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B-BBEE included with Covid relief regs

Covid relief & BEE don’t mix, say MPs

When the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) were presenting their 2020/21 performance plan to Parliament and after stating that all Covid19 distress funding would be allocated using B-BBEE guidelines, DTIC’s director general, Lionel October, found himself in a spot during questions.

He was asked directly by DA MP, Timothy Brauteseth, what DTIC would say to employees if children went hungry after application by a small time employer failed on such grounds.

Rules are rules

Although the question could be described as a little unfair, DG October replied tactfully that his department was staffed by civil servants “whose job it was to faithfully implement B-BBEE legislation”.

He said all DTIC incentive programmes were conditionally subject to a B-BBEE level and the private sector was usually most co-operative. DTIC was committed to all transformation processes, he said, but he was sure that the scenario in question would not happen.

In other words, the DG had dived for cover.  Later during further questioning on the subject he remarked that DTIC did not “anticipate exclusions of this kind coming up with any programmes associated with the current crisis”.

Well done

The DA complimented DG October during the same meeting on his personal responses over the past months generally to opposition queries and  on his dedication to trade issues during a difficult period.  DA’s Dave McPherson said the DG was one of the few who responded timeously and in detail to their concerns, whereas a good number DG’s failed, he said, to even acknowledge a parliamentary query.

In general, on future plans, DG October told parliamentarians that any framework for the coming years would be subject to a number of downwards adjustments,  especially on the issue of budgeted projects.

This, October said, was in the light of the forthcoming July cuts in budget appropriations as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic in terms of the R 500bn economic recovery package. (Parliament are to debate the DTIC adjustments in the next week or so)

Summation

DG October outlined the department’s total budget of R 11 bn for the 2020/21 financial year, of which 61% or R 6.8 bn is expected to be transferred to public corporations and private enterprises for incentives programmes. Of the total budget, 19% or R 2.1 bn will be transferred to the departmental entities in terms of agreed projects and targets.  DTI operational expenditure, which comprises mainly of compensation of employees, and goods and services, is 18% or R2 bn of the total budget.

DTIC is working on the basis of global economy shrinking by 3% for 2020 as a result of Covid-19.  This is working on IMF figures which figure that South Africa’s economy will probably  shrink by approx. 6%, he said.    To improve growth prospects domestic interventions included the R 500 bn COVID-19 package. There were also “Master Plans” for the automotive sector, poultry industry and retail – clothing, textiles, leather and footwear industries and others were being developed.

October concluded by describing ten key strategic programmes but again stating that all budgets and targets would have to be reviewed in July based on the progression of the pandemic. Accordingly, at this stage, it is quite clear that government planning and associated major capital spending is “on hold” for the moment

The good, bad and ugly

When asked what measures DTIC was taking to reduce the cost of doing business to create an enabling investment environment, DG October answered by quoting instances such as “how much easier it was to register a company and how better to apply for related benefits such as UIF.”   He promised DTIC would make it easier to register properties and process building permits.

DTIC, he said, was also in discussion with Treasury for additional funding for a tax allowance as “an economic responsive package to assist companies in distress as well as to stimulate investment while retaining existing jobs”.

when asked about Section 121 tax allowance schemes where a budget of R 75m had been provided for support of greenfield or brownfield local investment schemes, this had come to an end October concluded.  This was, he said, because almost all the budget had been used up and the fate of what was left would be the subject of “the diversion of funds and projects  which are “gagged by the advent of Covid 19”., he said

Fielding the questions

Dr Corné Mulder re-expressed the hope that B-BBEE would not be applied in the midst of a pandemic with any future schemes (his main theme for the whole meeting).

Dave McPherson asked about DTI pressure upon the National Credit Regulator (NCR) to invoke Section 11 of the in order to allow credit needed under Covid-19 situations.   October ducked this one and said that the NCR’s office and DTIC were currently studying the matter.

On questions on the need to build value-added exports, he quoted a platinum fuel cell production unit which had recently begun operations in Dube Trade Port SEZ.

Looking outwards

Mathew Cuthbert, (DA’s shadow minister of trade), asked Lionel October why South Africa had failed to sign WTO Global Value Chain agreements (GVCs) in the past.   (GVCs assist in reducing trade barriers, lower costs of transportation, can create additional jobs and assist in economic growth in developing countries – for example motor industry assembly plants). 

October looked somewhat perplexed.   In an inconclusive answer, he said he would check with the WTO Ambassador and reply to Cuthbert later in writing.

 

Cuthbert responded to remark that October had said earlier that support was continuing to be given to  the motor assembly industry and it was in “fair condition”.     He said that his feedback told him that this was not the case, particularly in the Eastern Cape where “some motor plants had gone about 98% inactive due to Covid 19 and that the situation was dire.”

He said that DTIC should note this fact and that the department must give the situation its urgent attention. He said Minister Ebrahim Patel must hear that “DTIC had got this completely wrong”.

The meeting ended abruptly due to timeout, but not before EFF’s Yoliswa Yako said that in her opinion Minister Ebrahim Patel was holding back on information and had not participated with any value to the meeting.

