Ahead of tomorrow’s opening sitting of the 6th Democratic Parliament of South Africa, the DA’s caucus sat for the very first time this morning. On behalf of the 84 National Assembly (NA) Members, and 13 National Council of Provinces (NCOP) members, we are truly humbled and honoured to have been elected as the Official Opposition in this 6th Parliament and we thank you for voting for us to be your elected representatives.
We take our constitutional duty very seriously and will work hard to ensure that the work of this Parliament will be to better the lives of all South Africans – nothing more and nothing less. Every bill, policy, regulation and motion will be measured against this, and we will fearlessly stand up to those whose sole aim is to undermine this project for their own enrichment.
The DA’s work in this 6th Parliament will be guided by the following two hold principles: (1)holding government accountable for the exercise of their powers, and (2) putting forward fresh ideas and credible alternatives to government plans and policies. This is how we intend to ensure parliament comes alive and works for the people, and not for politicians and their connected cronies.
The DA’s Caucus
As Leader of the DA, I am immensely proud to lead this caucus. It encompasses the spirit of South Africa. Individuals from all walks of life – old and young, black and white, gay and straight – who are bound together by shared values and a desire to see our nation prosper and grow.
Of the 14 political parties represented in this 6th Parliament, I have no doubt that the DA’s caucus is the most diverse and competent of all. In this caucus you won’t find anyone with allegations of corruption or wrongdoing hanging over their head. Our selection process produces quality, fit for purpose MPs – not a patronage network of self-serving loyalists.
Some of the notable newcomers to our caucus include: Banking Executive and Founder of AgriProf, Noko Masipa; Youngest MP in democratic history, Sibongiseni Ngcobo; Former NFP National Chairperson, Maliyakhe Shelembe; DA Federal Youth Leader,Luyolo Mphithi; Author, Leon Schreiber; Outgoing Communications Director, Siviwe Gwarube; Eastern Cape DASO Chairperson, Baxolile Nodada; and Former MMC in Tshwane, Cilliers Brink.
In terms of caucus leadership, I can today announce that I have decided to appoint John Steenhuisen as the DA’s Chief Whip in the National Assembly for this 6th Parliament. John served as Chief Whip during the 5th Parliament and excelled in the execution of his duties. I have full confidence in his knowledge and experience of parliamentary operations, rules and procedures, and he adds incomparable value to the leadership of the DA caucus.
All other leadership positions will be contested through a caucus election. These are Deputy Chief in the National Assembly; Leader in the National Council of Provinces; Caucus Chairperson; and Deputy Caucus Chairperson. The election for these caucus leadership positions will be held in due course on date which will be communicated to the media and the public.
I have no doubt that with such a talented mix of skill, expertise and experience, this diverse caucus is well-equipped to serve the people of South Africa for the next 5 years.
In terms of this caucus’s agenda in the coming months, we have prioritised the following key interventions which we believe will strengthen Parliament and serve the people of South Africa.
Tabling the “Jobs Bill”
With 9.9 million South Africans without a job, and an expanded unemployment rate of 38%, our nation’s biggest challenge remains how we create work for the growing number of those without.
Therefore, within the coming weeks, the DA will table the “Jobs Bill” – our legislative blueprint to create an enabling environment for accelerated job creation in South Africa. This Bill focuses on two key areas critical to job creation: Foreign investment and SMMEs.
In this light, it aims to:
- Provide for special tax incentives and property allowances for foreign companies that meet certain socio-economic empowerment goals, including key areas such as industrial projects, enterprise investment, critical infrastructure, research & development, agri-businesses and film and TV production;
- Address many concerns that foreign investors have around the resolution of disputes in South Africa, providing certainty as to encourage investment;
- Protect and supports SMMEs by ensuring greater flexibility in the labour market through minimum wage exemption for businesses that fall into certain classifications. This will keep the doors open to thousands of small businesses and protect the jobs of hundreds of thousands of employees;
- Eradicate unnecessary red tape that small businesses still have to comply with; and
- Create a special forum for dispute resolution specifically for SMMEs.
Establishing Standing Committee on the Presidency
As it stands, the Presidency – an integral government department – operates without any direct parliamentary oversight. Unlike other government departments, the Presidency can appoint and remove staff, pass budgets, and perform all other functions without the constitutional oversight which parliament is mandated to perform. This cannot continue.
Therefore, the DA will be pursuing the establishment of a Standing Committee on the Presidency – a dedicated committee which has oversight power over all the affairs of the Presidency. Indeed, “nine wasted years” showed us the extent of damage unchecked power in the Presidency can cause. We must remedy this loophole in accountability, and have no doubt that other parties will support this move to strengthen our democracy.
Shadow Cabinet Meetings and Briefings
In the coming days, I will appoint the official opposition’s Shadow Cabinet, comprising of Shadow Ministers tasked with holding government accountable for the exercise of their powers, and putting forward fresh ideas and credible alternatives to government plans and policies.
This Shadow Cabinet will officially meet every fortnight to be chaired by the Chief Whip. The purpose of these meetings will be to discuss the upcoming legislative agenda; to deliberate on new policies, debates, and motions; and to table any other matters. The Shadow Cabinet will hold a media briefing after each meeting.
Establish a “Caucus of the Opposition”
While opposition parties differ on a litany of matters, there are issues which find accord with all those who find themselves on opposition benches. The collective work done by opposition parties in the build up to Jacob Zuma’s removal shows that despite our differences, we can find common ground of select issues.
Therefore, I will work to establish a working group of opposition party leaders in which we consider issues that transcend party politics – on a case-by-case basis – and work together to charter a way forward that puts the interests of South Africa first.
Regular Engagement with Leader of Government Business
The President is required to appoint the Leader of Government Business in Parliament – responsible for maintaining a cordial, working relationship between Parliament and the Executive. The LOGB is obligated to meet with Opposition Party Leaders on a regular basis – something which has not routinely happened in the recent past. I will be formally approaching President Cyril Ramaphosa, in writing, requesting his commitment to ensure that the LOGB is a present and engaged player, so that constructive dialogue between all parties becomes a standard practice of the 6th Parliament.
The DA is committed to making the 6th Parliament work, so that South Africa works. We will not oppose and critique just for the sake of it. We will engage in a practice of constructive opposition. Our mission is to work for the people of South Africa and rebuild a country and its institutions which have been hollowed out and broken.
Where we are in government we have shown that even under harsh economic circumstances there can be growth, job creation, and improving living conditions for all – especially the poor.
It is clear that the ANC has not reformed, and it shows no signs of doing so. To allow compromised characters such as Nomvula Mokonyane, Silvia Lucas and Pemmy Majodina to be appointed to senior parliamentary positions shows weak leadership by Cyril Ramaphosa and exposes the hollow fallacy of a “stronger mandate”. Instead of a stronger mandate, we are given the same corrupt ANC. Because in the ANC, corruption and unethical behaviour is a prerequisite for promotion.
In this light, the role of the DA as the Official Opposition has never been important, and we will work each and every day to uphold the country’s Constitutional Democracy and offer credible alternatives that seek to build One South Africa for All.