The Presiding Officers of Parliament are certain that the national legislature will continue carrying out its constitutional mandate despite the devastating fire that caused extensive damage to parts of the parliamentary precincts earlier this month.

Addressing the National Assembly Programme Committee (NAPC) yesterday, the Speaker of the National Assembly (NA), Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, said that in as much as buildings and symbols are an important part of the institution, “Members of Parliament are the cornerstone of what constitutes Parliament”.

“Parliament is not about buildings; it will continue doing its work. We will ensure that the oversight mandate of Parliament is not compromised as a result of the fire incident,” the Speaker said.

The Deputy Speaker of the NA, Mr Lechesa Tsenoli, echoed these sentiments, saying buildings are significant, but they are not the reason for Parliament’s existence. “People constitute what works.”

One important task in Parliament’s programme this year is to meet the Constitutional Court’s deadline to amend the Electoral Act to allow independent candidates to contest national and provincial elections. The NAPC welcomed an update that amendments have been submitted and the Bill has now been referred to the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs for processing.

Speaker Mapisa-Nqakula said the NA will also fast-track a decision it took in December last year to establish a multiparty task team to work with the Presiding Officers on matters relating to Parliament’s security. Another item on Parliament’s programme is a report on apartheid laws that are yet to be repealed.

The Joint Programme Committee also held its first meeting yesterday to discuss several matters, including an alternative venue for the hosting of the State of the Nation Address and the Budget Speech in February. The two events will be held at the Cape Town City Hall, while other NA sittings will take place at the Good Hope Chambers within the parliamentary precinct, one of the buildings in Parliament that were unaffected by the fire.

The Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), Mr Amos Masondo, said the national legislature’s work must continue during the ongoing investigations into the fire. “The fire incident must not project a Parliament that has been disrupted; work must continue,” said Mr Masondo.

Sakhile Mokoena
15 January 2022