Programme Director, Mr Qoboshiane;
The Speaker of the National Assembly of South Africa, Honourable Mapisa-Nqakula;
Deputy Speaker of the South African National Assembly, Mr Tsenoli;
Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP, Ms Sylvia Lucas;
The Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court of the RSA, Justice Zondo, and esteemed members of the Judiciary;
The Public Protector, Advocate Gcaleka;
The Chairperson of the Public Service Commission, Professor Fikeni;
Members of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures;
The President of the South African Local Government Association (SALGA);
Speakers of SADC Parliaments and their delegations;
Representatives of the EU Delegation to SA;
Treasurer of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Africa Region, Honourable Mekgwe;
Members of the Diplomatic corps;
Representatives of Higher Education Institutions;
Civil Society Representatives and all institutions supporting democracy;
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Avuxeni, Dumelang, Good morning,
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Legislative Sector South Africa and all of its partners for organising this important Summit. This Summit advances the discourse on transforming the legislature across the continent and centres Parliaments as critical institutions that continue to provide a voice for citizens.
I would also like to acknowledge the work that the SADC Parliaments and the European Union continue to do to strengthen and take forward the democratic agenda in the continent. A very warm welcome to all of you who have travelled from afar to participate in this Summit.
Namkelekile eMzansi Africa!
I am pleased to be part of this 2024 South Africa Legislative Sector (SALS) Oversight Summit under the theme: "Striving for oversight that ensures the realisation of a better life for all South Africans”.
This theme is relevant in that it reminds us of the strategic role that legislatures play in transforming society and championing the interests of all South Africans towards a better life for all. The theme also probes us to reflect on the democracy and governance work that continues in South Africa’s young democracy.
As we are all aware, this Summit takes place in the year when South Africa celebrates its 30th anniversary as a democratic government. We are celebrating these 30 years because we have witnessed that it is possible to have a people-centred Government that considers citizens as critical role-players in policy and law-making processes.
It is necessary also to juxtapose these thirty years to the decades of an oppressive, apartheid-style regime that thrived on the exclusion of the majority using racial discrimination as a basis. Such context is critical in that it addresses the tendency for historical perspectives to ignore the strides of the democratic government.
We equally celebrate thirty years because of the support we have received from the rest of the world when we fought against apartheid. We will never forget your good deeds and our commitment is to continue to be in solidarity with the most vulnerable in the world. Together with you, we will continue to stand for justice and peace.
As a nation, we are proud that in the 30 years of our democracy, we have not only made significant strides in transforming our own country but have also left a significant mark globally by unapologetically choosing to stand on the side of justice as it relates to the Palestinian question. Under the leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa has achieved an important victory for humanity by putting before the International Court of Justice the matter of the Israeli government's genocide of the Palestinian people. We are a nation that will always stand for the vulnerable and marginalised, and fight for a just world. We call upon the rest of the world to join us in this important fight for justice, equality, and peace.
A close look into the case I have just referred to also strengthens the need for a strong legislature that can advance and protect the rights of people in a nation. It is therefore important that through this Summit, we maintain the commitments we have to these principles that underpin our democratic government and legislative sector. Parliaments must continue to be people-centered institutions that bring the voices of the people to governance.
Accountability, good ethics, integrity, and transparency are therefore critical in providing a guiding framework for strengthening the legislature's role toward improving the lives of all South Africans. Without these principles, the sustainable human development agenda will not find its truest expression.
Effective oversight ensures that these principles are upheld and that our institutions serve the needs of the people, therefore realising a better life for all. As we draw closer to the end of this crucial chapter of 30 years of our democracy, we must use this Summit as a platform to reflect on our achievements and acknowledge the challenges we have confronted over the years, particularly regarding the implementation of the oversight responsibilities of Parliament.
The fundamental test of democracy lies in Parliament's ability to maintain Executive accountability through continuous oversight. The litmus test of an active citizenry in a democracy is the extent to which Parliament can hold the government accountable to the people.
As the Government, we have identified corruption, abuse of state power, and maladministration as critical deficiencies that undermine our governance institutions and processes and, thus erode public trust.
In this regard, Chapter 9 of the Constitution mandates the creation of institutions designed to protect and support democracy. One of these key institutions is the Office of the Public Protector, which in 2016 recommended that a Judicial Commission of Inquiry be established to investigate the allegations of State Capture in Government. To demonstrate our commitment to good governance, the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into allegations of state capture, corruption, and fraud in the public sector, including state organs, was established in January 2018. On the 23rd of October 2022, the Presiding Officers of Parliament received President Ramaphosa's response to the recommendations of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry.
