Jobs Bill, oversight over the presidency and 'shadow cabinet meetings' on DA's agenda for 6th Parliament

2019-05-22 05:33
DA leader Mmusi Maimane with Athol Trollip at the IEC Results Centre in Pretoria the day after elections. (Phill Magakoe AFP)

DA leader Mmusi Maimane with Athol Trollip at the IEC Results Centre in Pretoria the day after elections. (Phill Magakoe AFP)

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The DA remains bullish as the official opposition party ahead of a new term in Parliament, despite returning with fewer MPs than before.

Speaking after his 84-member caucus's first meeting on Tuesday morning, DA leader Mmusi Maimane said: "The DA's work in this sixth Parliament will be guided by the following two principles: One, holding government accountable for the exercise of their powers, and, two, putting forward fresh ideas and credible alternatives to government plans and policies. This is how we intend to ensure Parliament comes alive and works for the people, and not for politicians and their connected cronies."

He announced that John Steenhuisen will continue in the role of DA chief whip in the National Assembly. 

All other leadership positions will be contested through a caucus election. These are deputy chief whip in the National Assembly, leader in the National Council of Provinces; caucus chairperson and deputy caucus chairperson. 

Maimane also said the DA would put up candidates for the positions of speaker, deputy speaker and president, which the National Assembly will elect on Wednesday after the swearing in of members of the National Assembly. He said their candidates will be selected on Wednesday morning. 

"I have no doubt that with such a talented mix of skill, expertise and experience, this diverse caucus is well-equipped to serve the people of South Africa for the next five years," Maimane said. 

The caucus has identified the following as priorities in the coming months:

Tabling the Jobs Bill

In the coming weeks the DA will table their Jobs Bill, their legislative blueprint to create an enabling environment for accelerated job creation in South Africa. This bill focuses on two key areas critical to job creation, namely foreign investment and SMMEs.

Establishing Standing Committee on the Presidency

Currently Parliament does not have a committee overseeing the presidency. Therefore, the DA will be pursuing the establishment of a Standing Committee on the Presidency - a dedicated committee which has oversight power over all the affairs of the presidency. 

'Shadow Cabinet Meetings'

The DA calls its spokespersons "shadow ministers". Maimane said he will appoint his "Shadow Cabinet" to put "forward fresh ideas and credible alternatives to government plans and policies". Chaired by Steenhuisen, they will meet every fortnight to discuss the upcoming legislative agenda, to deliberate on new policies, debates, and motions, and to table any other matters. 

Establish an opposition caucus 

Maimane said he will establish a working group of opposition parties. "We want to align ourselves with people who share our values, who identify in the centre of politics and an economy that delivers for most South Africans." He didn't elaborate on which opposition parties fit this bill.

Regular Engagement with Leader of Government Business

The president must appoint a Leader of Government Business (LOGB) in Parliament – responsible for maintaining a cordial, working relationship between Parliament and the Executive. This responsibility typically falls on the deputy president's shoulders. 

Maimane said the LOGB is obligated to meet with opposition party leaders on a regular basis – something which has not routinely happened in the recent past.

He said he will write to President Cyril Ramaphosa, to request, in writing, his commitment to ensuring that the LOGB is a present and engaged player so that constructive dialogue between all parties becomes a standard practice of the sixth Parliament.

Steenhuisen said Thandi Modise, who is the ANC's candidate to become speaker on Wednesday is a strong candidate and he is very relieved given some of the other names that were mooted.

"The big concern for me in all of this is Nomvula Mokonyane," he said.

The ANC on Monday announced that Mokonyane will be the chair of chairs. The position is also called house chairperson for committees. The position was held by Cedric Frolick in the fifth Parliament. 

He said he fears ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule's faction was deployed to Parliament and would form roadblocks to Ramaphosa's proposed reforms. 

"I don't think anybody should underestimate what an obstruction Parliament can be to any reforming agenda that the president may want to drive. 

"If I was the president, seeing Nomvula Mokonyane being placed there, at essentially one of the most key positions that determine how committees process business, when committees process business and how that business is dealt with and disposed of within the house, it should be a big, big worry for him, because it could be used against him."

John Steenhuisen, the DA chief whip in the National Assembly. (File, Netwerk24)

Steenhuisen said he was looking forward to the engagement with the ANC's new chief whip,  Pemmy Majodina. 

"She's certainly a very colourful character and very interesting and I'll obviously have to bring my own blue fan to Parliament to counter it," Steenhuisen said, the fan-comment referring to an instance where Majodina was pictured with a small pink fan to match her flamboyant pink clothes.

He said the ANC's choice was "very out of left field". 

"A very odd choice for chief whip. I thought they missed a trick with her. I thought Dorris Dlakude, who has been deputy to the last two chief whips, would have made an excellent chief whip. But nonetheless, I was wrong about Mr Mthembu [previous chief whip Jackson Mthembu]. Hopefully, I'll be wrong about the new chief whip as well."  

Read more on:    da  |  mmusi maimane  |  politics  |  elections 2019

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