Parliament, Thursday, 13 January 2022 – The National Assembly Programming Committee (NAPC) and the Joint NA & NCOP Programming Committee convened in separate meetings this morning to re-affirm a business continuity plan in the wake of the fire disaster that gutted the National & Old Assembly buildings.
Both Committees convened during the normal leave and constituency periods of Parliament that only end on 24 January 2022 to affirm Parliament’s programme and consider the immediate issues that will enable both the National Assembly (NA) and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) to stay the course in ensuring that the delivery on the oversight and law-making mandate of Parliament is not compromised by the recent fire-disaster that left two of the parliamentary precinct buildings in ruins.
The extraordinary programming committee meetings of the houses of Parliament get chaired by the Presiding Officers and attended by representatives of political parties.
In her opening remarks, NA Speaker Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said the "the damage to our Chamber and other spaces where we gather to do our work has indeed left us all deeply saddened". She further added that "spaces and symbols mean so much to our democracy; however, it is still us as members and elected representatives of the people who are the cornerstone of what constitutes Parliament."
The Speaker assured the committee members that she had a series of meetings with Chief Whips and the leaders of political parties represented in Parliament to discuss various options as to how Parliament could continue with its mission-critical business continuity and processes amid the devastating fire. "These discussions have included issues around appropriate spaces for the convening of not only the forthcoming Joint Sitting for the State of the Nation Address but also for future sittings of the National Assembly," she said.
She further expressed that she has "taken much courage from the commitment expressed by all Chief Whips and party leaders to rise above our collective loss and continue to fulfil our constitutional mandate and the work of Parliament."
The Committee accentuated that the NA 2022 programme will indeed continue as planned. The 2022 programme includes, among others, extensive activities of the Portfolio Committees and the sittings of the Houses physically and virtually. The Committee was encouraged to note that Portfolio Committees, such as the Mineral Resources and Energy currently processing the GAS Amendment Bill, were not deterred by the fire. The Committee is to resume its nationwide public hearings in the Eastern Cape from 17 to 19 January 2022 and is scheduled to move to Western Cape, Northern Cape and the Free State.
There are currently 37 Bills before NA Committees, four petitions, and ten other matters. The Bills include, among others, the Electoral Laws Second Amendment Bill, the South African Reserve Bank Amendment Bill, Protection of State Information Bill, Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill, Traditional Courts Bill, 2022 Fiscal Framework and Revenue Proposals, The Copyrights Amendment Bill, Performers' Protection Amendment Bill, the National Health Bill, Expropriation Bill and the Children's Bill.
Among other matters that are currently before the NA committees include the Statutory appointments, such as the filling of vacancies on the boards of the South African Broadcasting Corporation, Media Development and Diversity Agency, Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, Central Drug Authority and the Public Service Commission, among others.
The Portfolio Committee on Police will continue its inquiry into the violence and looting in Gauteng and the KwaZulu-Natal provinces. The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services are also scheduled to resume its programme on the matter related to the complaint brought by the Justices of the Constitutional Court against the Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe.
The Joint Programming Committee of both Houses that also convened this morning considered and agreed on a joint Parliament’s programme and alignment. The Joint Committee, co-chaired by the National Assembly Speaker and the NCOP Chairperson, also supported the SONA plans. President Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver his SONA on Thursday, 10 February 2022, at the Cape Town City Hall from 19:00. The Committee further emphasised that the forensic investigation process on the cause of the fire must be allowed space to run its course.
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