Parliament in 2013

March 1st, 2013

By Nonhlanhla Chanza

2013 promises to be a busy year for parliament – the institution filled with robust debates and heated exchanges during deliberations on legislation.

On the agenda

The 2013 legislative programme is likely to be dominated by discussions on Bills such as the Protection of State Information Bill (B6B of 2010); the Traditional Courts Bill (B1 of 2012); the draft Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Bill, 2012; the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill (B30B of 2012); the Legal Practice Bill (B20 of 2012); the Employment Services Bill (B38 of 2012); the General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill (B25 of 2011); the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Amendment Bill (B42 of 2012); the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill (B8B of 2010); the Employment Equity Amendment Bill (B31 of 2012); the Private Security Industry Regulation Amendment Bill (B27 of 2012); as well as the Register of Judges’ Registrable Interests, and legislation dealing with land reform issues as articulated in the Green Paper on Land Reform.

A probe by the Justice Portfolio Committee into alleged maladministration and other irregularities in the office of the Public Protector is also likely to continue to generate public interest.

A reading of recent cabinet statements, presentations before parliamentary committees and the legislative programme indicates that a number of Bills are likely to be tabled before parliament in 2013. For example, the Department of Transport plans on tabling the Road Accident Benefit Scheme Bill, which will, among others, deal with contingency fees charged by attorneys. Throughout the years and during the recent deliberations on the Road Accident Fund (Transitional Provisions) Act 15 of 2012, members of parliament from both houses expressed concern about alleged abuse by some members of the legal profession in relation to the fund.

The Infrastructure Development Bill is also expected to be tabled in parliament this year. Among other things, the Bill provides for ‘the designation and implementation of strategic integrated projects which are of significant economic or social importance to the state or a region’.

In his 2012 State of the Nation address, the President invited South Africans to join the government in what he called a ‘massive infrastructure development drive’ that will be rolled out in the next few years. Such projects are expected to play a significant role in providing job opportunities for the unemployed.

The mining sector

The mining sector is likely to be closely watching developments on the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Draft Amendment Bill. The Department of Mineral Resources has called for public comments on the Bill and another opportunity for engagement will occur when it is tabled before parliament. While it is not clear when the Bill will come before parliament, there is a strong likelihood that it will be this year.

Mining analysts have raised concerns relating to the Bill, as has the Legal Resource Centre. In a recent article by attorneys at the centre, it was argued that the draft Bill was ‘unfriendly’ to communities affected by mining operations in their areas (H Smith and W Wicomb ‘LRC comments on rural development and new laws in 2013’, accessed 12-2-2013). The centre criticised the removal of a provision in the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Act 49 of 2008 that made specific provision for addressing community benefit and participation in ministerial conditions to an award of a mining right. This development comes at a time when communities affected by mining operations are complaining of a lack of development in their areas.

It is important to note that the deliberations on this draft Bill will happen at a time when the mining sector has many challenges, with companies like Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) considering closing some of its mines. This debate will also happen in the aftermath of the Marikana massacre, prolonged and violent mining protests and possible mass retrenchments in the sector. Many will remember the ruling party’s reaction to a restructuring plan by Amplats, which the company announced could result in the loss of about 14 000 jobs. Harmony Gold’s closure of its Kusasalethu mine also put at risk 6 000 jobs.

As the debate continues on this Bill, so do the tension and challenges that face the mining sector.

Strategic plan

South Africa continues to experience brutal homophobic attacks and xenophobia continues to be a challenge. In its 2012/2013 strategic plan presentation before the Justice Portfolio Committee, the Justice Department highlighted a number of Bills it planned to introduce in parliament, including the Prohibition of Racism, Hate Speech, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance Bill and the Muslim Marriages Bill.

The Justice Department also recently reported that it was finalising its ‘National action plan to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance’, as well as a policy framework on hate crimes intended to lay the basis for legislation criminalising hate speech and related crimes.

Non-profit organisations

Civil society organisations will also be on the lookout for developments related to the draft ‘Policy framework on the SA non-profit organisations’ law’. This framework contains many proposals that will lay the foundation for legislative amendments to the Nonprofit Organisations Act 71 of 1997 (the Act).

It is currently unclear whether these amendments will be tabled before parliament in 2013, but many organisations claim that the Department of Social Development has failed to properly consult the sector during the development of the policy framework.

Many non-profit organisations (NPOs) were recently deregistered, with many claiming this was done without notification from the Nonprofit Organisations Directorate of the Department of Social Development.

It was reported in January that approximately 36 488 organisations had been deregistered, while some 35 204 were listed as non-compliant by the department. The department has subsequently reported that 23 034 NPOs have been deregistered for failure to comply with the Act, while 35 190 remain non-compliant but not deregistered.

Many organisations claim that this happened even though they had regularly been sending the required documents to the directorate. The department has now given non-compliant NPOs six months to submit the relevant reports.

There is a view that the latest developments are not merely about improving regulation of the sector but are about retaliating at the sector, which has at times revealed government’s poor service delivery record through court cases.

What is clear from developments in the last few months is that more work needs to be done to ensure that there is effective regulation of the NPO sector. NPOs need to account for the funds they receive from government but they can only do so if there are clear rules and structures for oversight and accountability. While the process for bringing about changes in the sector seems to have started on a bad note, there is time to rectify this. More dialogue between government and NPOs is also needed before the process plays out in parliament.


As in previous years, parliament is likely to face challenges relating to unanswered parliamentary questions by members of the executive, as well as a lack of implementation of the resolutions contained in its reports and absenteeism of members of parliament.

Perhaps the main challenge parliament has to address in 2013 is the perception that it is sometimes irrelevant and is not a national forum for debate and consideration of issues of national importance. This is in light of the view that many national debates and other issues that occupy the nation’s soul largely happen outside of parliamentary walls.

In my view, the institution needs to urgently devise a plan to ensure that it remains the centre of vigorous and vibrant debate for issues of national importance. The solution may lie in making changes to the process for the approval of topics for debate as proposed by its members.

There is no doubt that parliament needs the support of all stakeholders to become an effective institution for oversight and accountability. An active citizenry remains crucial to parliament’s effective performance. It is for this reason that citizens will have to take an interest in what is happening in parliament and make use of the numerous public participation opportunities provided for by the institution.

Members of the public can make submissions on issues before parliament and can also send petitions to parliament. The institution is currently developing its Public Participation Framework and has invited comments and recommendations from the public on how it can improve its engagement with the public. This is an opportunity for all citizens to make the institution work for the good of all.

More information on this aspect can be found on parliament’s website at

Nonhlanhla Chanza is the parliamentary liaison officer of the Law Society of South Africa.

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2013 (March) DR 13.

De Rebus