay homage to the United Nations (UN) and the world for honouring South Africa by erecting a statue of the country’s first democratic President, DR Nelson Mandela, at the UN headquarters in New York.

She said the legislatures must continue to learn from Madiba, who told the first Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Frene Ginwala, that “Parliament must be a body that contributes to nation-building and a united South Africa”.

Another matter which the Speaker reflected on was inadequate budget allocation to the legislative sector, which she said impacted negatively on the sector’s ability to do its work, which include oversight, processing legislation, as well as analysing and passing budgets.

Engagements with the Minister of Finance and the President will help to discuss this and to understand the implementation of the Financial Management of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act (FMPPLA) and the relationship between the legislative sector and the executive.

By Sakhile Mokoena

28 November 2018