South Africa’s major political parties have reconvened ahead of the official first session of our sixth Parliament. The dust has settled on the election campaigns, which saw the ANC and the DA lose considerable ground to the likes of the EFF and some smaller parties.
It’s a diverse house, and one with plenty of subplots. Before Wednesday’s official sitting of all 400 newly-elected members of the National Assembly, we’re looking at what we can expect from Parliament over the next five years.
South Africa’s sixth Parliament – what can we expect?
Land expropriation will press ahead
The Expropriation Bill was gazetted earlier in the year and it notes that five ‘types’ of land may be expropriated without compensation if it’s in the public’s best interest. These include:
- Land that is occupied or used by a labour tenant.
- Land held for purely speculative purposes.
- Land owned by a state-owned entity.
- Land that has been abandoned by its owner.
- Land that is of a lesser value than any state subsidies from which it may have benefited.
The process has hit a stumbling block during the election campaign, and little has actually happened in 2019. But that’s all set to change. Some cynics believe Cyril Ramaphosa will do everything he can to hold off on the process, but that doesn’t seem to be the case right now.
In fact, the ANC have been very careful to manage expropriation carefully. They have purposefully avoided reclaiming any land until after the 2019 Elections, fearing a backlash from opposition parties who would look to exploit any potential flaws in the early days of non-compensatory restitution.
Ramaphosa hasn’t hidden the fact that the ANC are ready to redistribute land to the poor and the displaced. After gaining the mandate of a general election victory – albeit by a reduced majority – you can expect to see the first government-backed expropriation acts within a matter of months.
The sixth Parliament will make or break Eskom
It’s sink or swim time for the power giants, quite frankly. They have been guzzling public funds for the best part of a decade and there won’t be an endless supply of bailouts between now and 2024. Eskom have to pull their finger out and they have to do it soon – which is what the terms of their R70 billion loan from government tells them.
Ramaphosa and Pravin Gordhan have organised their task team and unveiled plans to keep the lights on at Eskom. But pressure is mounting on the firm. The president wants to unbundle them into three separate departments, a move which has been called “the first step towards privatisation”.
Energy Minister Jeff Radebe has already signalled his intentions to give Independent Power Producers (IPPs) more freedom to operate, and politicians in the DA-run Western Cape have been very clear about wanting to turn their backs on Eskom. It’s likely the sixth Parliament will be the one that seals Eskom’s fate.
Nationalising the Reserve Bank
Cyril Ramaphosa is dead keen on this one: He said back in March that it’s “no secret” he wants to nationalise the Reserve Bank. In other words, he wants the government to replace shareholders as the sole owner of the institution, which regulates interest rates, the rand’s performance and money spent by the South African government.
The EFF are extremely supportive of this move. The DA are having nightmares about it. Although there may be merit to some fears that nationalisation could derail the independence of the facility, some experts believe nationalising the Reserve Bank “won’t make much difference“.
Fierce scrutiny over unemployment
With the YES initiative and Cyril’s drive for foreign investment, we’re going to need to see some results pretty soon. The past year has seen a number of job summits and employment workshops, and now he’s secured a five-year term as President, Ramaphosa has to make a hole in those unemployment figures.
The problem he’s got here is that economic growth has somewhat stagnated in South Africa. It’s hard to create a flurry of jobs when the market is suffering from impotence. President Ramaphosa is pinning his hopes on land to kickstart the economy, but that’s a gamble even Kenny Rogers wouldn’t fancy.
If we’re a year or two down the line and unemployment is still near the 27% figure we see today, it would be a damning indictment of the ANC’s rule. Make no mistake, this is one area of policy that is going to be watched hawkishly by those who feel the sixth Parliament could be the under the ruling party’s control.
A revolution in education – and the subsequent criticism
New school subjects, advanced training for teachers and a tablet for every school child: These were the promises Ramaphosa made during his 2019 SONA speech. He gave himself a six-year target to achieve everything he’s set out to do, meaning it will span for the entirety of his first democratically-elected term in office.
That means the progress of this ambitious rollout can be monitored between now and the next election. The government are touting education as the key to alleviate poverty. Those in charge during the sixth Parliament have promised to advance education in a way we haven’t seen before – and, whatever happens, they must be held accountable.
The sixth Parliament has the potential for chaos
Okay, a bit of fun here. But Parliament is shaping up to be more like the Wild West. Which battles do you want to start with? How about newly-elected MP Patricia de Lille bringing her dispute with the DA to the National Assembly? Or the increase in both EFF and Freedom Front Plus members, who are already baying for each other’s blood:
Today I met this Witwolf from FF+ in the Legislature,I told him straight that I hate racist whites with passion.I don’t think he will finish the term with all his teeth he must pray that they don’t allocate a seat near me @EFFSouthAfrica @GardeeGodrich pic.twitter.com/iTiirL4qKz
— collensedibe (@collensedibe) May 17, 2019
There’s even a chance that the president may not see out his full term. That’s according to Julius Malema, who remains overtly cynical about certain factions in the ANC who don’t want to play by Ramaphosa’s rules.
We’ve got a record number of different political parties being represented, and an assortment of Parliamentarians that could have easily been devised by some sort of mad social chemist. Democracy could make way for chaos on a regular basis during this sixth Parliament, and it’s something that’s likely to characterise the next five years.