'If I had money, I would take the president to court': Florence Masebe
MPs want to prescribe a deadline by which President Cyril Ramaphosa should enact bills passed by parliament, saying the delays in signing bills into law are tantamount to rejecting decisions of the legislature.
The proposal was made by ACDP MP Steve Swart at a meeting of the National Assembly's programming committee and it was supported by other parties such as the DA and the IFP.
The move prompted speaker Thandi Modise to write a letter this past week to the presidency, through the office of Deputy President David Mabuza in his capacity as leader of government business in parliament, in which she complained about Ramaphosa's tardiness in signing bills passed by the house.
Ramaphosa is yet to enact 10 bills passed by parliament that were sent to him in 2019 and 2018 while two more unsigned-bills date back to 2013 and 2014.
The bills include the Liquor Products Amendment Bill and the Performers' Protection Amendment Bill which were sent to Ramaphosa for signing in June 2018 and April 2019 respectively.
Some of the bills, including the controversial Protection of State Information Bill (secrecy bill), precede Ramaphosa's presidency.
Modise said she wrote to the presidency, “to remind” that office about the urgency they attached to the passage of bills.
“We have written to them. We are going to follow up again ... so that we make sure they understand that we do need to get those bills processed and done,” said Modise.
Modise said it was important for bills passed by parliament to be processed by the president timeously because they were meant to improve people's lives.
“It is to remind them that we are still waiting for their response and that the matter is urgent,” she said.
Swart had lamented the amount of time it took the president to sign bills into law.
“There is a reasonable period for the president to consider signing (a bill), but there are cases where there are bills that are years, in fact terms, of parliament that are still waiting on the president's desk,” he said.
“We might need to look at a mechanism, what is a reasonable time, obviously understanding that the president has a lot of pressure upon him, but I am aware of certain bills that are sitting for five to 10 years and that is an indirect veto of parliament,” proposed Swart.
Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, said the president had an obligation to ensure bills passed by parliament were constitutionally compliant before signing them.
“In certain circumstances, the presidency will also have to liaise with the line function department regarding specific bills, before the president can assent to these bills.
“According to the constitution, the president must satisfy himself about the constitutionality of any bill passed by parliament and referred to him for assent. This process required the president to apply his mind to all the provisions of the bill and the process followed by parliament in passing the bill. A memorandum on the constitutionality of the bill is prepared. A critical note on the process followed by parliament is also prepared.”
Veteran actress Florence Masebe, who lobbied for changes to the Performers' Protection Amendment Bill, said she felt ignored by Ramaphosa. The bill seeks to regulate the performance industry and protect actors from exploitation.
“The delays say to us that the lawmaking process of SA is a joke,” Masebe said.
“Right now, after having gone through the entire process of agitating for the amendments and then getting the amendments to go before parliament, the long process that many of us went through, thinking there is hope after all, we are literally being ignored by the president.
“You sit and think what is the point?
“It's not even about him not signing, it's about him not acting at all. Because if he is not going to sign, he should at least action something. Right now he is simply blue-ticking the creative industry and saying to all of us 'you are only good enough for me to quote your lyrics when I say my speeches in parliament'.”
Masebe added: “If I had money, I would take the president to court on behalf of actors and other creatives to say 'please do your job', but I can't afford to do that. I hope somebody with the money will do it.”
Other outstanding bills include the Private Security Industry Regulation Amendment Bill which seeks to limit the control of private security firms owned by foreigners. Parliament passed the bill in March 2014 and sent it to then president Jacob Zuma for his signature.