 

 

Posted in Agriculture, BEE, Finance, economic, Labour, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Parliament goes virtual for lockdown


….20 May 2020…

SA first with virtual e-debate

….At the same time as the venerable British Parliament was tackling what seemed to them a totally invasive idea of a virtual e-Parliament, South Africa was simultaneously tackling the same subject as COVID 19 arrived at the shores of Africa.  Immediately, the issue of the consideration of lockdown conditions arose in SA and the question of how Parliament could work with everybody boarded.

Whilst British parliamentarians dithered on the subject and due to the fact that the UK kept social distancing going for a much longer time before their lockdown came into force, South Africa’s virtual website portal went up in an incredibly short time and was first in the world by a few days.

Maak ‘n plan

In comparison, the British virtual system. which is also now also working, only allows for debate in the House of Commons whilst South Africa, in terms of its Constitution, follows proceedings in both the National Assembly and the NCOP and also at committee level as well, with the current joint meetings providing provincial coverage.

The design of the entrance website is pretty similar to the UK portal, the principle being the same but with a British budget, the UK presentation is a good deal slicker.  All the same, the Daily Telegraph complained after the UK launch that all that the voice links in the meetings sounded like Darth Vadar and it was confusing to know who was speaking.

Many players

The beginner’s look of the SA virtual meetings is understandable in the situation.   One can see in SA technicians are having a daily struggle with people using Skype and Zoom connections for the first time, some of whom have little knowledge of the difference between an app and a hard drive.

Most are trying, knowing it all has to happen and it would be best to learn quickly but a certain number of senior politicians still demand studio facilities and a camera.   We shall no doubt look back in years to come and laugh at these early attempts to live a virtual reality life.

48 hours allowed

In South Africa, where the decision to suspend the SA Parliament was a “precautionary measure” in the light of a forthcoming Cabinet decision on how to deal with the pandemic, Parliament’s presiding officers in the form of chief whips and political parties all agreed beforehand on the 17 March that the remaining two days of parliamentary business would be devoted to urgent legislation only.

As a result of this decision, Budget Papers in the form of the Division of Revenue Bill were hustled to the National Assembly for adoption in order that money could flow to the provinces and local government.   A Cabinet meeting followed and the Speaker of the House, who acts for the President in Parliament, was summonsed for a meeting soon after.

Hard facts

The role of Parliament is indispensable for the country to run.   The Constitution demands that Parliament scrutinise and oversee all Executive actions, processes Bills in the  form of legislation, to provide a forum for public consideration of issues and to facilitate public involvement in its legislative and other processes. Such is inviolate, whatever the conditions facing the country.

Realizing that the only way was virtual meetings to consider matters,  Speaker Thandi Modise issued a statement that Parliament would have to “intensify its technological capabilities for a transition to an “e-Parliament”.   She concluded that as a result, a decision had been taken that “Parliament will be able to resume taking advantage of virtual media technology”.

 Into action

The leave period, or recess, for MPs was duly cancelled and parliamentary staff were assigned permits to stay at work.  They used this time for urgent meetings -to assess how Parliament could best resume its proper function under lockdown regulations and deal with the lacuna (i.e. a situation where there is no applicable law to deal with the matter).

It was agreed by the Speaker that priority had to be given in Parliament to virtual meetings that required oversight on COVID-19 matters, bearing in mind the limited number of meetings that could be held at any one time.  It was also agreed that any virtual meetings would be primarily joint meetings based on the government cluster system, i.e. meetings comprising the various representatives from a number of differing committees affected by one subject.

 Order, order

Chief whips were then tasked to adapt parliamentary rules to meet the new conditions. All this had to be based on the procedures, precedents, practices and conventions, which have been developed over the years, known as parliamentary rules.  This was in respect of not only how NA and NCOP virtual plenary meetings were to be run but how debate was to be conducted committee.

Speaker Thandi Modise then confirmed to all political parties that in the planned virtual meetings, members of parliament would have the same powers, privileges and immunity as they have ordinarily in parliamentary proceedings.  Quorum requirements were to be exactly the same she said, and MPs would be entitled to cast their votes either electronically or by voice.

Public participation and access to virtual proceedings had to be made possible, said Modise, “in a manner that is consistent with a participatory and representative democracy, virtual meetings to be live-streamed wherever possible”.

Global comparisons

Despite time limitations Parliament was indeed able to try and benchmark against some other legislatures who were operating as legislatures whilst their countries were fighting against COVID-19. To the surprise of all, little was found.

The prime constitutional constraint in South Africa’s case was that any virtual meetings had to involve both the sittings of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces and these had to be seen to be happening if the public wished to observe proceedings, a factor necessary according to the Bill of Rights.   This was overcome by making most meetings “joint” committee meetings of parallel committees from both Houses.

One and only

In the UK, which has no constitution, a parliamentary virtual meeting concept had been designed and planning was six months into happening.  From a standing start, SA Parliament achieved their deadline in about a fortnight.  Australia and New Zealand are still only thinking of going about it and the USA is still fighting about lockdown itself.

