SA: Baleka Mbete: Address by National Assembly Speaker, during Parliament's Mid-Term address, Parliament (14/11/2017)

14th November 2017

SA: Baleka Mbete: Address by National Assembly Speaker, during Parliament's Mid-Term address, Parliament (14/11/2017)

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete
Photo by: Dailymaverick

Programme Director
Chairperson of the NCOP Honourable Thandi Modise
Presiding Officers
Members of Parliament
Distinguished stakeholders
Media representatives
Ladies and gentlemen

Allow me to welcome you all to this stakeholder and media briefing on the work of Parliament. This time we will give you a heads up on the work of the fifth Parliament, which translates to a mid-term report.

At the beginning of the fifth term of Parliament, we reviewed and affirmed our vision of building an activist people’s Parliament that is responsive to the needs of the people, driven by the ideal of realizing a better quality of life for all the people of South Africa.

We also pledged to be an “effective voice of the people”, in fulfilling our constitutional mandate of passing laws, overseeing executive action and optimising citizen involvement.

In September this year, we embarked on a mid-term self-assessment and came to a conclusion that Parliament is on course to fulfill its mandate and meet its targets in most respects. We also identified a number of areas we need to double our efforts to effectively turn the tide and accelerate change over the remaining period of the term.

This periodic self-assessment and also accounting to the citizens of South Africa, is critical as Parliament continues to evolve and grow with changing times, progressively adapting to a broader paradigm shift in society to an information and knowledge based society.

We invited you as key stakeholders in the work we do, for a meaningful engagement, also trusting that through you, we will be able to better communicate and account to our shareholders – the citizens of South Africa, the People who elected us into this esteemed institution to represent their needs

One of the strategic functions of Parliament is to hold the executive accountable, but as the Executive Authority of Parliament we too need to strengthen our own accountability to our key stakeholders, in particular our citizens, in respect of the manner we carry out our constitutional mandate, our strategic plan and our programme of action. In doing so, we are putting into practice the preamble of our constitution, that implores Parliament to listen, act on people’s behalf and account to the people.

At the onset of this term, Parliament developed a strategic plan to guide its activities with the following pillars:

Strengthening law-making

The first generation of democratic Parliament, meaning from 1994 to 2014, focused on building a solid constitutional and legislative foundation for a thriving democracy, with nearly 2000 bills passed and also enacted into law. The focus of the second parliamentray generation is progressively shifting to strengthen oversight and citizen participation to place greater emphasis on the execution of legislation and policies, thereby driving the realisation of a better life for all people.

The fifth Parliament has passed 96 bills to date. Almost all bills passed by Parliament were assented to by the President, except for the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development AB in 2014, and the Expropriation Bill in 2016. Only two of 96 bills were returned to Parliament by the President. This translates to only 2% of bills passed during this term of Parliament were returned by the President.

In the processing of the bills, Parliament enquired into the objects of the bills and their alignment to the National Development Plan. It ensured public participation and involvement through various methods. These methods included calls for submissions through advertisements in newspapers, on radios, the parliamentary website, public education programmes, and public hearings held in Parliament and in the provinces. The processes ensured that the public was given a voice in the law-making process.

Parliament has also built its own capacity to initiate and develop legislation by establishing a dedicated unit in the Legal Services Section, to support both Members and Committees of Parliament. A draft legislative model was also developed in order to ensure better compliance with constitutional prescripts such as public participation in the law making processes.

Through this intervention, Parliament will grow to be on par with many successful democracies in respect of Parliament’s capacity to initiate, draft and pass legislation to ensure that the whole of the state is responsive to the development needs of the citizens.

The fifth Parliament initiated and set up the High Level Panel (HLP) under the leadership of former President Kgalema Motlanthe, as an independent entity to assess the impact of legislation passed since the advent of freedom and democracy, in 1994. The HLP embarked on an elaborate participative programme which included all citizens, stakeholders and experts. It has concluded its work and is expected to table their final report with recommendations to the commissioning authority, the Speakers Forum, before formal tablings in the respective legislatures.

The HLP evaluation programme is part of our celebration of 20 years of the Constitution during this term. Progress made in implementing our Constitution has featured numerous court decisions than refined our interpretation of its provisions, clarified the authority of the National Assembly and the Speaker and provided a better for refining the rules of the houses as well as joint rules aimed at promoting the decorum of these institutions. 

Strengthening oversight and accountability

The fifth Parliament’s work, built on a strong foundation set up during the first two decades of a democratic parliamentary system, with each term making its mark on the 20-year journey travelled thus far. Indeed good progress was made in the execution of numerous pieces of legislation passed since 1994, and people’s lives have improved in so many areas. However, there remains a number of goals that appear very elusive, as reflected in the country performance reports generated by among others StatsSA, the United Nations as well as the HLP. 

The legislative programme of Parliament has been streamlined to increase the level of oversight in terms of the sessions of the two Houses, as well as the over 54 parliamentary committees that have extensive outreach programmes to development sites in all nine provinces. Each quarter, parliamentary committees are accorded a week to conduct oversight in their areas of focus in various provinces. Parliament has strengthened the content advisory and research capacity of committees, to improve their capacity to scrutinise strategic and annual performance plans, budget allocations and performance reports of various departments.

Parliament acknowledges that the relations between the three arms of the state are getting more vibrant and robust. Although at times concerns about overreach among the three distinct arms of the state are raised, these relations are strengthening the country’s constitutional democracy, while refining the processes through better interpretation and execution of the Constitution.

Decisions of courts are helping to refine the legislative framework as exemplified by the Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Financial Management that enhanced our compliance with the Constitution. Matters also progressively receiving the attention of Parliament is the promptness of replies and the quality of answers provided by the Executive to the questions of Members. 

