Sixty-three years ago today twenty-thousand women took to the streets to march against the introduction of the Apartheid Pass Laws. What has now culminated into this public holiday symbolizes the role that women have and continue to play in the political sphere to shape the country.
It all began in the 1950s when the government's increasingly oppressive policies caused a direct threat to all people of color. Under the 1952 Native Laws Amendment Act the presence of any African in any urban area for more than 72 hours was an offense, unless in possession of a pass.
In June 1952 the African National Congress and the South African Indian Congress initiated the Defiance Campaign, where "radical tactics of defiance were to be employed to exert pressure on the government". Women's involvement in the Defiance Campaign served as a catalyst for their political involvement across the board, and also led to the establishment of the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) in 1954.
In September 1955 news got out that the government would start issuing reference books to Black women in January 1956. By mid-1965 plans were underway for the Pretoria march. FEDSAW had written to request that JG Strijdom, the Prime Minister at the time, meet with their leaders so they could present their views. This was rejected. A plan was then put into motion to consult with local leaders who would make arrangements to send delegates to the mass gathering in August.
The Women's March was a success. 20 000 women from all parts of the country arrived in Pretoria and filled up the Union Buildings. The significance of this day once again shows that the idea that women are politically inept and immature is very inaccurate.
Looking at the current gender composition in the Sixth Parliament South Africa is making big strides in achieving equal representation of women in Parliament. Below we have put together numbers showing the growth of women over time.
Sources: http://www.saha.org.za/women/demonstration_against_the_pass_laws_2.htm http://www.saha.org.za/women/full/2374.jpg http://www.saha.org.za/women/pass_burning_in_the_townships_1960_2.htm http://www.saha.org.za/women/group_of_women_including_lilian_ngoyi_and_amina_cachalia.htm http://www.saha.org.za/women/pass_burning_in_the_townships_1960_3.htm https://www.sahistory.org.za/article/1956-womens-march-pretoria-9-august https://www.sahistory.org.za/article/turbulent-1950s-women-defiant-activists
Parliament’s first term ended last week. According to the programme, the term was 11 weeks but the main thrust of the work was compressed into the final 5 weeks of the quarter.
A lot was done in this first term: new parliamentary leadership was elected, the second State of the Nation Address and ensuing debate occurred, new structures were set up and MPs were inducted and received training.
In addition, a big chunk of the time was spent considering, debating and voting on the 2019/20 national budget.
We unpack some of the key numbers and activities below
Many are unaware of the fact that even though South Africa makes use of a Proportional Representation electoral system, meaning that our elected representatives (Members of Parliament) are not elected from geographic areas in the way Ward Councillors are in Local Government elections, MPs remain duty-bound to interact with the public. One way in which this interaction is carried out is through Constituency Offices.
People's Assembly aims to connect the public and their elected representatives. We've put together a piece explaining constituency offices in more detail and how People's Assembly makes it easier to access your MPs and constituency offices!
This piece is geared toward political parties, Members of Parliament, Members of Provincial Legislatures and other public representatives - constituency offices are crucial to the democratic fabric of South Africa. Even though we make use of a Proportional Representation electoral system, public representatives are obligated to interact with and assist all citizens.
Check out the guide we've put together highlighting some areas public representatives need to consider in the running of their all-important constituency offices
A lot was packed into the first term of the Sixth Parliament
New Members were registered, sworn-in and received training. In addition, the legislature elected new leadership, had a second State of the Nation Address, set up structures, and assigned Members to Committees.
A big chunk of the time was spent considering the 2019/20 national budget. One of the main functions of Parliament is to discuss and pass the budget. Every year, the Minister of Finance introduces the budget in Parliament. It is discussed in Committees, debated in the two Houses, and a vote is taken.
Turning to this week, the programme is light as only the NCOP is in session and it has arranged a two-day week with delegates set to depart on Wednesday. Meanwhile, NA lawmakers have been given a week’s leave.
Both Houses will commence their constituency period from 5-19 August. The NCOP is scheduled to consider the 2019 Appropriation Bill on Tuesday. This Bill sets aside money for national government and says how it will be divided among the various national departments and state institutions during the year. Once passed, this will conclude Parliament’s processing of the budget and it will be sent to the President for assent.
There are five meetings scheduled in the NCOP Committee corridor:
The Select Committee on Petitions and Executive Undertakings is considering the Abathembu Petition which is a petition requesting intervention of the NCOP in relation to alleged persecution and ostracization of the Aba Thembu nation (Wednesday)
The Select Committee on Public Enterprises and Communication will meet with the Department of Public Enterprises following concerns raised by the BBBEE Forever Consortium (Wednesday)
The Select Committee on Transport, Public Service and Administration, Public Works and Infrastructure will be briefed by the Department of Transport on its Strategic Plan and 2019/20 Annual Performance Plan (Wednesday)
The constituency period will be from 5 – 19 August. During this time, MPs have a duty to be available to the public, help solve problems and report back to their constituents on what is happening in Parliament. The purpose of these periods is to encourage MPs to remain in contact with the people they represent. For more information about constituency offices, click here.
