Parliament: last chance to clean up

Last session of parliament….

Houses_of_Parliament_(Cape_Town)The final gathering of a Parliament is always an auspicious time. This is the thirteenth parliament of South Africa as a republic but currently the fourth under the ANC, this particular parliament having been started in 2009.   How time passes indeed.

Four times five is twenty and nobody can change the fact that this is the number of years we have had in South Africa to get things into first gear and pull away as leaders in Africa.

The poor still out there

But whilst security was always the issue in governments before 1994, service delivery to the poor has been the issue ever since, followed more recently by the need to fill the gap caused by inaction on infrastructure build.   When will the poor actually not be poor seems to be the question and in the case of South Africa the answer always seems to be within our grasp.

As do the energy, rail, transport and harbour, the communications, health and education issues seem to be equally just within our grasp.   Closing that gap is, of course, not helped by the lack of skills and training at the coalface and where it matters.

Up skilling in skills

Aspects to watch in Parliament over the coming weeks involve monitoring the reports of each department’s on the skills training aspect.  Expense was not been spared in the budget. Everybody has been given money. But the “work-hard, focused, skillful, get it done properly” Chinese mentality seems to be missing.

Where the Chinese score is through leadership and therein lies the rub in South Africa, from the top, to the most low worker.

Leadership vacuum maybe

With an extraordinarily long list of legislation to get through in the next session of Parliament it will be interesting to see if the qualities of leadership emerge at all, or the country remains driven, even at cost to basic economic structures, by imperatives to get votes.

Unusual has been the move by the President to return the Protection of State Information Bill back to Parliament, ostensibly in the light of some grammatical errors. Whilst this does not vitally affect the business world, other than perhaps a number of businesses or industries in a strategic role finding itself involved or suspected as being involved in the leaking of some highly sensitive subject – say nuclear or defence, this affair will play out noisily in our newspapers but is not really a serious business issue.

Last minute rush

Meanwhile, the last session of any parliamentary government period will always see MPs distracted by forthcoming elections whilst attempting to handle a voluminous amount of legislation that sincerely affects business and they would like to see passed before the period ends.    Consequently, the expression “fast-tracking” will occur again and again over the coming two months.

Ministers will also make many a speech from a podium aimed at the electorate, rather than adding substance to a legislative issue.  Much will involve sorting the wheat from the chaff when it comes to government policy on critical issues.

Shabangu drops a bomb

Critical issues are obviously the Minerals and Petroleum Resources amendments, bearing in mind minister Shabangu’s recent statement on “free carry” and the ability of the state  to acquire up to 50% shareholding in gas exploration successes; the combining of the liquid fuels and mining BEE charters; land reform; fracking, carbon tax and e-tolling.

Also a certain number of ministers will be attempting to justify their stay in the cabinet and the requirement of pleasing the electorate will feature more heavily on their minds than that of the international investment public. Much will have to be ignored.

This is always a bad period for South African public relations; the political lobby; government relations and for departmental heads who may get rough treatment as they report to MPs on their achievements and as Parliament progresses towards the period of the medium term budget.

Heads down.

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