11 June 2003
The Speaker of the National Assembly, Frene Ginwala, has hailed Parliament’s achievements, but says there is a lot that remains to be done.
Delivering Parliament’s budget vote in the National Assembly this week, Ginwala said the institution was praised on the continent and elsewhere.
“We have changed the legal framework of this country and in the process have transformed this society and given it new direction. We have altered the fundamental basis of our legal system to one that complies with the principles of our Constitution and human rights order,” the Speaker said.
Ginwala said although the Parliament’s code of conduct, which requires parliamentarians to declare their financial interests, might need to be improved, there were not many Parliaments with such a code.
According to the code, MPs must annually disclose all gifts, hospitality, sponsorships and benefits valued at more than R350, as well as shares and financial interests in companies and other corporate entities.
On other issues, Ginwala said Parliament had tried to extend public participation, but there was still a long way to go to involve the general public, and not just lobby groups.
“Parliament itself needs to reach out to the public directly, using radio and new technologies now available, and we are finalising plans to do so,” Ginwala said.
For example, she said it was possible for the public to see and hear programmes of Parliament’s debates in a number of languages.
“In addition, members of Parliament would be able to sit in studios in these precincts and respond to questions from the public,” she added.
Pilot programmes are expected to be off the ground by December to make this interaction with communities possible. “We can then begin to put in place in bold the participatory democracy that is required by our Constitution.”