The Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG) has released its preview for 2019 – detailing what to expect from parliament in the first half of 2019.
The preview notes that 2019 is a big year for South African politics with the national elections expected to be held sometime in May.
The State of the Nation Address has also been scheduled for 7 February while the Budget Speech has been scheduled for 20 February.
Because of this busy start to the year, political decisions will have to be made about what outstanding parliamentary business can be dropped for lack of time as MPs actually depart by 29 March 2019, the PMG said.
“There are 62 bills in Parliament so there will be a big push to put the finishing touches on as many of them as possible before the legislature’s term expires.
“This is in keeping with previous cycles where the majority of bills are passed in the dying days of a parliamentary session,” it said.
However, there is one bill which is clearly at the top of the agenda ahead of the 2019 elections, according to the PMG.
Land expropriation without compensation
“Top of the agenda is for parliament to table, process and pass a Constitutional Amendment Bill before the end of the 5th Democratic Parliament in order to allow for expropriation without compensation,” it said.
“At its last sitting in 2018, the National Assembly established an Ad Hoc Committee to initiate and introduce a constitutional amendment and report back to the House by 31 March 2019.
While even the ANC has conceded that this deadline is ambitious if the bill is not completed, the party still wants a progress report from the Ad Hoc Committee, said the PMG.
“Heated, divisive debates (both in and outside of Parliament), legal challenges (or threats of legal challenges) have been a feature of this entire process so far.
“Predictions are often difficult to make but in this instance, it’s easy to forecast things will continue in the same vein and possibly escalate as we get closer to the election.”
While parliament is likely to tackle a number of other pieces of legislation (in addition to the Constitutional Amendment Bill), the PMG notes that the short timeframe could prove problematic.
“Given the time constraints, one question stands out: will these outstanding bills be subjected to proper scrutiny and ultimately survive any constitutional challenge?
“Key pieces of legislation which are expected to be finalised this term include the Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, National Credit Amendment Bill, Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill, Carbon Tax Bill, Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill and Traditional Courts Bill – barring political decisions to halt them.
The PMG said that also has other other pressing issues to address in this timeframe, including:
- Publishing the 2018 Registrar of Members Interests
- The 5th Term Legacy Report;
- Finalising state capture investigations and outstanding ethics inquiries;
- Filling vacancies at the SABC, CGE, MDDA, PanSALB;
- Confirming a new IPID head.