Deidre Baartman
Deidre Baartman

Nine New Year’s resolutions for Parliament

Many of us make New Year’s resolutions as a sign of a fresh start or courage to reach a specific goal. This year I decided to write a few for Parliament.

1 Forgotten (or to-be-forgotten) reports
Our legislature has become very comfortable with writing comprehensive reports but does not implement them. Dusty reports include the Frederick van Zyl Slabbert Electoral Task Team Report of 2002 (complimented by the Independent Assessment Panel of Parliament Report of 2009) and the Kader Asmal Review of Chapter 9 Institutions Report. More recent ones include the National Development Plan headed by Minister Trevor Manuel and the Global Parliamentary Report headed by the Inter-Parliamentary Committee of the United Nations Development Programme.

I hope these reports are at least debated and their solutions considered by parliamentarians. Implementation might possibly be too high a hope.

2 Bills to purge
The Protection of State Information Bill and the insult law minister Blade Nzimande suggested not so long ago.

3 Laws to be instituted or amended
Marriage Act. Under the Civil Union’s Act persons must both be 18 years of age at least to enter a union. Under the Marriage Act a boy must be 18 years of age at least and a girl 16. Most 16-year-old girls have not even finished high school yet and marrying at such a young age poses many accelerated health risks. Parliament needs to ensure boys and girls have equal rights.

National Key Point Act. This apartheid act must at the very least be amended so that it makes sense in a democratic country.

Ban elected public representatives from doing business with government. Doing business with government causes many conflict of interests to arise. This is why they are public representatives, not private representatives.

4 More debates
Of the 437 topics proposed by all members of Parliament to be debated in the 2012 session only five were allowed. Debates that never saw the light in 2012 included the Richard Mdluli saga, the Limpopo textbook saga, the state of education in our country, the youth wage subsidy, the Marikana tragedy, the no confidence motion and the Nkandla scandal. It’s important that farm wages are to be debated in 2013.

5 Logic and reason
This is not the fourth grade. You are all adults who should know that replying to a valid question by telling the other person they have a “flea-invested body” is immature. If you want to build your credibility use facts to prove someone’s point incorrect.

6 Language, technology and social media
I would like to see more parliamentarians comfortable in speaking whichever South African language they prefer. The other parliamentarians can wear translation pieces. We need to celebrate our diversity, not hide it. Subtitles for viewers can be added to television programming.

Second, Parliament should use social media platforms more in 2013. It’s free marketing!

7 Portfolio committee for the Presidency
The only executive position that has no oversight for its budget is the Presidency. 2013 must be the year of the “Portfolio Committee for the Presidency”. Accountability is crucial.

8 Speaker impartiality
All speakers should understand that their first and foremost duty is to ensure that the interest of citizens and democratic procedures are protected. Second, to protect the integrity of the institution.

9 Educating citizens
Parliament should focus on educating citizens on their rights and freedoms, the democratic institutions and their procedures. Also, become more involved with student parliaments at tertiary institutions to involve the youth in addressing many of the problems our country faces. Don’t think I’m suggesting you should control them. Just get involved, support and encourage.

Finally, why is it that the Parliamentary Channel is on DStv (which many South Africans cannot afford)? If you are going to have a whole channel to yourself doesn’t it make sense for it to be a public channel?

While I hope Parliament aims for every resolution I’ve suggested, resolutions are often broken. See it as one resolution a month leaving three months in the year for recess and constituency work.

Feel free to add any New Year’s resolutions you have for Parliament. Perhaps they will implement some or all of them. Perhaps I will be re-posting this article in 2014 …

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