View the full schedule here
*This summary is based on the schedule as it is published on Monday morning. The programme is subject to frequent updating so the link above needs to be checked daily to confirm the programme for the day
The Sixth Parliament is now fully in swing! Chairpersons have been elected and Members are furiously busy scrutinizing performance plans and budgets. This would be a useful time to familiarize yourself with some parliamentary parlance, that is language! We’ve all heard about points of order, tabling reports and calls for division but do you know exactly what this means?
Well, we’ve got you’ve covered!
On the 18th of July 2019, President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised the deployment of 1320 members of the SANDF to various parts of the Western Cape. The SANDF is tasked with working with the SAPS to prevent and combat crime in these areas
This deployment of the SANDF will last for the period of 18 July 2019 to 18 September 2019 and will cost the country R23 391 351.00. While some residents from the affected areas believe that this intervention is temporary and will not work, others welcome it.
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After several intense weeks, there is a slight lull in the parliamentary agenda for the coming week.
Most of the significant business is in the main chambers while the Committee corridor takes a backseat. The programme has a distinct end of term feel as members of the National Assembly depart at the end of the week for a one-week break and thereafter a two-week constituency period. The major point of interest will come from the Question Time session with the Deputy President in the National Assembly. On Thursday, the leader of government business will have his regular engagement with lawmakers when he appears to answer oral questions. These sessions happen once per month during session and are limited to six main and supplementary questions. In addition, the questions must be restricted to matters of national and international importance, as assigned to the Deputy President by the President. Currently, the Deputy President is responsible for, among other things, social cohesion, the moral regeneration movement, manages the interaction between the Executive and Parliament, is special envoy to South Sudan and is chairperson of the South African Aids Council and Human Resource Development Council. In line with the broad tasks delegated to the Deputy President, he will be probed on a variety of issues, which include the township economy, service delivery, legislation to regulate the establishment of intelligence services in government departments and state-owned entities, unemployment and support for farmers.
Responsibilities of Deputy President (1) The President has, in terms of section 91(2) of the Constitution, 1996 assigned the following powers and functions to the Deputy President, communicated in terms of Assembly Rule 352(1): (a) Leader of Government Business in Parliament (b) Leading Government effort to fast-track Land Reform and the co-ordination of Government programmes to accelerate Land Reform and agricultural support. (c) Assist the President to stimulate and support Rural and Township economy through implementing empowerment models. Assist the President in the implementation of Rapid Response interventions on Service Delivery and Trouble-shooting in service delivery hotspots. (d) Co-ordinate Anti-poverty initiatives through, amongst others, Public Employment Programmes, Integrated Service Delivery and Enterprise Development. (e) Leading the South African National AIDS Council and the country’s integrated response to the challenges of HIV and AIDS. (f) Assist the President in efforts towards building a better Africa. (g) Support in investment Facilitation and Trade Promotion. (h) Leading the National Human Resource Development Council and fostering collaboration between government and social partners towards addressing the shortage of skills in critical sectors of the economy. (i) Promoting Social Cohesion Initiatives including being patron of the Moral Regeneration Movement.
The National Assembly will conclude its budget process on Tuesday when it considers the Appropriation Bill and its votes and schedules. The Bill allocates funds to government departments and state entities. This sitting commences at 10am and will be all day. Meanwhile, the NCOP has scheduled three plenary sittings to consider policy debates and budget votes. Beyond this, chairpersons of National Assembly parliamentary committees will undergo induction on Wednesday and Friday. While they will learn about the important technical aspects of the job, ultimately their success will depend on whether or not they bend to the will of the Executive, can assert their independence and exercise the powers given to them. Read more on the critical role of chairpersons It's a low-key week in Committee-land, where no NA committees are meeting and only a handful of NCOP meetings are sitting. Here is a rundown of the highlights: The Select Committee on Public Enterprises and Communication will get a briefing from the Department of Communications on its annual performance plan and budget. (Wednesday)
National Treasury will present the Appropriation Bill to the NCOP. (Wednesday) Lawmakers will receive a briefing on Parliament’s draft 2020/21 annual performance plan and budget. (Thursday)
View the full schedule here
Today we commemorate our former President Nelson Mandela who served his term from 1994 to 1999. As we ponder on the past two weeks budget vote speeches delivered by the Ministers and their Deputies, what better way to assess our journey as a country than to recall where we come from and the major successes that have led us to where we are.