PERSPECTIVES FROM A GERMAN POLITICAL SCIENTIST (and other things)

Very occasionally, I meet interesting people from foreign lands in the basement laundry. This morning, it was a professor in political science from the University of Bremen. He’s in South Africa conducting research on education and health facilities, so I asked him what he thinks of ‘our’ Parliament – which he has watched on YouTube. He said the quality of debate and the commitment of ‘our’ MPs will only improve if the balance of power changes. In other words, it the ANC occupies fewer than 50% of National Assembly seats. MPs will then be forced to work harder.

But why should it be necessary to ‘force’ them to take their jobs seriously? This baffles me.

Later, when I wrote an article for Legalbrief Today about the Films and Publications Amendment Bill, I discovered two recommendations for changes that have been completely overlooked. They were made by the National Council of Provinces and were adopted by the National Assembly’s Communications Committee last week. But something is missing. Since the Bill is expected to improve measures being taken to prevent children from being exposed to harmful online content among other things, I find this worrying. There are no minutes
available of the meetings at which this was discussed . It sometimes takes weeks for committee secretaries to produce them. It also takes a few days for the Parliamentary Monitoring Group to publish its meeting reports. So, I have no way of knowing what went on.

There’s also a big drafting error in the latest version of the Bill to be considered by the National Assembly before it rises for the elections. I wonder if anyone will notice? If nobody does, the Bill sent to President Cyril Ramaphosa for signature won’t accurately reflect what was agreed. And I’m not talking about minor details; the missing changes and drafting error affect big issues. This points to incompetence – not only on the part of MPs, but also among the members of Parliament’s legal drafting team. We should all be concerned.

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