Coronavirus: Parliament hearings on land, harmful religious practices postponed

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Medical staff, with protective clothing, arriving to take the temperature of a driver during sanitary checks at Jedrzychowice border crossing, between Poland and Germany, in a measure to protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus. (Odd Andersen, AFP)
Medical staff, with protective clothing, arriving to take the temperature of a driver during sanitary checks at Jedrzychowice border crossing, between Poland and Germany, in a measure to protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus. (Odd Andersen, AFP)

Widespread shutdowns caused by the coronavirus means the hearings on the amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution and a colloquium on the regulation of harmful religious practices will be postponed. 

The Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) has postponed until further notice a planned colloquium with the religious sector on the regulation of harmful religious practices, which was due to take place on 17 and 18 March, according to a statement from committee chairperson Faith Muthambi.

And the chairperson of the Ad Hoc Committee to Initiate and Introduce Legislation Amending Section 25 of the Constitution, Mathole Motshekga, decided to postpone all committee activities, including public hearings.

On Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa's announcement included a prohibition of non-essential gatherings of 100 people or more. These two government undertakings would fall within that call by Ramaphosa. 

"Up to now, we have seen hundreds of people attending each session at the public hearings. It is clear the need for land is urgent and huge crowds attend. In light of this, we are mindful not to expose more South Africans to Covid-19, also known as the coronavirus," Motshekga said.

The committee was due to hold public hearings at Parliament from Tuesday. It has already held hearings in the Free State, Mpumalanga, the North West, KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Gauteng.

Public informed

Motshekga said the committee would keep the public informed about the resumption of public hearings.

Tuesday's sitting of the National Assembly was also postponed after consultations between the presiding officers, speaker of the National Assembly Thandi Modise, chairperson of the National Council of Provinces Amos Masondo and the whips and representatives of the political parties in Parliament.

"The National Assembly will now sit on Wednesday, 18 March, to conduct urgent business that would have been dealt with on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. This will include the consideration of the Division of Revenue Bill. Subject to availability of members of the executive, the time for the sitting on Wednesday is 10:00," read a statement from parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo.

The National Council of Provinces has also cancelled public meetings scheduled for Thursday in three Gauteng municipalities. The NCOP will only meet on Thursday to consider urgent business, like the intervention in the troubled Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality.

READ | Government approves Tshwane dissolution

A special meeting between the presiding officers of Parliament and the Whippery will take place on Tuesday to consider the way forward in light of the president's announcement.

"A comprehensive announcement regarding the programme of both Houses of Parliament, the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces, will be made after the Tuesday meeting," said Mothapo.

Meanwhile, hand sanitisers have been placed at the entrances to the buildings on the parliamentary precinct.

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