2013 YEAR END STATEMENT OF THE ANC PARLIAMENTARY CAUCUS
25 November 2013
As we conclude the 2013 parliamentary programme, the Office of the ANC Chief Whip salutes the 299 ANC public representatives in the two Houses of Parliament for their untiring effort in bettering the lives of ordinary South Africans through parliamentary oversight and legislative work. The 2013 parliamentary year was one of the most significant in the history of this institution and the country, as it was the last year before the general elections and the momentous occasion of South Africa's 20 years of democracy in 2014.
1. LEGISLATIVE ACHIEVEMENTS
Since the 1994 democratic breakthrough, South Africans have repeatedly entrusted the African National Congress in every election with a mandate to reverse the evil legacy of apartheid and to qualitatively improve their material living conditions. Looking back at the journey we have traversed in the last five year parliamentary term and the last 19 years of democracy, we can proudly state that we have not disappointed our people's aspirations.
As the majority party in this parliament since 1994, we have presided over the passing of 1198 bills in the last 19 years aimed at transforming our country politically, socially and economically. Out of that total, 11 Bills were referred back to Parliament for reconsideration. In 2013, we have passed 49 Bills out of a total of 55 Bills introduced in Parliament. Only one Bill, the Protection of State Information Bill, was returned to Parliament for reconsideration.
The legislative oversight work indeed had a direct impact on the government programmes aimed at changing the lives of our people. In the last 19 years 3.38 million houses were built for poor people, bringing decent shelter to over 11 million people who never had it before. No government has delivered housing, and at this rate, free to its citizens. While in 1994 only 39% had access to electricity, today close to 10 million South African households (76.5%) have been electrified.
Since the democratic government came into power, it has ensured that more than 95% of South African households have access to running water.Whereas less than 3 million people received grants when this government came to power in 1994, today over 15 million people receive government social assistance support such as the old age grant, war veterans grant, disability grant, foster child grant and child support grant. Through this parliament's legislative oversight, we have ensured implementation of quality education, provision of student loans and bursaries, road and transport infrastructure, jobs and youth development, and implementation of anti-corruption laws - amongst others.
As the Majority Party in Parliament, we are proud of our past achievements and remain confident of our country's future. We have a good story to tell regarding the great progress we have made together with our people, and this is a story our public representatives will continue to share with millions of South Africans in their constituencies ahead of the 2014 elections.
2. PARLIAMENTARY OVERSIGHT
During the 2013 this parliamentary year, we have continued to employ fearless and robust oversight over members of the executive and entities that are accountable to parliament. There has been a significant improvement in various areas of parliamentary oversight mechanisms, such as motions without notice, notices of motions and members` statements. We have surpassed any other party in this regard: number of motions we proposed for debate stood at 135 total number of statements presented in the House was 113 (the main opposition managed 67); and motions without notice totalled 78 (the main opposition managed 41). These are some of the important parliamentary mechanisms parties use to hold the executive accountable.
3. FOURTH SUCCESSIVE CLEAN AUDIT REPORT
For the fourth consecutive year, the ANC in Parliament received an unqualified financial audit report. We are proud of these consistent clean audits. Parties in parliament are funded from the taxpayers' purse and therefore ought to utilise every cent responsibly and account to the people they represent. All parties are required under the law to provide audited statements on how they spend the funds which they receive from Parliament.
As the majority party in this parliament, it is important that we do not only expect accountability on expenditure of public funds from those who account to parliament, but that we lead by example.
4. PARLIAMENTARY CONSTITUENCY SYSTEM
We have continued to deepen the activist character of this Parliament, thereby ensuring that our MPs conduct their constitutional functions openly, transparently, accountably, robustly, fearlessly and that they consistently remain in touch with the people they represent. The ANC remains the only party in this parliament with a functional and effective parliamentary constituency system.
Over the last four years, we have transformed our parliamentary constituency offices (PCOs) into one-stop multipurpose centres and put in place monitoring systems to ensure our 299 MPs serve the people. During this parliamentary year we have, through the Limpopo Repatriation Project, geographically rearranged our PCOs by moving them from towns to rural villages to be closer to the people they serve. This process has resulted in the opening of 10 additional PCOs in Limpopo and the Northern Cape, bringing the total number of our PCOs from 265 to 275. The enhancement of our parliamentary constituency system through the transformation of our constituency offices reinforces in practical terms our resolve to ensure parliament lives amongst the people. This enables our MPs to intervene instantaneously in service delivery challenges within the communities they serve.
