October saw the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) hold an induction programme for members of SALGA focussed on how the NCOP functions and its role in the legislative sector. The programme started with presentations from the Secretariat of the NCOP on the structure, role and mandate of the Council, rules of debate as well as the powers, privileges, and immunities of parliament and the Provincial Legislature Act.
The overarching agenda was to ensure that organisations that play an activist and/or developmental role should understand how local government works and how to influence it.
The first part of the SALGA orientation was led and facilitated by SALGA and covered a the organisation’s strategic advocacy and lobbying agenda. The second part – which was the NCOP Induction was led and facilitated by the NCOP and was focused on parliamentary and legislative processes in terms of structures, committees, law making processes and applied oversight processes. This year’s programme was followed by the annual Provincial Week programme which ran between October 9 to 13 October across all provinces. The provincial week provides permanent delegates of the NCOP an opportunity to interact with the provinces and report back on their activities in the NCOP with the aim of obtaining new mandates on issues to be placed on the national agenda.
South Africa’s parliament consists of two houses – the National Assembly and the NCOP, which in 1997 replaced the Senate. In conformity with the Constitution, the NCOP represents the provinces to ensure that provincial interests are taken into account in the national sphere of government.
The NCOP membership (54 permanent and 36 special delegates) consists of nine provincial delegates, each province with an equal number of delegates. SALGA is allowed ten representatives in the NCOP.
Each province has 10 delegates, four special and six permanent. The delegation is headed by the premier who is one of the special delegates. Because they have other responsibilities and are hardly in Parliament, the delegation is led by a Provincial Whip when in Parliament. Special delegates rotate on the basis of specific mandates form legislatures.
The NCOP participates in the legislative process and by providing a national forum for public debate on important issues affecting the provinces, it ensures that local government concerns are represented at the highest level.
Adv Modibedi Phindela, who addressed the two-day meeting on the topic of the structure, role and mandate of the NCOP, explained that the NCOP consists of nine provincial delegations nominated by the provincial legislatures and a delegation from SALGA. He also underlined the fact that the NCOP Provincial Week is one of the key mechanisms established by the NCOP to achieve its constitutional mandate to facilitate a meaningful and reciprocal interface between and among the three spheres of government.
SALGA NEC member, Cllr Bhekumzi Stofile, explained the composition of the NCOP and its SALGA component. He said that the Constitution prescribes that SALGA can have up to ten representatives in the NCOP who can participate in debates in the House. Cllr Stofile explained that “Local government is the sphere of government closest to the people”. He said that as a result of this, “many basic services are delivered by local municipalities and local ward councillors are the politicians closest to communities”.
On the first day of the two-day programme, Adv Phindela told those attending the workshop that in future it would make sense to have SALGA participate in the committees of the NCOP to take a position and make inputs on issues before they are debated in the House. “Full participation of SALGA in the NCOP cannot happen unless the Constitution is amended to grant this sphere voting rights, currently SALGA only participates in debates.”
The strategic objective of the provincial week was to enhance SALGA’s strategic objective to play a meaningful role in the National Council of Provinces as part of the agenda to represent and protect the interest of the local sphere of government within the legislative sector.