Times have changed. The daily slog has not necessarily changed – we are still dealing with poverty, inequality, and rising joblessness. Coronavirus pandemic has simply increased and exaggerated the contradictions under a non-performing world economy which engender deep feelings of fear and frustrations.
The unpredictable mutations of the virus; the impact on production, the number of deaths, have not strengthened assurances about the future-anxiety and depression have become as the world waits for “the” vaccine that can guarantee the life and a return to a situation where economic and political forces are not sources of increased anxiety and alienation. Under these conditions’ citizens become vulnerable; the usual freedoms of thought, expression, and association pale - we feel that in our personal spaces, we can no longer fully control our destinies – we must rely on the herd, the collective, the leadership for survival. So, we support the work done by the Executive during this period to preserve lives, jobs, and the dignity of many within our borders.
We have done the right things – we have endeavored to keep calm and positive about the future.
We have accepted social distancing, masks and accepted that social gatherings, churches, etc., must be changed to lessen the spread; we have given voluntarily to the solidarity fund to help those who are desperate; some have quietly adopted people and households; we have adjusted budgets to help fund procurements of vaccines and enable the poor to eat.
We have had to adjust to new organizational and procedural solutions as Parliament to enable and plenary work. We are ready to accept that virtual, hybrid, and “work from home” systems will be with us for a while as we must hold the executive to account; as we represent the people within our borders and internationally. We must invest in our ICT and relook at our employment processes and models to adjust to the fast-changing world of work.
The challenges of the lockdown, notwithstanding we managed to have oversight work-first in clusters and then as committees – 408 reports were produced, 40 oversights visits were conducted; lawmaking sessions took place (NA-29 and NCOP 25), 60 Public hearings were held; interviews for crucial government post were held; quarterly reports, BRRR’s budget votes conducted – our international work, as well as international agreements, were processed. We held at least 48 virtual meetings.
We have had our scheduled reassessment of our 6th Parliament’s Strategic Plan. We continue to focus on the resolve to strengthen our performance and to improve efficiency in law-making and oversight.
The need of a public representative to adequately represent the public means that we must constantly look at the performance of Committees and the needs of the individual member. This means we must also be satisfied with the administrative support to Committees. Is Parliament structured and resourced to enable Members to represent? Is the Institution able to help any Member to represent, to inform, or to educate? What must Parliament do to reflect the majority view without diminishing the minority views?
Members have criticized us, and we accept, that we need to follow up resolutions, undertakings, and commitment made by the executives. Is Parliament able to crack a whip on itself and cabinet on behalf of the citizens? Can we perform efficiently and still represent ourselves internationally? What is the image we want to be projected about ourselves anywhere?
We marked 25 years of our Constitution a few days ago. Are we still “united in our diversity”? Are we using our sorry past to create a better future? Where all are equal, where peace and stability are as important as portable water, access to healthcare, and safety in the private and public space? Can we grow a democracy that will survive hunger and chauvinism?
We bid farewell to our Auditor-General – Kimi Makwetu- may his gentle soul rest in peace. We had just given him teeth to bite away maladministration and financial misconduct, we hope our first woman Auditor-General Ms. Maluleke will continue to push up all better results.
We have filled some vacancies in different Institutions. We have had a good challenge with the filling of the NYDA Board. A good challenge because as the Houses we have learned not just to accept reports from committees. We have had to re-do the recruitment and placement process. We acknowledge that putting together advertisements and interviewing candidates –has not been a requirement for new members. We accept that we must take responsibility to recruit and place fit and proper candidates whilst not forgetting the things that alienate South Africans – ignoring gender inclusiveness, geographical spread, ignoring disability, and accepting that we are a multi-racial society that has accepted non-racism.
This means that Parliament cannot afford ill-prepared advertisements, non-representative shortlisting’s and unprofessional interviews. This Parliament is responsible for making recommendations for very strategic positions in our country. If Parliament lowers the guard, we end up with below the par performance in areas where the poor, and the vulnerable deserve protection.
