Deidre Baartman
Deidre Baartman

Nine New Year’s resolutions for Parliament

Many of us make New Year’s resolutions as a sign of a fresh start or courage to reach a specific goal. This year I decided to write a few for Parliament.

1 Forgotten (or to-be-forgotten) reports
Our legislature has become very comfortable with writing comprehensive reports but does not implement them. Dusty reports include the Frederick van Zyl Slabbert Electoral Task Team Report of 2002 (complimented by the Independent Assessment Panel of Parliament Report of 2009) and the Kader Asmal Review of Chapter 9 Institutions Report. More recent ones include the National Development Plan headed by Minister Trevor Manuel and the Global Parliamentary Report headed by the Inter-Parliamentary Committee of the United Nations Development Programme.

I hope these reports are at least debated and their solutions considered by parliamentarians. Implementation might possibly be too high a hope.

2 Bills to purge
The Protection of State Information Bill and the insult law minister Blade Nzimande suggested not so long ago.

3 Laws to be instituted or amended
Marriage Act. Under the Civil Union’s Act persons must both be 18 years of age at least to enter a union. Under the Marriage Act a boy must be 18 years of age at least and a girl 16. Most 16-year-old girls have not even finished high school yet and marrying at such a young age poses many accelerated health risks. Parliament needs to ensure boys and girls have equal rights.

National Key Point Act. This apartheid act must at the very least be amended so that it makes sense in a democratic country.

Ban elected public representatives from doing business with government. Doing business with government causes many conflict of interests to arise. This is why they are public representatives, not private representatives.

4 More debates
Of the 437 topics proposed by all members of Parliament to be debated in the 2012 session only five were allowed. Debates that never saw the light in 2012 included the Richard Mdluli saga, the Limpopo textbook saga, the state of education in our country, the youth wage subsidy, the Marikana tragedy, the no confidence motion and the Nkandla scandal. It’s important that farm wages are to be debated in 2013.

5 Logic and reason
This is not the fourth grade. You are all adults who should know that replying to a valid question by telling the other person they have a “flea-invested body” is immature. If you want to build your credibility use facts to prove someone’s point incorrect.

6 Language, technology and social media
I would like to see more parliamentarians comfortable in speaking whichever South African language they prefer. The other parliamentarians can wear translation pieces. We need to celebrate our diversity, not hide it. Subtitles for viewers can be added to television programming.

Second, Parliament should use social media platforms more in 2013. It’s free marketing!

7 Portfolio committee for the Presidency
The only executive position that has no oversight for its budget is the Presidency. 2013 must be the year of the “Portfolio Committee for the Presidency”. Accountability is crucial.

8 Speaker impartiality
All speakers should understand that their first and foremost duty is to ensure that the interest of citizens and democratic procedures are protected. Second, to protect the integrity of the institution.

9 Educating citizens
Parliament should focus on educating citizens on their rights and freedoms, the democratic institutions and their procedures. Also, become more involved with student parliaments at tertiary institutions to involve the youth in addressing many of the problems our country faces. Don’t think I’m suggesting you should control them. Just get involved, support and encourage.

Finally, why is it that the Parliamentary Channel is on DStv (which many South Africans cannot afford)? If you are going to have a whole channel to yourself doesn’t it make sense for it to be a public channel?

While I hope Parliament aims for every resolution I’ve suggested, resolutions are often broken. See it as one resolution a month leaving three months in the year for recess and constituency work.

Feel free to add any New Year’s resolutions you have for Parliament. Perhaps they will implement some or all of them. Perhaps I will be re-posting this article in 2014 …

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    • Stephen Browne

      Really like the language one – why the **** does everyone speak in English? Most countries with comparable language break-downs to South Africa run their parliaments in the language they are comfortable with. To expect 3rd (even fourth) language English speakers to come across well is downright silly. Even our blessed Jacob could probably make light dawn occasionally. I’d be happy to read subtitles, as it’s my laziness that makes me a language dunce.

    • Observing

      Very wise advice. I am surprised and interested in your comment that ‘Under the Marriage Act a boy must be 18 years of age at least and a girl 16. ‘ It’s extremely surprising at first to see such blatant gender discrimination – until you consider that SA has become a traditional, patriarchal, tribal, chauvinist, conservative and patronage-based society based largely on the new tribalism in the ANC which seeks to elevate tribal chiefs (and cynical, sometimes abusive old men) above the ordinary citizen, especially women and children. It’s still shocking, and must be a bit if a wake-up call for those who always saw the ANC future as a social democratic progressive society. It’s deeply ironic that the Nats, also social conservatives and deeply controlling of womens freedom and choice, have been replaced by the ANC, also social conservatives and deeply controlling of womens freedom and choice.

    • Momma Cyndi

      I like those.

      Could I add that a resolution to actually be in the country and do their jobs? They may even make a dent in the amount of change needed if they were here instead of on a tax paid holiday for a week every two months.

      Accountability and chain of command could come under education. Why are we paying them if nothing is ever their ‘job’?

    • http://faratec.co.za Lieven

      Good one Deidre,

      From work done in parliament 413 topics proposed by all members and only 5 allowed in 2012, it shows the neo-fascistic approach this government plays.

      They are worse than the apartheid regime, this in concept and performance to serve the previous tormented country and his people.

      1.)BEE should be removed, this is for foreign investors a nightmare like it was for me in 2000.

      2.)The medical fraternity needs to be investigated, bogus Doctors can be exposed easy.
      HCPSA Health Professions Act No. 56 need to be tested.

      3.)This could be done easy with the development of criteria search package, could be done by me(ajaj I am white) http://faratec.co.za

      Happy New Year.

