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Speech of the Speaker of the National Assembly Ms Baleka Mbete MP on the occasion of the Budget Vote 2

30 May 2017

Deputy Speaker
Honourable Members
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

Good afternoon.

The 2017/18 theme of Budget Vote 2 is in "Celebration of 20 years of the Constitution and 20 years since the establishment of the NCOP".

Honourable Members, a measure of society`s advancement is how it treats its women and its children. The recent incidents of violence against women and children require serious and sustained attention from all of us, in this house, in terms of its root causes and what we as citizens are called upon to do.

I have invited the families of some of those women and children who have suffered great tragedy and unspeakable pain to the House today. May I invite them to stand and be recognised. Please know that this Parliament shares your pain and your grief.

We pass our condolences to them, their families and loved ones; and are angry that they have had to suffer such a loss.

I have engaged the Multi-party Women`s Caucus and the Portfolio Committee on Women to begin urgently developing a parliamentary process aiming to enhance our country`s response to violence against women and children.

It is time for us both women and men to take a stand together with our community based structures, and all of us MPs in the constituencies in which we are deployed. Let us be part of the activities to say NO to this scourge!. In the oversight functions of various portfolio committees we will, as Parliament, keep a keen eye on this matter.

Legacy of Oliver Tambo and our Constitutional Principles

Honourable Members

At the dawn of the democratic dispensation in 1994, South Africa was faced with a divided populace reeling from years of racial discrimination, political discord and poverty in the black communities.

The inequalities that persist today can in large part be attributed to colonial and apartheid policies that created structural impediments for our people to access quality education and the formal labour market participation. The legacy of our past continues to keep people trapped in poverty.

The recent reports released by Statistics South Africa points to the fact that, whilst we have made progress in some areas, much still remains to be done to address the challenges of poverty, inequality and participation of the marginalised in the main stream of the economy.

To address these challenges, as Parliament, we have remained resolute in our determination to do our part to liberate the people of South Africa. We have been consistent in our drive to see a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa fully achieved.

The impetus to see our vision realized draws its inspiration not only from the Freedom Charter and the Constitution of the Republic, but also finds its inspiration from the lives and sacrifices of the heroes and heroines of the past who guided us in our darkest moments. One such hero is Oliver Reginald Tambo, a great South African and internationalist, who in many ways can be regarded as a founder of our Constitution; a Constitution whose 20th anniversary we are celebrating this year.

In 1984, when we were very polarized as a nation, at war with each other, Oliver Tambo, envisaged the opposite when he said: the "future belongs to the majority of the people of South Africa, black and white, who, in struggle, are today laying the foundations of a united, non-racial, democratic South Africa in what will then, but only then, become a peaceful and rapidly advancing region of Africa." (close quote)

It is through his vision and influence that the Preamble of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa appropriately proclaims: "We, the people of South Africa, recognise the injustices of the past, honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land, respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity." (close quote)

It is this vision that must continue to act as a foundation of the work we conduct as Parliamentarians who seek to see a better future for our people,

We must remain resolute and committed to building a South African nation that is diverse and truly represents our ideals. As a Parliament, we have taken steps to systematically remove all forms of legislative and institutionalised discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, culture and sexual orientation. We are called upon, to work together to foster social cohesion and build a common nationhood.

Separation of Powers

Honourable Members

Guided by the principle of constitutional supremacy, our Constitution seeks to incorporate the separation of powers doctrine by devoting three separate chapters, and vesting specific authority and functions in Parliament (Chapter 4), the President and national Executive (Chapter 5) and the courts and administration of justice (Chapter 8).

Simply put, it gives the power to legislate to the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) (in section 43), the power to develop and implement policy and legislation to the executive (section 85), and the power to adjudicate matters to the courts (section 165).

The principle of separation of powers recognises the functional independence of branches of government. On the other hand, the principle of checks and balances focuses on the importance of ensuring that the constitutional order prevents the branches of government from usurping power from one another. In this sense, it anticipates and seeks to prevent the intrusion of one branch of government on the terrain of another.