We have adopted rules to enable Parliament to process matters related to Section 194 of the Constitution. These rules are not dissimilar to the rules for the impeachment of the head of state. We have recently made a recommendation to enable all elected constituencies space in such matters.
The National Assembly has been cited in a number of court cases – some challenges the validity of our rules and process and almost the right to conduct our business as an arm of the state. We have been vindicated by the courts largely, there are still a few pending matters. Of the 18 closed, only the labour-related case was lost by Parliament.
The Constitutional Court has ruled that independent candidates should be allowed to stand for office without belonging to any political party. We must meet the deadline given by the court to enact the required law.
Public awareness, participation, and stakeholder engagements are the pillars of participatory democracy. Surveys conducted over the years provide valuable information about Parliament and government in general.
With the outbreak of Coronavirus, we had to increase and enhance our communication channels. Our meetings as well as other business of the Houses have been broadcast live, streamed on channels like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. We have an additional platform called iono.fm which enables radio stations and the public to access recordings of our sittings. We launched Parliament TV for live broadcast, etc. We thank Multichoice for the advice and the continued relationship.
We hope to increase public awareness by featuring programmes and documentaries, to boost access to information and educational materials to the public to increase participation in law-making and oversight.
Like any organization facing financial constraints, we have had to review our priorities.
Budget allocation 2021-2022
Our allocation for this financial year is R2 615 858 (Two Billion Six Hundred Fifteen Million Eight Hundred Fifty-Eight Thousand).
- Programme 1: Strategic leadership and governance
– R120,3 million
- Programme 2: Administration – R154,1 million
- Programme 3: Core Business – R683,2 million
- Programme 4: Support services – R440,4 million
- Programme 5: Associated Service – R 746,1 Million
Direct Charges – for Member’s remuneration is R471,7 million.
Our baseline has been adjusted downwards for 2021/2022 to 2022/2023 MTEF. Budgets reductions for 2021/2022 is R256m; 2022/2023 is R338m and in 2023/2024 it is R296m.
Clearly, we need to give our spending patterns - is the structure enabling us to work efficiently? - can we curb the size of our external activities? -what is essential and what can we reprioritize?
Clearly, there are things we cannot continue doing:
- We are engaging with former members of the executive on their benefits,
- We are engaging provincial legislatures on the contribution of former members of legislatures to PARMED,
- We are looking at a different method for political party funding transfers.
On the International front, we must continue to represent this country at the international and multilateral levels – we continue to see positive progress at SADC-PF towards being our regional Parliament. Indeed, the quality of model laws at this level can only contribute towards a cohesive region which promotes stability and growth.
We host the PAP as a country. We have delegated Members to serve there. We do need to take a more active interest in the affairs and functioning of the PAP. Whatever goes wrong at the PAP, South Africa gets blamed. The truth is we have not been able to properly play the role of host, we have to remedy this.
On the home front - we hope to soon announce the results of the search of the secretary to Parliament, the CFO, and the head of the security post.
Barrack Obama, in his book: “Audacity of Hope” says: “the gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the smallness of our politics – the ease with which we are distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, and, our seeming inability to build a working consensus to tackle any big problem”.
That's the audacity, the assumption of hope we need to grow to tackle the things that hamper our ability to properly represent our people – is it the skewed structure of our administration? Is it the individual bursaries for Members instead of a focused committee-specific empowerment programme? Is it a matter of fostering old challenges of calling out those who continue to undermine the role of Parliament? Is it not chronic avoidance of resolving issues that oftentimes make us forget that we are here to represent people, to hold the executive to account, to ensure a responsive government?
I wish to thank the Deputy Speaker for his support, the House Chairpersons for guidance and support. In the name of the Executive Authority, I thank the administration of Parliament for making sure that we are able to do our work. We acknowledge the challenges but are encouraged by those who work hard.
We remember our colleagues who succumbed to the pandemic and other illnesses. We remain indebted to their commitment.
Honorable Members, I put the budget of Parliament for your approval.
I thank you!