Without fanfare, the parliamentary process under the extraordinary conditions began internally in the Cape Town precinct after a very short training period on 20th April, with access being made to the existing  public parliamentary website on the link www.parliament.gov.za/parliament-tv.

 Time will tell

The whole thing seems to work quite well but obviously glitches occur regularly whilst MPs struggle from time to time to find the mute button and some appear if they have just got out of bed.  Already, however, after an initial learning curve, things are changing and before long it will be the way things happen.

At each meeting, provision is made for the parliamentary secretary to log in those MPs present at a virtual meeting, name them, see them, accept apologies and at point count voting if required from those logged in through the  electronic response system.   Minutes are established later through the audio track recorded in the same manner as before. This is quite some procedure to witness in some of the hallowed chambers where the Speaker once wore a wig.

An MP’s presence in any virtual meeting is established through a secure link sent to their email address which also enables counting to be established for the purposes of establishing a quorum, taking decisions on issues or voting on a matter. Links are established on Facebook, Linked-in, Twitter and Instagram, the photography on Facebook on parliamentary issues being quite stunning.

 7 out of 10

In general, the new parliamentary virtual world established is considered by most quite for such a rush and the process will no doubt tide the country through this terrible period in its history.  This aside from any opinion on how well MPs handle their own inputs and deal with difficult question of switching between one another to pose and answer questions.  What you see is what you get.  The result is not always pretty but it is legal.

One advantage is that with so much happening with lights flashing and buttons to worry about, there is little time for any MP to have a quiet slumber.

Posted in Agriculture, cabinet, Communications, Defence, Energy, Fuel,oil,renewables, Home Page Slider, Justice, constitutional, Police, Public utilities, public works, Security,police,defence, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

Parliamentary Overview 12 June 2019….

 

Changing the guard…  

Plenty of note for business has happened legislatively during the parliamentary recess but perhaps none so important as the re-structuring of Cabinet. As a result  there will be a change in the appropriate portfolio committees to reflect any changes and a consequent shift in portfolio responsibility for various Bills held over from the previous Parliament.    In the areas of energy, trade and industry and communications this will be particularly interesting of who gets to be the chairperson in the light of differences emerging within ANC structures.

Parliament will choose its portfolio committee chairpersons for the National Assembly and select committee chairpersons for the National Council of Provinces on 27th June, two days after the State of Nation Address ANC party chairpersons.  These appointments reflect how a government governs on policy and legislation. Through the chairpersons.

Read more..Parliamentary overview 12 June 2019

Posted in Agriculture, cabinet, Cabinet,Presidential, Energy, Fuel,oil,renewables, Health, Justice, constitutional, Land,Agriculture, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

Sixth Parliament will debate Expropriation Bill…

Expropriation Bill top subject for new parliament….

sent to clients early Jan 2019….

In December 2018, a new draft of the Expropriation Bill was published by government gazette with a 60-day period for comment.   This means the final document will no doubt become the kingpin of debate in the first session of the new Parliament. It will also form the basis of much comment by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his second State of the Nation Address.

Not many were expecting a final legislation proposal for comment so soon after the ConCourt constitutional decision on the subject.  Land restitution, as distinct from land reform, is the kind of hot-potato subject that many say should never be debated just before an election.  With the whole issued being overlaid with a tinge of fear, it is also an ideal subject for fake news, they say. 

Read more….Expropriation Jan 2019

Posted in Agriculture, cabinet, Finance, economic, human settlements, Justice, constitutional, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Communal Property Bill part of land reform

From Aug/September ParlyReport….

Communal Property Bill posted 7 10 2018

Posted in Agriculture, Cabinet,Presidential, Finance, economic, Justice, constitutional, public works, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Gigaba pushes for control of border posts

Treasury, Home Affairs at odds on customs issues

Parliament will be debating in the new session in August the Border Management Authority Bill.   What the Bill proposes is a single state entity known as the Border Management Authority (BMA) to oversee all aspects of the movement in the import/export of goods and to control movement of all persons either leaving or entering the country.

The idea is that all border law enforcement functions along South Africa’s fragmented 5,000 kilometres of border will be the responsibility of the BMA.   Read More……    Border Management Bill July 2018 PDF

Posted in Agriculture, Finance, economic, Security, Security,police,defence, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

2019 to see final debate on land expropriation

Land expropriation no compensation now proposed.. 

sent to clients 8 July 2018….

Parliament is about to debate one of the most loaded issues since its formation under the new democratic dispensation in 1994; that of acquiring without compensation land as part of the current land reform programme.   

Whether President Ramaphosa wanted such a debate before or after elections is not the point anymore. The moment has arrived and Parliament is to consider an EFF motion to consider the proposal. This will maybe force the ANC’s hand in joining the bandwagon and to endorse the “no compensation” approach under defined circumstances.

However, many feel that such a labourious route need not be undertaken to achieve the same end.

Read more..….land reform July

 

Read

Posted in Agriculture, cabinet, Justice, constitutional, public works, Trade & Industry0 Comments


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