With the election date set for May 7, the clock is ticking on a number of high-profile amendments to a number of laws that need to be passed before this Parliament’s term expires.
The ANC caucus has earmarked eight Bills it will prioritise for completion before Parliament’s time is up. But critics claim the party is pushing through some of them to please key constituencies before the elections.
Although some contentious Bills, such as the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill, and the Labour Relations Amendment Bill have made it on to the ANC list, other hotly debated Bills have not.
Notably, the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill, which has caused great unhappiness in the mining industry, has not been included, despite comments made by Minister of Mining Susan Shabangu that the Bill would be finalised before Parliament’s term ends.
The spokesperson for the ANC in Parliament, Moloto Mothapo, said the prioritisation of some legislation formed part of the transformation of the country in order to restore dignity to the majority of South Africans.
"Elections will come. Our work to better the lives of South Africans remains continuous," he said.
The rules of Parliament allow Bills that are not passed to be resuscitated under a new Parliament, he said, and a certain percentage of MPs would be retained by the ANC in Parliament to ensure the continuation of institutional memory.
Parliament confirmed that the new National Assembly and National Council of Provinces could resolve to revive Bills that were before their predecessors and had reached a certain stage of consideration.
The Labour Relations Bill is one piece of legislation well on its way to being finalised.
Business Unity South Africa’s executive director for social and transformation policy, Vanessa Phala, said the Bill in its current form should not be prioritised until a comprehensive regulatory impact assessment is done. She said a number of business’s concerns remain unaddressed. These include the removal of the requirement for strike ballots by unions before they embark on industrial action. Cosatu, which succeeded in getting this provision removed, has argued that it was abused by employers and used to stop workers striking.
The Land Restitution Bill will extend the deadline for claims to 2018, despite unhappiness with the current claims process, which has been marred by backlogs and delays.
The Democratic Alliance's spokesperson on rural development and land reform, Kevin Mileham, said pushing the Bill through amounted to an election ploy. He said the government needed an estimated R179-billion to address existing claims and did not have the funds to reopen the claims process.
The Bill must still be deliberated in the National Council of Provinces before it can be passed.
The Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill must also go to the council for deliberation, which includes public hearings. Despite substantial work on the Bill in the National Assembly, many concerns remain, according to Peter Leon, head of Africa mining and energy projects at law firm Webber Wentzel. These include the proposal to allow the minister to designate certain minerals as strategic and require firms to set a certain amount aside for local beneficiation.
The last plenary sitting of the assembly is scheduled for March 13, although it could still sit later than that. The council of province’s programme is still to be reviewed.