Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - Parliamentary committees have been urged not to wait longer than six months for government departments to explain how they planned to tackle laws found to be invalid by the Constitutional Court.

Briefing the National Assembly’s programming committee recently, the parliamentary legal services highlighted that the House often failed to meet the 18- and 24-month deadlines granted by the Constitutional Court to review or pass laws.

Among pieces of legislation yet to be passed is the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) Bill, which lapsed in May.

The national legislature had asked for an additional extension when it missed the October 2018 deadline.

In September 2016, the Constitutional Court also ordered the national legislature to review the Ipid Act within two years, after it found that the disciplinary action and later suspension of former Ipid executive director Robert McBride was invalid.

Parliamentary legal adviser Charmaine van der Merwe said her team had already begun a legal process which compels government departments to explain how they intend to ensure deadlines are met. She said the legal advisory division was in regular contact with departments.

“We recommend in our opinion to the chair that we no longer wait for six months after a judgment for the department to give a definitive answer.

“If there is no definite answer, then that committee (should) take a decision to proceed with a bill so that there is enough time for things to happen before the deadline,” Van der Merwe said.

Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli said Van der Merwe’s sentiments were an important message for Deputy President David Mabuza - as the leader of government business - to communicate to the executive.

“It is a useful oversight, and also sorting out our relations with decisions that are taken in the courts, so that we are not found wanting in terms of our responsiveness,” Tsenoli said.

The Constitutional Court found in June 2018 that the Promotion of Access to Information Act was inconsistent with the constitution as it failed to provide records, preservation and reasonable disclosure of information on private funding of parties and independent candidates.

Van der Merwe also said officials at the Justice and Correctional Services Department had confirmed that they planned on approaching a senior counsel to draw up necessary papers for the apex court regarding the Customary Marriages Amendment Act.

“They will ask for an extension of the deadline,” she said.

Meanwhile, the deadline has passed for the amendment of the Immigration Act. In 2017, the Constitutional Court found that a section of the law dealing with the detention of illegal immigrants was invalid.

Political Bureau