New members of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) pose for a group portrait after being sworn-in on May 23, 2019 in Cape Town, South Africa. The NCOP consists of 90 provincial delegates, with each province represented by 10 delegates. (Photo by Gallo Images/Brenton Geach)
Thursday’s swearing-in of the 54 permanent delegates of the National Council of Provinces was a staid affair, but then the house that must champion the nine provinces is often seen as the stepchild of Parliament. Now both Houses are constituted, the parliamentary calendar should kick into high gear. Sort of.
Day two of swearing in South Africa’s 454 parliamentarians found Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng in the hot seat in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), overseeing a much shorter process than in the National Assembly on Wednesday, 22 May 2019. Then it was 400 MPs; on Thursday there were 54 permanent delegates taking the oath of office to be faithful to the Constitution and country.
Mogoeng cautioned those newly sworn-in lawmakers as the signing of their oath of office forms apparently didn’t quite go smoothly in the National Assembly:
“Some signed both — the space where they are supposed to sign and where I am supposed to sign. Please be careful!”
Amos Masondo, the ANC’s choice as NCOP chair, was elected unopposed, unlike National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise, against whom the DA fielded their own, ultimately unsuccessful candidate. Masondo took over and his deputy Sylvia Lucas, the ex-Northern Cape premier, was also elected unopposed. As was NCOP Chief Whip Seiso Mohai.
“ANC, ANC, ANC, ANC…” erupted in the NCOP in a replay of the Zuma administration years — and in stark contrast to the co-operative tone emphasising MPs’ common mandate. The NCOP may just become the place to track the ANC’s factional swings and sways at the provincial level.
But that would be in the coming months. As the parliamentary agenda is melded to the governing ANC’s programme to constitute a new state, right now the focus shifts to Tshwane and the Union Buildings for Saturday’s inauguration of President Cyril Ramaphosa and the subsequent announcement of Cabinet expected from Sunday, or perhaps Monday.
The choreography is delicate; the optics managed.
And while ANC Chief Whip Pemmy Majodina said after the governing party’s Tuesday’s special parliamentary caucus that chairpersons of committees would be announced after the ministers became known, it seems there’ll be a bit of a wait yet. The parliamentary calendar at this stage has set aside the morning of 5 June for that election.
Effectively, this means these committee chairpersons’ elections follow the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) lekgotla from 31 May to 3 June. While the draft programme Daily Maverick has seen does not include an agenda item of parliamentary committee chairpersons, it includes ANC NEC member Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma’s presentation on a 25-Year Review and a panel discussion on development, state and a social compact — and the interventions needed for the next five years.
Given the numerical dominance of the ANC, the governing party gets to chair the committees — all but the public spending watchdog, the Standing Committee of Public Accounts (Scopa), which traditionally is chaired by an opposition MP. However, in line with ANC hierarchies, those names are determined at best with the guidance and recommendations of the chief whip and parliamentary political leaders, but at worst in the Office of the Secretary-General at Luthuli House ANC head office.
How it will pan out this time around remains to be seen. Crucially, aside from considering another “chair of chairs”, the ANC would have to pay some thought to who from the opposition parties should chair Scopa, as African People’s Convention (APC) MP Temba Godi lost his seat in Parliament.
Although Majodina met her chief whip counterparts from other political parties immediately after Wednesday’s National Assembly proceedings, including Ramaphosa’s election as president, it will only be in early June the first chief whips’ forum would meet. The multi-party structure is meant to smooth out the crinkles behind the scenes for Parliament to function efficiently.
And the committee that sets the programme of Parliament is expected to meet only in mid-June. It’ll be then that further details would emerge on the about 40 Budget votes that must be passed to give full effect to February’s financial allocations. Traditionally the Budget is passed in June, but in 2019 the statutory four-month period is hooked on the start of the financial year of 1 April, under the Money Bills Amendment Procedures and Related Matters Act.
It’s a high-pressure time in any given year — some days there are nine budget votes — but this time around there are additional dynamics. On the MPs benches, many would have had had a few weeks only to get to grips with their new responsibilities. And new ministers could be in charge of the portfolios, which may be in transition as a leaner government structure with fewer departments is anticipated.
But it’s in the State of the Nation Address that the details of government programmes and projects will emerge alongside the tone and character of the administration Ramaphosa would like to see. DM
Want to watch Richard Poplak’s audition for SA’s Got Talent?
Who doesn’t? Alas, it was removed by the host site for prolific swearing*… Now that we’ve got your attention, we thought we’d take the opportunity to talk to you about the small matter of book burning and freedom of speech.
Since its release, Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s book Gangster State, has sparked numerous fascist-like behavior from certain members of the public (and the State). There have been planned book burnings, disrupted launches and Ace Magashule has openly called him a liar. And just to say thanks, a R10m defamation suit has been lodged against the author.