      Lieven Vandaele

    • Judith

      A very good list just missed out the Traditional Courts bill which must also be scraped

    • Cheds

      Don’t these lists generally come in 10’s… 9 is a bit odd. Come on, one more Diedre!

    • Lennon

      @ Stephen: I’m inclined to agree. I’ve watched many a Japanese cartoon which was subtitled. It’s a nice way to try and learn a language if you’re inclined to.

      On top of that, it’s job creation.

    • http://lennymaysay.wordpress.com Lenny Appadoo

      Excellent list Deidre. However I’m not inclined to watch dozing politicians on any network. :-)

    • Tofolux

      @Dierdre, on reading your list I am left wondering if this is another party stunt or another case of using a public domain to mis-inform or dis-inform. I say this against your listing ie ”state of education,youth wage subsidy,Marikana,no
      confidence motion,Nkandla (all of which are non-issues) and for good civic measure as an afterthought, the farm wages”. Noting from your environment one would have expected farm wages to be no 1 on your list. But certainly, the notion of doing as the masser does is quite evident. Iro state of education, what is your response to the matric results of last year? Of course the youth subsidy is an ill-thought concept for the youth in particular but a good argument for business. That aside, it is quite surprising that there is a call for impartiality when you cite the ‘no-confidence-motion”. If one calls upon others to do certain things then one expect those making the call to lead by example. But sure, disrespecting our institutions and running to courts clearly shows the sheer lack of capacity, respect and integrity of those who have sworn to respect the rule of law and rulings within our institutions. It must also be noted that there is a huge lack of conceptual thinking or misunderstanding on the NDP. What is yr thinking around that dept and what do you think their role and relevance is, going forward? Also, some of us must stop pretending to speak in the interests of others especially when it is so far removed from the needs of the…

    • ntozakhona

      Deidre as always stats seem impressive but do they relate the real picture. Dr TW Khambule, a prominent mathematician, used to say there are three ways of lying viz tell an outright lie, exaggerate or cite statistics.

      My personal expirience is that I saw on TV and read in the generally hostile media how the debate in Nkandla ensued with the President revealing that the residence is bonded, amongst other things. I remember the President explaining industrial relations procedures with regard to Richard Mdluli. I remember so much debate about what you said was not debated, it will not have been criminal to say you do not like the outcomes.

      It would have assisted your contribution not to sound hopelessly partisan and propaganda driven if you had motivated why a debate on the discarded mere government functionary is deemed more important than the Health Insurance and other life bettering laws enacted in parliament.

      Wikileaks had revealed that the USA has two of its innternational key points in Ekurhuleni, maybe that should make us anxious than being worried about the security of our country’s strategic installations and homes of presidents. There is nothing apartheid about that, unless you know apartheid to have been something else.

      Maybe you have not heared but South Africa is a constitutional democracy and every proposal, bill or report goes through rigorous processes relevant to it before even being debated in parliament or the cabinet…

    • Twithed

      regarding 6; social media – politicians need to know that what they tweet say in social media must HOLD; you can’t forever be having a personal opinion in contrast too or in spite of your official position

    • https://homecomingrevulsion.blogspot.com Guinness Holic

      This was a cogent, well thought out, organised and comprehensive list of what needs to be immediately addressed in SA. You’ve done your research Deidre and you have your facts. Please continue contributing to Thoughtleader.

      I have one issue with your list though. Number four mentioned debating farm wages. Firstly, the market needs to dictate what wages people earn, not government lackeys or parliamentarians, especially those who couldn’t spell or even count to the minimum wage. Besides, raising the minimum wage will affect employment.

      But the main question needing ACTUAL discussion is not the matter of recompense, but the one of productivity, which is a discussion best held between workers, employers and the ANC (if they feel the need to get involved). Pay is intrinsically linked to productivity so it’s impossible to have a discussion on one without addressing the other. Unfortunately, this will never be acknowledged as it will ultimately reveal the soft underbelly of the NuSAns workers and their gob-smacking lack of productivity and destructiveness. Last year SA tea pickers went on strike. It was discovered that your average postpartum Tamil tea picker picks enough tea in 25 days to outdo the pickings of your average strapping male Saffer tea picker in an entire season!

      This should embarrass SAns. But it won’t because it’ll be explained away as being racist to mention it. That’s how SAns face problems, and how The ANC will deal with all 9 of your points…

    • ntozakhona

      Let me Deidre agree with you that the parliamentary channel is not in the most accessible meduim, it would have been better as a free to air channel. You and I know that it would have been accompanied by a brouhaha of how state resources are being abused, wasted and other such noises that seek to distract us from dealing with inequality.

      There are many parliamentarians who debate in African languages however our news reports seem to prefer the Lindiwe Mazibuko type whom they deem eloquent because of their accent.

      You of all people as a jurist should know that Dr Nzimande’s foray about the disrepect of the President has no currently no status in parliament, he remais however entitled to his views on how to deal with the seeming conflict.

      I had in the midst of the Indian rape saga read that only 0,1% of the Indian poulation uses social media, I suspect the picture in SA is more depressing. We need to first think of creative ways of assisting goverment in its committment to universal access. Meanwhile the state broadcaster and community radio stations are doing a splendid job.

      The ruling party has sensibly decided to have its own buy in of the NDP first, which it did at Mangaung and if South Africa tarries the plan will be implemented. A proposal or report is not law, it must also be subjected to due process. Again democracy is tedious and slow but it remains the best form. If we were governed by decree your impatience would be understandable.

      We are not in a…

    • ntozakhona

      We are not in a kindergarten, you cannot start throwing your toys because the decision does not go your way or of the gallery you defer to.