There is a growing number of pockets of excellence with Parliament’s investigative capacity, as demonstrated through the work of among others, the ad hoc Committee inquiry on South African Broadcasting Corporation that dealt with matters of mismanagement, intimidation and maladministration, as well as the current allegations of state capture. It must be acknowledged that Parliament’s investigative prowess is still at its infancy stages, and with a clear political will this will grow from strength to strength alongside the maturing of our constitutional democracy.

The rigour with which the appointment of the Public Protector, the MDDA Board, the NYDA Board and other structures was handled, helps in building citizen trust and confidence in these structures, as the country benefited from these actions of Parliament. Parliament is working on fully exploiting the opportunities provided by the exponential growth of the information and communication technologies to enhance MPs access to information, while also seeking to expand its use to mobilise citizens to help evaluate development interventions driven by the executive.

The fifth Parliament has embarked on a paradigm shift, from activity-output based approach to an outcome focused planning, execution and evaluation of programmes. This paradigm shift is grounded in the National Development Plan (NDP), Vision 2063 of Africa and the Sustainable Development Goals. As a result, indicators and targets outlined in the NDP and the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) are used to evaluate strategic plans, allocation of resources, and performance reports of Departments.

In October the Parliamentary committees of the fifth term, scrutinise financial and non-financial performance of Departments and their entities, and make comments on and pass the Revised Fiscal Framework; Division of Revenue A/B and the Adjustments Appropriation Bill. The departments are therefore called to account to the committees, deliberate on reports, publish reports in the ATC for debate in the Houses.

The committees are assisted by the Auditor General of South Africa as well as Statistics South Africa (AGSA), as Parliament has partnered with these institutions to strengthen the quality of oversight. Besides the AGSA and Stats SA, Parliament is also increasingly using data provided by the South African Reserve Bank, in evaluating performance in outputs and outcomes.

The fifth Parliament has given effect to the ground breaking Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act, no 09. of 2009, through among others enhanced fiscal oversight capacity of Parliament over public finances and empowered Parliament to have a meaningful say in the national budget process.

The Money Bills Act has empowered Parliament for the first time-ever with the legislative authority to amend the national budget and other Money Bills. To execute this enabling Act, a Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) was established and has made a significant contribution in strengthening Parliament’s oversight capacity. Parliament is expanding the scope and services of the PBO to support, on demand, all the Parliamentary committees and the Legislative Sector.

Enhanced Public Participation

Parliament continues to appreciate that citizen’s meaningful participation is a defining feature of a successful and sustainable democracy. Pillars of our interventions to enhance this citizen participation include the strengthening of the work of Parliamentary committees, stepping up of stakeholder engagement, multiplying of communication service delivery efforts and also through greater integration of broader legislative sector’s efforts guided by a series of frameworks adopted by the Speakers’ Forum.

These frameworks include a Public Participation Model that was adopted and executed through among others, Taking Parliament to the People (TPTTP), Sectoral Parliaments including Women, Youth and a People’s Parliament, as well as our public education programme. These projects have been very successful. An integrated comprehensive communication strategy and a programme of action for the fifth Parliament that has been adopted with a number of ambitious projects including a dedicated fulltime Parliamentary TV, Radio and news services.

There is a slight improvement of 0.4% in citizen awareness of Parliament from a low base of 9.35% as shown by the findings of a tracker research commissioned by the fifth Parliament.  A strategic framework for the communication of the Legislative Sector has also been adopted by the Secretaries Association of the Legislatures of South Africa (SALSA), to help guide a series of communication efforts. The outcomes of these assessments will be periodically published including the stakeholder satisfaction survey and public perception surveys.        

During this term, more time is allocated to constituency work by all MPs and Parliamentary committees. This is meant to enhance the connection of citizens with their parliamentary representatives, for them to place their fingers on the pulse of citizens concerns, aspirations and expectations.

This is done in line with the spirit enunciated in our vision of a people’s activist Parliament that spares no efforts in advancing a better life for all. In line with the outcomes focused approach, Parliament also commissioned a client satisfaction survey and based on the findings developed a stakeholder engagement strategy and programme of action including a service delivery charter.

General comments

Allow me Programme Director to celebrate our achievements in the recently concluded Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) International conference held in Bangladesh last week. Our African candidate for the leadership of CPA, the Deputy Speaker of Cameroon Mme Amelia Lifaka, has been elected the new Chairperson of the CPA International. Besides the achievement of this mandate of CPA Africa region, we also secured a resolution to transform the CPA International from being a charity organization into a fully-fledged international organization of Parliamentarians within two years.

We take our hats off to our high powered delegation led by Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli with Provincial Speakers and Deputy Speakers. This has been a further cap on the outstanding leadership of African and South African women Parliamentarians, as Mme Maseko is the Chairperson of the Africa Region of CPA, while Mme Thoko Didiza is the Chairperson of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP).

I just wanted to flag these latest developments, as a detailed outline of our achievements in advancing our national interests, in driving the transformation agenda while entrenching the development character of Parliaments with focus on the goals outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in Agenda 2063 of the African continent and in the NDP of South Africa. The Chairperson will elaborate on how Parliament seek to deliver greater value to our citizens at bilateral and multi-lateral international relations level.    


The Chairperson of the NCOP will also cover other priorities of the fifth Parliament. We trust that these engagements will strengthen our accountability as a key tenet of our constitutional democracy beyond the periodic electoral cycles, the work of the Joint Standing Committee on Financial Management, as well as annual accounts to institutions such as the Auditor General.

We are clear in our mind, that as much as we are strengthening our oversight responsibilities, we also need to lift the bar in our own accountability to the citizens through among others this briefing. We trust the nature and the quality of engagements will continue to grow in leaps and bounds.

I thank you