Pieter-Louis Myburgh is our latest Scorpio Investigative journalist recruit and we’re not going to let him and his crucial book be silenced. When the Cape Town launch was postponed, Maverick Insider stepped in and relocated it to a secure location so that Pieter-Louis’ revelations could be heard by the public. If we’ve learnt one thing over the past ten years it is this: when anyone tries to infringe on our constitutional rights, we have to fight back. Every day, our journalists are uncovering more details and evidence of State Capture and its various reincarnations. The rot is deep and the threats, like this recent one to freedom of speech, are real. You can support the cause by becoming an Insider and help free the speech that can make a difference.
*No video of Richard Poplak auditioning for SA’s Got Talent actually exists. Unless it does and we don’t know about it please send it through.
Universities have been under pressure over entry systems – with criticism over the increasing use of unconditional offers, in which students commit to a university place in return for being accepted regardless of their exam results.
Unconditional offers give universities more certainty over their recruitment numbers and finances – but there are concerns this is achieved at the cost of “pressure-selling” tactics on students.
There have also been challenges over whether disadvantaged students have fair access into the most selective universities.
The review, due to report back next spring, will look again at the findings of an inquiry carried out under the Labour government, which called for applications to be made after A-level results – changing to what is called “post-qualification admissions”.
At present, students apply and narrow down their selections before they take their A-levels – and universities make offers using the grades predicted by their schools.
But most predicted grades are incorrect and there have been arguments that students would make better informed choices and rely less on guesswork if they could apply after they knew their results.
There have also been social-mobility arguments that under the current system some disadvantaged youngsters might not even apply to universities their subsequent results might have allowed them to enter.
This change to a post-results system has been proposed before but a stumbling block has been whether this would mean an earlier start for school exams or a delayed start for beginning university.
The Ucas admissions system allows for some changes after results, in the “clearing” and “adjustment” processes, but there have been calls for a more comprehensive restructuring of admissions.
“There is growing support for a shift to a post-qualification admissions system,” said Mr Cottrell, acting leader of the UCU lecturers’ union.
“Our research shows such a move would not only be fairer for students, it would bring the UK into line with the rest of the world and eliminate the use of controversial unconditional offers and the chaotic clearing process,” he said.
The chief executive of Universities UK, Alistair Jarvis, said the review would help “to build greater levels of transparency, trust and public understanding in admissions practices”.
The higher education watchdog, the Office for Students, is to launch its own review of admissions in England later this year.
Chief executive Nicola Dandridge said the aim would be to “remove barriers to disadvantaged applicants, and to promote transparency and clarity about admissions and offer-making processes”.
Residents of Blaauwbosch village in Newcastle, who live near an old coal mine where informal mining takes place, say they are fed up with empty promises by the government and local politicians. They told GroundUp they want to be moved elsewhere.
The residents say the walls of their houses are cracking because of the informal – and illegal – mining activity. Over 50 households are affected.
Mzamo High School, which was near the mine, was relocated by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education at a cost of R37m, and reopened in February 2017. Residents say they have been left behind.
“Many promises have been made to us, and we are now fed up,” said resident Msi Mavuso. “We are still living under dangerous conditions. Our houses are so cracked, they can fall in at any moment.
“For years, we have been promised by the local authorities that we would be moved to a safe place, but nothing has been done,” he said.
“Some have managed to move to other safe places and rebuild their homes, but not all of us can afford that because most of us are unemployed and struggling to make ends meet in this village,” said Mavuso.
As far as GroundUp can tell, people in the area discovered the coal in the 1980s and digging has been taking place at this site since then. But we cannot confirm this.
“Illegal coal diggers risk their lives everyday for coal digging”
Elderly resident Vusi Manana said: “Illegal coal diggers risk their lives everyday for coal digging to eke out a living because of a high rate of unemployment in this area. No one will stop them; even the government departments have failed. They won’t stop digging. What we are asking for as residents… is to be moved to a safe place.
“In every election campaign, the politicians come here and make promises to us that we would be moved from this area, but after elections they never come back. They did the same even in this year’s election campaigns.”
Kaizer Mbuli, one of hundreds of informal coal diggers, said: “I have been doing this since I was a young boy. We know that what we are doing is illegal, but we have no choice. This is our livelihood. We support our families.” He has two children.
The informal miners also dig up different types of soil, mix them together and make bricks. They dig the coal in order to bake the bricks.
Nothando Dub, spokesperson for Sisonke Environmental Justice Network, a community organisation based in Newcastle, said that it had “inspected the living conditions of the residents of Blaauwbosch living near the coal mine” and taken the matter up with the Department of Mineral Resources.
Ward 18 councillor Dolly Mnguni said that a housing project would start later this year and that there were plans to move the residents who were living near the coal mine.
The Department of Mineral Resources said that it had inspected the site and intended to rehabilitate it, but that officials from the department had been prevented from entering the area.
“The department will continue to try and gain access to the area and work with the provincial government to find sustainable solutions for the affected households.”