November 18, 2019

The new parliamentary term opened last week after a recess, the annual two-week mid-year recess. This may create the impression that much of elected representatives’ time is spent in recess. However, just because MPs are not always present in parliament does not mean they are not hard at work. They could be engaged in oversight visits, public hearings, study tours or planning sessions. As the final term of the year gets underway, this is a good time to look back on what was achieved during the second term of the post-election parliament, and consider what lies ahead in the third.

Looking back on recent student unrest the Vice Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand, Adam Habib, says the moment the #Feesmustfall movement went wrong was when political parties moved in thinking that they could use the momentum for their own ends. The Deputy Editor of New Agenda, MICHAEL NASSEN SMITH, interviewed him.

Remember the song you sang as a kid: ‘there were ten in the bed and the little one said roll over ... so we all rolled over, now there are nine in the bed”. Parliament is an unlikely place to be reminded of nursery rhymes, but this was a committee meeting about the scourge of child murders in South Africa, and this old ditty had chilling implications when quoted in a submission to the Western Cape Social Development department.

The almost forgotten ‘Secrecy Bill’, which had civil society across the country up in arms when it was first introduced in 2010 as the “Protection of Information Bill,” could reportedly be back in the legislative pipeline if the State Security Agency (SSA) has its way. This beleaguered bill, in its last known iteration ironically named the Protection of State Information Bill, came up in the budget speech of deputy minister of State Security Zizi Kodwa. He gave no reason for reviving the controversial legislation.

Lost in all the fuss about the political party (read ANC) candidates lists ‑ and who did and who did not make it, and who’s in and who’s out ‑ is an obvious but not yet asked question: why would anybody want to be elected to the sixth parliament? The fifth parliament rose in March this year leaving a lot of unfinished business, much of which will be inherited by those who next take up the seats in the Chambers.

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Notes from the House is an independent online publication that tracks and monitors Parliament’s role in fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities to improve the lives of South African citizens. Published by Moira Levy with the support of the Claude Leon Foundation.

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