Sunday, 24 May 2020
THE NEW NORMAL UNDER COVID-19 CONDITIONS:
- Parliament resumed its business in April, with the first virtual meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Health with Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize on 10 April.
- Since then, there have been 154 virtual committee meetings of both Houses of Parliament. These meetings have conducted effective oversight over government's response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The oversight work of Parliament is continuing.
- With the easing of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, Parliament is preparing to hold its first virtual plenary sittings of both the National Assembly (NA) and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).
- Preparations for these House plenary sittings are at an advanced stage.
NCOP Engagement with Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs and Minister of Health
- The NCOP is scheduled to host a virtual engagement on 26 May, at which Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize will brief NCOP Permanent and Special Delegates on the impact and implementation of COVID-19 measures across the three spheres of government.
- This virtual engagement is in pursuance of the NCOP’s constitutional obligation to promote co-operative governance and to ensure the harmonious existence of the three spheres of government. The briefing intends to ensure that proper co-ordination in the implementation of COVID-19 measures exists, to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The briefing will be followed by a question and answer session with the two Ministers.
NA Oral questions plenary session with social services and governance portfolios
- The NA, on 27 May, is scheduled to hold its first oral questions plenary session at 3pm with the social services and governance clusters. The session will deal with questions to clusters 2 and 3 which consists of Basic Education; Health; Higher Education, Science and Technology; Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation; Social Development; Sport, Arts and Culture; Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs; Ministry in the Presidency; Public Service and Administration and Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities.
- The hybrid sitting will entail a limited number of Members of Parliament (in line with the social distancing guidelines) being physically present in the NA Chamber and other MPs joining the sitting through a virtual platform.
- Currently, a few staff members have been granted clearance to work from the precinct, as safety for all remains a top priority. Those required on site on Wednesday 27 May include chamber support staff, those offering ICT support to the House, security, interpreters and cleaners. Limited number of members of the media will be permitted, and strict social distancing sitting arrangement will be observed.
ENSURING THE PRECINCT IS SAFE
- To ensure the safety of all coming to the precinct on the day of the sittings, occupational medical services will be activated. MPs and staff will be provided with protective equipment when entering the precinct. Arrangements are being made to ensure that busses that will be bringing MPs to the precinct are sanitised. Provision has been made for hand sanitisers throughout Parliament.
- On Monday, 25 May the deep cleaning of the NA Chamber will start, followed by another round of sanitising the precinct on May 27. Walk-through sanitising booths at all three entrances of Parliament have also been installed.
COMMITTEE MEETINGS AND HOUSE PLENARY SITTINGS ON THE BUDGET
- Also scheduled for this quarter/term, is continuation of virtual committee meetings of both Houses and consideration of the 2020 Appropriation Bill by both the NA and NCOP.
- A completely virtual plenary sitting of the NCOP will, on 2 June, consider the 2020 Division of Revenue Bill. The NA passed the Bill on 18 March and consequently the Bill was sent to the NCOP for concurrence.
- Sittings of the NCOP have been scheduled for the 18 and 19 June to consider and vote on the Appropriations Bill, 2020.
- Once Parliament has approved the 2020 Budget, the adjusted Budget will be on the agenda, once the Minister of Finance tables this.
PROVINCIAL DISCUSSIONS AND REVIEW OF THE WOMEN’S CHARTER
- Women’s Charter Review Sessions in the Northern Cape and Free State are also scheduled. These review sessions take stock of progress made in implementing the articles of the 1994 Women’s Charter for Effective Equality since the advent of freedom and democracy. The sessions will also assess the impact of changes made over the years to realise the goals of the women’s charter on women. The Western Cape was the first province to hold a session, in November 2019.
RULES FOR VIRTUAL PLENARY SITTINGS
- Following the putting in place of measures to facilitate plenaries, through a combination of physical presence in the Chamber and joining remotely, Parliament is gradually rolling out its programme of processing of legislation and exercising oversight over the Executive through House plenary sittings.
- For the first time, members of both Houses will be able to join and cast their votes virtually on issues being discussed in plenary sittings of the Houses. This is because Rules for meetings and sittings have been amended to accommodate the current extraordinary business of Parliament, of conducting the program through virtual platforms.
- Due to the nature of the virtual platforms available currently on the market, only limited languages will be available for translation in these sittings. Parties have been requested to submit languages for which they will require translation support. Sign language translation will also be provided through the virtual platform.
- The use of technology has ensured that Parliament continues to fulfil its constitutional obligations towards the public – of openness, transparency and public involvement – though the circumstances have changed drastically because of social distancing brought upon us by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease.
PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT IN PARLIAMENT’S WORK
- Information about the forthcoming virtual sittings – and the ongoing daily meetings of committees – will continue to be communicated through various Parliament platforms (Channel 408, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) and through community radio stations and community TV channels to facilitate public awareness of the proceedings.
ISSUED BY THE PARLIAMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA
Enquiries: Moloto Mothapo – 082 370 6930
- For the rules of NCOP virtual meetings, please click: https://www.parliament.gov.za/storage/app/media/Docs/atc/c1b6cf4f-64ba-419b-98a1-1408ac5b8c11.pdf
- For the rules of NA virtual meetings, please click: https://www.parliament.gov.za/storage/app/media/Docs/atc/3c18bebd-c114-43b4-9dd0-ee9585450728.pdf