5. RULES REVIEW PROCESS
The task team on the Review of Rules is currently conducting a review of over 20 chapters of the rules of the National Assembly to bring them squarely in line with the constitution and the ongoing democratic transformation of Parliament. The rules review team is comprised of experienced serving and former MPs, supported by parliamentary legal experts. We are confident that the rule review process, which also seeks to address a lacuna in the rules identified by the Constitutional Court in relation to the no confidence motions, will be concluded early next year.
6. ELECTRONIC MONITORING SYSTEM AND LEAVE POLICY
Parliament this week began its installation of the electronic monitoring system in the National Assembly. The institution earlier this year proposed a combination of two technologies, radio frequency identification (RFID) and biometric (fingerprint), to monitor the attendance of Members of Parliament at sittings of the houses of parliament and committee meetings. RFID automatically detects MPs when they enter or exit a chamber or a committee room. Biometrics is limited to fingerprint recognition and requires MPs to register their attendance using their thumbprint. The chief whips of political parties would thus be able to track the attendance of members of their parties. The electronic monitoring system will replace the unreliable manual system parliament previously had, which required MPs to fill in attendance slips.
The system will be ready to operate at the beginning of next year, although it would only be activated once all parties have given it the green light. As we said previously, we will ensure that the electronic monitoring system, together with the leave and attendance policy, is fullyelection. We will not allow any party to stand in the way of these progressive systems. Section 47(3) of the constitution enjoins Parliament to put in place rules and orders to govern attendance of MPs, including circumstances under which MPs might lose membership of parliament.
7. OPPOSITION CONDUCT
As the Majority Party in Parliament, we recognise and encourage robust and fearless parliamentary oversight as a cornerstone of a vibrant and strong constitutional democracy. Without a strong parliament that is uncompromising in its constitutional mandate, which serves as a forum for lively debates on matters of national importance, whose members hold the executive to account without fear or favour, our hard-fought democracy will be weakened. These are the principles we hold dear as the majority party in this parliament.
It is therefore with great disappointment that the public had to witness worrying conduct from certain political parties that seek to undermine these fundamental principles. The tendency amongst some opposition parties to use the courts as weapons to fight political battles in parliament is not only abusive of our judicial system but it also undermines the doctrine of separation of powers. We applaud the judiciary for rejecting this tendency through a series of judgments.
The Constitutional Court earlier this year rejected the DA's attempt to draw it into the internal programming matters of parliament relating to the scheduling of no confidence motions. In March, the Western Cape High Court dismissed Cope leader Terror Lekota's appeal against the 2012 judgment regarding the un-parliamentary remarks he made against the President in the National Assembly. In an astonishing and mindboggling move, the DA recently filed papers in the Western Cape High Court asking the judge to interfere in parliament's legislative-making process relating to the Electoral Amendment Bill.
We once again condemn such blatant attacks on the doctrine of separation of powers and abuse of our courts by those with bottomless pockets to bankroll frivolous litigations.
We have also witnessed a series of irresponsible and un-parliamentary conduct amongst the opposition parties, particularly the official opposition. The DA leadership in Parliament had on a numerous occasions hastily evacuated their MPs during voting sessions in order to sabotage the quorum required to pass Bills. Recently, the DA pulled its members from the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence with a view to frustrate and cast aspersion on the integrity of the committee's work on government task team report on Nkandla.
The party thereafter had the audacity to offer an opinion on the process it is ignorant of and the report it had not even read. This makes a complete mockery of the DA's role as an official parliamentary opposition and its role in this institution. It points to a poverty of leadership in the DA parliamentary caucus, which has since been confirmed by its flip-flopping on the BBBEE and EE bills and the subsequent splitting of the caucus into Black and White caucuses.
The employment of such a careless trick undermined the constitutional obligation requiring all MPs represented in parliament to make themselves available to perform their constitutional duties. We are thankful to the Speaker for his strong rebuke of such cheap filibuster tricks and hopefully such behaviour would not be repeated in the new year.
8. CONCLUSION OF 2013 PARLIAMENTARY PROGRAMME
All members of parliament are expected to undertake their constituency programmes within the communities they represent between 15 November and 13 December 2013. During this period, our MPs are expected to report back to the public on the work the ANC has done in Parliament during this parliamentary term and in the last 19 years of democracy. MPs will, amongst others, be expected to conduct door-to-door visits, hold community meetings and intervene in general community grievances. We wish them well in their constiWe wish all South Africans a joyous, restful and safe festive season.
Statement issued by the Office of the ANC Chief Whip, November 25 2013
Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter