21 years of laws: How has Parly fared?

Baleka Mbete (Netwerk24)
Baleka Mbete (Netwerk24)

Parliament will appoint a high-level panel to investigate the impact of the laws that the legislature has passed over the past 21 years of democracy.

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete revealed that the high-level team will be announced in January and will work for 12 months to help deepen the work of Parliament.

“Key among the areas where we would like them to assist us is to look into the impact of key legislation that has been passed by Parliament in the past 21 years,” she said.

The decision to establish the panel was taken by the speakers’ forum – a forum made up by Parliament’s presiding officers and those of the provincial legislatures. 

Mbete said the panel would be made up of people coming from outside Parliament, including from the media, academia and other sectors.

Mbete was addressing a gathering of the Cape Town Press Club and the Press Gallery Association in Cape Town yesterday alongside the chairperson of the national council of provinces, Thandi Modise.

She said the panel would also assist with ideas on how to perfect an area of oversight – over how, for instance, key clauses of the Freedom Charter could be “effected” to bring change to people’s lives.

Mbete specifically cited clauses three and four of the Freedom Charter as those that Parliament would like to get assistance in effecting.

Clause three makes reference to the mineral wealth of the country and clause four is about land.

Mbete said it would be desirable for the clause [mineral wealth] to go into ensuring that they effect fundamental changes to the lives of our people. 

“How do we ensure that that happens?” 

“And there is a whole area of the land … how have we fared as the new South Africa in addressing questions of the issues of poverty, the issues of unemployment and the issues of inequality in our society relating to these two clauses.

“We are asking this team of these senior South Africans or South Africans we have confidence in – coming from different sectors and from different communities – to put before us proposals that will take South Africa forward utilising the time at our disposal during the term of the fifth Parliament within the context of a strategic plan that we adopted when we arrived in Parliament in 2015,” said Mbete.

Parliament will also develop processes and policies on what to do in cases where people break through the gates and protest inside the precinct as it happened during the #FeesMustFall protest in October or when pensioners squat outside Parliament for days demanding their money. 

Modise said there was a need to develop a new policy because the policing of the National Key Point Act and its implementation do not fall within Parliament.

“We are very proud that Parliament is still the venue for South Africans to come to when they think the courts and other spheres of government have not delivered; or on any personal issues, they come to Parliament,” said Modise. 

The briefing by the presiding officers was the last one for the year. Parliament has closed its business for the year.
“I can’t wait to show my back to Cape Town and disappear somewhere,” joked Mbete.

“It’s been an eventful year, sometimes quite dramatic,” she added.

Parliament held 1088 committee meetings this year, conducted 77 oversight visits and processed more than 3000 questions in both houses.

The legislature passed 25 bills – much fewer laws than it has passed in previous years. Mbete said this could be due to “a lot which had been covered” over the past 21 years.

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