Cape Town - The introduction of a private members' bill by IFP MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini is historic, Parliament's trade and industry portfolio committee chairwoman Joan Fubbs said on Thursday.
The draft National Credit Amendment Bill was formally adopted for discussion in the National Assembly after being introduced in the committee by Oriani-Ambrosini.
The Inkatha Freedom Party MP's amendments include extending to five years the period a consumer under debt review has to repay debt, and suspension of the accrual of interest on that debt for the same period.
“These are hard times. People are suffering. The (proposed amendment) doesn't give them any break. They are still going to pay 100 percent (of the debt, excluding interest),” Oriani-Ambrosini told the committee.
He said the suspension of the accrual of interest would not apply in all cases.
“It's not revolutionary... It's a small help to people in need when the circumstances allow and justify it. When is that? When the debt counsellor and a magistrate thinks it's the case.”
Oriani-Ambrosini said he accepted there would be a loser in this scenario.
“Those interests no longer accrue to the banks, those interests no longer accrue to the creditors, but they could have lost it all had the debtor gone the route of insolvency,” he said.
Trade and industry department (dti) officials rejected the amendment, and said it would undermine the entire process of debt review.
“You cannot have a consumer under debt review for that long... the intention is to make sure you get the consumer out of that debt and then they get rehabilitated so that they can come back and interact in the market,” said dti deputy director general Zodwa Ntuli.
He said it would prolong the period within which consumers would be able to rehabilitate themselves.
Oriani-Ambrosini landed himself in hot water with Fubbs and fellow MPs when he arrived an hour late for what is believed to be a precedent setting process.
It was the first time an individual MP had tabled a bill in the Assembly, following his victory in the Constitutional Court last year.
The court declared unconstitutional rules stating that MPs had to get permission from a majority of the House before tabling a bill.
For the first time on Thursday, Oriani-Ambrosini found himself seated opposite his fellow MPs, to table the bill, a space usually occupied by ministers and government officials.
Fubbs said they would have to tread carefully since it was a unique situation for MPs.
“I have studied the Constitutional Court opinion on these matters of introducing private members bills, and also the rights of members to do so... the emphasis is on serious application and deliberation,” said Fubbs.
“This is the first time a private member of parliament has been given that right, practically, to introduce a bill... if we make mistakes, it's not that we are intending to, it's because we have not walked this process before,” she said. - Sapa