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National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu’s candid criticism this week of the quality of laws being passed by MPs echoed concerns expressed more than once by this newspaper – the most recent involving the exposure of flaws in the Sexual Offences Act.
On Tuesday, in Parliament’s budget vote, he aired the increase in faulty laws returning to the Assembly for correction – either legislation that has been referred back by the other chamber, the National Council of Provinces, or laws struck down as unconstitutional by the courts.
“The poor quality of legislation is often the consequence of inadequate scrutiny,” Sisulu said. Parliament does not have the capacity, especially for the more complex, technical laws.
Dud legislation is simply an embarrassment, worsening mounting frustration in government at the courts, which are often asked to judge it. It also jeopardises Parliament’s status. So there is going to be a legal drafting unit attached to it, which is presently being staffed.
Another idea that resurfaced after many years was MP Vincent Smith’s proposal that Parliament be relocated to Pretoria, South Africa’s administrative seat. Smith, naturally, is from Gauteng. He is the MP for Eldorado Park.
He argues that the savings will amount to billions. There is, in fact, no need for guesstimates – a detailed study has been done, by a leading accounting firm. It was commissioned by and given to the government in the mid ’90s.
It apparently found handsome efficiencies in reducing the Pretoria-Cape Town shuttle. Needless to say, the report disappeared into the desk of a minister who hailed from the Cape.
Sentiments for and against moving Parliament are similar to the Ulundi-Pietermaritzburg scrap, only far more elaborate. Among the most dramatic points against is that the ANC would destroy any chance of winning back the Western Cape if Parliament went north.