Provinces get serious

2014-05-25 15:00

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Former North West premier Thandi Modise was elected chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) this week and immediately implored members to take their work seriously.

After being elected unopposed, Modise said she recognised that 80% of NCOP members were new but asked them to immediately take training seriously and familiarise themselves with their work.

“There is no time to waste,” she said.

Modise is a veteran of the ANC and the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association. She brings seniority and seriousness to the NCOP, which has not always been taken seriously.

It has been viewed in the past as a place to rubber?stamp the work of the National Assembly.

But on some occasions, the council has taken its time and pondered on some controversial bills without allowing itself to be rushed.

In considering the controversial Protection of State Information Bill, for example, the NCOP ad hoc committee set up to seek public views on the matter made it clear that they would not pass it simply because it was passed by the National Assembly.

The chairperson of that committee, Raseriti Tau, stood firm in asserting the council’s independence.

Raseriti has now been elected as Modise’s deputy.

In her welcome speech, Modise asked all the parties to move beyond party political biases and unite behind “the pursuit of better responses to the vexing challenges facing our people”.

Modise is known to be fiercely independently minded and fell out with some of her fellow leaders in the ANC when she was deputy secretary-general in the party prior to 2012.

It remains to be seen whether that quality will influence how the council functions in this new term.

In praising her predecessor, Mninwa Mahlangu, Modise said: “Just as I and the outgoing chairperson might be buying the same shoes from the same brand of the ANC, it is quite clear that I do not have to fit my feet into these shoes, but must continue to make sure his legacy, his aspiration to take this house somewhere, will remain committed to.”

Since its formation in 1997, to form the second house in Parliament, the council has initiated programmes such as the “Taking Parliament to the People” programme and Provincial Week.

This the council has done by visiting communities across the country that are mostly far removed from the workings of Parliament.

Such programmes also assist the council in conducting effective oversight of the executive, by hearing people’s views of government.

The council has 90 delegates from the nine provinces.

The 54 permanent delegates are not members of provincial legislatures.

The ANC has 33 permanent and 27 special delegates; the DA 13 permanent and seven special delegates; the Economic Freedom Fighters six permanent and one special delegate; the Inkatha Freedom Party one permanent and no special delegates; the United Democratic Movement one permanent and no special delegate; and the National Freedom Party has no permanent and one special delegate.

Functions of the council

.?Came into effect in 2007 to be one of two houses of Parliament

.?Mandated to ensure provincial interests are taken into account in the national sphere of government

.?Participates in the national legislative process by being a forum to consider issues affecting provinces

.?Attempts to ensure synergy between the three spheres of government

Composition of the council

.?Consists of 90 delegates, made up of 10 representatives from each of the nine provinces

.?Each province has six permanent and four special delegates

.?Premiers head the provincial delegations

.?Provincial whips coordinate the work of their delegations in the council

.?Municipalities are represented by 10 delegates from the SA Local Government Association, but these delegates may not vote

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