In the 2006 case Doctors for Life International v Speaker of the National Assembly and Others, the Constitutional Court stated as follows:

"The constitutional principle of separation of powers requires that other branches of government refrain from interfering in Parliamentary proceedings. This principle is not simply an abstract notion; it is reflected in the very structure of government. The structure of the provisions entrusting and separating powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government reflects the concept of separation of powers". (close quote)

A similar sentiment was expressed recently by retired Deputy Chief Justice Moseneke who stated and I quote:

"A properly functioning democracy should eschew lumbering its courts with so much that properly belong at other democratic sites or the streets. We will over time over-politicize the courts and thereby tarnish their standing and effectiveness" (close quote)

As Parliamentarians, we have a responsibility to find solutions to the challenges facing our people. But we have to do so in a manner that acts as an example to the people we represent. With structures such as the Rules Committee, Chief Whips Forum, and the Committee of Chairpersons, we are well placed to meaningfully resolve disagreements and effectively execute our mandate without inviting the Courts to encroach on our constitutionally protected terrain.

Land Reform

Honourable Members

Thus far in 2017, we have seen a number of contentious debates about key issues that resonate with the people of South Africa. Among these, our Parliament has been seized with ensuring, the National Development Plan is implemented. Notably, in the 5th Parliament, the National Assembly has held 50 debates on matters of national importance.

One of the most important of them was the issue of Land Reform, and the stripping away of the dignity of African people who trace their current suffering and deprivation back to the stealing of our land.

According to the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, the ANC- led government has restored nearly 8 million hectares of land, which is 9.8 % of the 82 million hectares of arable land in South Africa.

Our people have long alerted us to their frustration on the matter of Land Reform and it is time that we listen to their voices. The most pressing of frustrations raised by our people is the slow pace of land reform and meeting targets for land redistribution.

Twenty one years after the Constitution was adopted, we must do more to ensure that we have a law that provides direction and gives teeth to the promise of equitable access to land. Crucially, we must also repeal the 1975 Law that prohibits sub-division of agricultural land.

Honourable Members, section 25 (9) of the Constitution requires Parliament to introduce a law that secures the tenure of those whose current insecurity arises from past racial discrimination. Passing a law that adequately defends the tenure rights of rural people who became victims of deals between greedy mining Houses and some unscrupulous traditional leaders, thus becomes pressing.

Our most urgent task is to stop these processes of dispossession by reviewing the laws and practices that enable them. Let`s shine a light on the financial deals that underpin them. Let`s, also urgently enact the Tenure Security Law required by section 25.

Honourable Members, to clarify and correct these and other weaknesses, as Parliament, we intend to embark on a major OVERSIGHT PROCESS (land enquiry) on Land to help accelerate the land reform process.

While awaiting the final report of the High-Level Panel, I wish to urge-

  • Parliamentary Committees to liaise with their respective Departments regarding the concerns raised by citizens during the public engagements.

The Legislative Sector

Honourable Members

One of the key pre-requisites for ensuring implementation of the NDP is strengthening the capacity and coordination of the South African Legislative Sector.

As such, Parliament has worked collectively with the provincial legislatures under the auspices of the Speakers Forum, to accelerate the drafting of the Legislative Sector Bill for formalisation of the South African Legislative Sector.

The draft legislation will provide for, among others, the governance structure and values that the legislative sector will subscribe to; legislative sector service; the establishment of the institution responsible for legislative sector training; and an inter-legislature co-operative mechanism.

In addition, the legislation lays the foundation for the development of the sector Oversight Model and the sector Public Participation Framework.

Party Funding Legislation

Honourable Members

The 13 political parties represented in Parliament share R150 million between them.

However, the private funding of political parties is unregulated and public disclosure of party private incomes and expenditures is discretionary.

As such, the Presiding Officers, supports the view that an Adhoc Committee must be established to work towards finalising how best political parties can be afforded more funding by the fiscus. The other issue that needs more accountability and regulation is the source of private funding from political parties.

In addition, the Ad Hoc Committee must develop a framework that will result in the development of legislation to enhance transparency in the funding of political parties, to give clarity to the electorate and enhance our democracy. This legislation must be passed before the end of the 5th Parliament.

