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Editorial: Working committees

Post budget analysis…..

Now that Parliament is past budget vote speeches and promises on the future, Parliament gets back to the nitty-gritty of outstanding issues and legislation in the pipeline.

It is a busy time of year in Parliament and those more responsible MPs and many of the good chairpersons really earn their stipend.    It seems a shame at time that the debate in the National Assembly can so often border on the banal, whilst at portfolio and select committee level some really good work is done.

Lurid headlines distract

Always bearing in mind that the ANC Alliance always has the majority vote if it really wants to stamp out an idea, it can.  But listening to the many debates at portfolio committee level, not all is as it seems in the Sunday newspapers – in many committees realistic debate takes place and although ideologies will differ, the democratic idea of listening to the other’s view is exercised.    Of course, as in the UK, the party whip will eventually prevail on difficult issues.

The main issues still remain, not nuclear and sport as the headlines would proclaim, but the issues such as faced by Gordhan Pravin of influencing municipal issues and the balance between “yes” and “no” on carbon tax.   Despite the energy dominating, the payback by municipalities to Eskom was a victory totally underestimated.

EFF pantomime

Parliament still remains a serious working body, certainly the best in Africa and by all accounts way above the standards of many equivalents in developing countries worldwide.    In retrospect, whilst Speaker Mbete may have “lost her cool” in the last session, the debate in the National Assembly is now more in line and on track and certainly, at working committee level, a lot of the absurdities never occur. Agrument may be fierce at times but the rules are followed.

As we say, the debate on the “nitty gritty” is now on; mistakes are being acknowledged and a genuine attempt to get everything back on the rails seems to be pervading. Whatever the political background, it seems to be an issue of “all hands to the pump”.

Patrick McLaughlin

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