Regarding the latest report received, Parliament is currently working on proper mechanisms to address the issues raised by the report of the State Capture Commission. The Presiding Officers of Parliament have already referred certain matters requiring direct action by Parliament to parliamentary structures for processing.
As recommended, we have to consider reforms to improve our procedures expeditiously. These include, among other measures:
• Statutory changes to clarify the principle of “amendatory oversight”,
• Regulation of Executive attendance and reporting to Parliament,
• Making provision for procedures that will improve the Executive and Legislative interface.
While more work still needs to be done to improve the lives of all South Africans, I believe that we have effectively made strides in representing the South African people through our institutions, especially given that our democracy is relatively young in comparison to the number of years we endured under apartheid.
Part of my responsibility as the Leader of Government Business in Parliament is to monitor the developments by the Executive, approvals by Cabinet, and the implementation of the legislative programme by Parliament.
Since my appointment in March 2023, I am pleased to report that we have been able to submit priority legislative proposals for the Cabinet’s approval, and we continue to monitor the introduction of priority legislation by Parliament before the end of this administration.
Key amongst this priority legislation are the:
• Electricity Regulation Amendment Bill,
• South African National Water Resources Infrastructure Agency Bill,
• General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill,
• Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill,
• National Prosecuting Authority Amendment Bill and the recently passed National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill.
We also want to take this opportunity to commend the legislative sector for being instrumental in advancing gender equality by enacting laws such as the Gender Equality Act and the Domestic Violence Act, which are amongst the most globally progressive pieces of legislation.
These laws serve to safeguard women's rights and address the issue of gender-based violence. However, we recognise that much more needs to be done to introduce reform measures that will ensure quicker and equitable land transfer to disadvantaged land communities, especially women, youth, and people with disabilities.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Most importantly, we have played an essential role in safeguarding our democracy by securing free and fair elections during the last six administrations. Today, we are just a few months away from the National General Elections, which will mark the transition from the sixth to the seventh Parliament. As the government, we want to assure Parliament and the international community that we have confidence in our Independent Electoral Commission, and we strongly believe that the IEC will deliver free and fair elections in 2024 and beyond as it has done so before.
In this regard, it is necessary to dispel aspersions about the legitimacy of our democracy by those who do not have the best interests of our nation at heart. Equally, as representatives of the people, we must also encourage and educate all individuals, particularly young people, about the significance of voting. Ours is a young nation, and the youth must be encouraged to participate actively in our electoral and governance processes.
One of the key instruments for ensuring executive accountability to Parliament is the continuous monitoring of responses to Parliamentary questions by Members of the Executive. These questions largely emanate from the issues that are eminent in public discourse and are informed by the voices of the people on the ground whilst also engaging with some of the policy-related issues at a strategic level. From these responses to questions and regular reports to the Cabinet, we can track executive accountability to Parliament and the people.
As the Leader of Government Business, I am responsible for ensuring that responses to all the questions presented to the Members of the Executive in both the National Assembly and the NCOP are presented to the Houses. I am pleased to announce that progress has been made in this area of work. To this end, only one (1) question for written reply has lapsed during the 2023 Parliamentary session, which is unprecedented since the establishment of our democratic Parliament. We want to thank all role-players in the Executive and Parliament for making this possible, and we encourage you to continue to do the same going forward.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We must continue to strengthen all legislative oversight practices as they play an important role in ensuring that the Executive is accountable to the people. As the legislative arm of the state, alongside the Judiciary and the Executive, we have an important role in ensuring that our democracy is people-centered and is not void of accountability.
As we move towards the end of the Sixth Administration and usher in the seventh one, let us continue on our legislative oversight responsibility to serve as a tool to hold the Executive accountable, thus ensuring effective and efficient delivery of services to our communities.
The strengthening of the South African legislative oversight will make it possible for us to deepen our democracy and contribute to the long-term growth and prosperity of our country.
In closing, allow me to borrow from the words of the founding father of our democracy President Nelson Mandela during his inaugural speech where he said -
“We understand it still that there is no easy road to freedom. We know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success. We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world. Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all.”
These words remain relevant as we collectively work towards strengthening our democracy in our pursuit of social justice. With these words, I wish you well as you continue to deliberate and explore progressive measures to enhance the institutional capacity of legislatures, which will enable us to improve our oversight responsibilities for the betterment of our people.
I thank you.