Parliament in the context of the National Budget

Honourable Members

Parliaments have crucial responsibilities to play in national and local development policies. Whilst Governments have to ensure service delivery to the people, Parliament has to oversee this process to ensure that the strategic outcomes, and the promises we make to our people, as envisaged in the NDP, are achieved.

The overarching mission of the 5th Parliament is to "provide the people of South Africa with a vibrant people`s assembly that intervenes and transforms society and addresses the development challenges of our people."

Honourable Members

In this regard, it is essential that Parliament conducts effective oversight over the Executive by deepening its scrutiny of government activity to ensure that the needs of South Africans are met, in keeping with our constitutional mandate.

Parliament must also seek to enhance the participation of South Africans in the decision-making processes that have a direct bearing on their well-being. We have to maintain healthy working relationships between the three arms of state, promote efficient and co-operative governance, and ensure appropriate links with our region and the world.

Finally, Parliament must ensure that it has an innovative, transformative, effective and efficient administration that enables Members of Parliament to fulfil their constitutional responsibilities.

We again acknowledge that the level of support given to Members of Parliament is grossly inadequate to put it mildly!

Honourable Members

The budget of Parliament reflects numerous engagements undertaken with National Treasury to ensure that allocations are geared towards effective realization of the constitutional mandate of the institution

As you are aware, the budget of Parliament is divided into five areas of focus, which are Strategic Leadership and Governance; Administration; Core Business; Support Services and Associated Services.

In addition, allocation is made in terms of "Members` Remuneration", which brings the total allocation for Parliament to Two Point Two Billion Rand. (We asked for Two Point Nine Billion).

It would be remiss of me not underscore that Parliament`s Budget is unacceptably low. Parliament`s needs far exceed this funding allocation to the point where the institution finds it very difficult to fulfil its obligations.

As we speak, the administration of Parliament and Nehawu are in talks regarding annual salary increments. We do not desire a situation where the staff of the institution are not to be paid their increases. This is not our policy!

All political parties are in agreement that the support provided to Parliamentary Committees to do their oversight work is inadequate. In addition, the support provided to individual members and to party caucuses is far below what is required.

Pursuant to the provisions of the FMPPLA, we will continue to engage the National Treasury with the view to ensuring that Parliament and Provincial legislatures are well funded and fully capacitated to discharge their constitutional responsibilities.

Resourcing parliamentary business and party caucuses is indispensable if we are to ensure that the Legislature maintains its unique identity as an independent arm of the state that equally contributes to deepening our democracy.

Honourable members

There is therefore a need to review the current practice of how Parliament is funded as it remains disadvantaged by the current funding model. The Budget of Parliament, which is a distinct arm of state, cannot be decided in the same way as that of government Departments.

This call is in line with the NDP that requires a developmental state to have strong, capacitated and well-resourced institutions.

Ultimately, a desirable outcome would be for the ring-fencing of Parliament`s budget to ensure that Parliament is able to achieve its mandate more effectively.

Undoubtedly, strong Parliaments bode well for democratic consolidation - there can be no strong democracy without a strong Parliament. So this underscores the need to enhance the value addition of Parliament to our democracy.

This is particularly relevant when one considers that year in and year out the Auditor General is reporting on increasing levels of irregular and wasteful expenditure by government departments. In 2016, the Auditor General revealed that irregular expenditure was costing South Africa R46.3 billion.

If Parliament was well resourced and capacitated- it would be in a better position to detect the challenges, and impact the country`s audit outcomes positively.

Honourable Members

To enhance the ability of Parliament to address any gaps that manifest as it conducts its business, we have strengthened mechanism`s to monitor the Financial Management of Parliament.

Specifically, Section 4 of the FMPPLA provides for the establishment of an oversight mechanism to maintain oversight of the financial management of Parliament. As such, the Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament was established in terms of the Joint Rules of Parliament.

In this Committee, under the Chairpersonship of Hon. Mohai and Hon. Smith, Financial Management of Parliament is closely scrutinized to ensure that it is well-placed to achieve its mandate. In addition, the Secretariat of Parliament is routinely called before Committee to report on all aspects of administration.

I commend this Committee, its Members and the management of Parliament for maintaining a healthy interaction that facilitates the operational effectiveness of the Institution.

Enhancing Oversight over the Executive

Honourable Members

The responsibility we bear as Parliamentarians was so eloquently expressed by Nelson Mandela at his First Budget Vote Debate when he said "the people want real change for the better, and they are prepared to work for it. They expect of representatives in community structures and in Parliament and government, leadership that meets the requirements of the times we live in. They have elected us into office because they trust that we will meet their aspirations".

To this end, in October 2016, we approved the Business Case for the Oversight and Accountability Programme, which is comprised of three projects, about which Honourable Frolick, the House Chairperson for Committees will say more.

Constituency Offices

In addition to enhancing oversight, the amount of time Members spend in communities with their constituents must be extended. Two important questions frequently asked by Members is whether constituency offices are really working or serving our people as they should? And what can be done to ensure that Constituency Offices realise their full potential?

It is now time for constituency offices to fulfill a wider role than simply providing Members with office space and assistance. We should be ready to respond to the issues that our communities bring to us at these offices.

The International Participation of Parliament

Honourable Members, Happy belated Africa Day!

We use 25 May every year, to not only celebrate, but to formulate and act on concrete measures to take our continent forward.

The global environment is now characterised by a shift both in global economic relations and social dynamics, which has a significant impact on Africa.

To this end, our Parliament has enhanced its international participation to include a broader set of platforms that discuss a wide array of challenges facing the globe.

The establishment of a SADC-wide regional Parliament is long overdue, and cannot be delayed any further. More so, given that, South Africa will be hosting the SADC Summit in August this year. We urge that this be an opportunity that we do not miss.

All queries and anxieties that were raised especially by some members of the Executive over the last years have been clarified and responded to. The four other sub-regions have Parliaments- we see no conceivable reason for any delay!

In addition to having a SADC Regional Parliament, it is necessary that we boost our role in ensuring that the Pan-African Parliament, of which we are host, better carries out its own mandate.

We must look closely into our country`s responsibilities in terms of the host-country agreement and find solutions to the problems identified by our African Parliamentarians, including the instances of criminal attacks and robberies especially against women MP`s. We are happy with the meetings convened by DIRCO in this regard, and hope to do more to improve the quality of hospitality we offer to our African brothers and sisters, as an African host.

To ensure that Parliament`s International Participation continues to be strategic and meaningful, it is critical that the Parliamentary Group on International Relations is strengthened

Honourable Members

The work of Parliament must not be premised on hopelessness`

Nelson Mandela once stated in this house that: "the time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come. The time to build is upon us".

The budget of Parliament should be seen in the context of the dreams of our forbearers, a dream to see a united South Africa that fully embraces prosperity as a desired outcome.

As I close, let me return to the words of Oliver Tambo, who reminded us that and I quote "The fight for freedom must go on until it is won; until our country is free and happy and peaceful, we cannot rest." (close quote)

Indeed, we continue to fight a struggle, but while we were able to unshackle ourselves from the chains of Apartheid, we must forge ahead in our struggle against poverty and inequality. Our Parliament has a big role to play in this regard, and we must rise to the challenge.

At this point, I wish to take this opportunity to thank my counterpart, Ms Thandi Modise, the Chairperson of the NCOP, the Presidency, the Office of the Leader of Government Business; the Deputy Speaker of the NA and Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP; the House Chairpersons, the Speakers of Provincial Legislatures; the Leaders of Political Parties; as well as the Chief Whips and Whippery in general for working with us in order to provide the political leadership and stewardship of this institution and this arm of the state.

I also wish to thank the Secretary to Parliament and the Parliamentary Service broadly, for providing the administrative support required to realise our political vision and leadership. Honourable Members, I thank YOU, for your hard work and commitment under difficult circumstances.

A very big word of appreciation to my staff.

Finally, I wish to thank my family that continues to serve as a source of inspiration and supports me unconditionally.

Honourable Members

I urge this House to support this Budget Vote.

I thank you!

     
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