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South Africa: Parliament this Week

Parliament's commemoration of the centenary birthdays of South Africa's first democratically elected President, Nelson Mandela, and another stalwart of our struggle for democracy, Ms Albertina Sisulu, continues this week.

Itwas Ms Sisulu, who, at the first sitting of the democratic Parliament, nominated Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela as democratic South Africa's first President.

On Thursday, a Student Parliament will re-enact this momentous occasion, which occurred in the National Assembly on 9 May 1994. Students, from Western Cape secondary schools, will play the roles of Members of Parliament, who participated in the proceedings, and the public, who witnessed them from the public gallery. Seven political parties won enough of the 19 726 655 votes cast on 27 April 1994, in our first non-racial election, to get representation in Parliament. They were the African National Congress (which won 62.65% of the votes), the National Party (20.39%), the Inkatha Freedom Party (10.54%), the Freedom Front (2.17%), the Democratic Party (1.73%), the Pan Africanist Congress (1.25%) and the African Christian Democratic Party (0.45%).

The Student Parliament, which Parliament is holding in partnership with Freedom Park, aims to create awareness about Parliament's role in reconciliation and nation building, Parliament's processes and procedures and to reflect on current issues and provide tools for community building.

Straight after Parliament elected him President – from the same Cape Town City Hall balcony from which he had delivered his first speech after release from prison in February 1990 – Madiba pronounced: "We place our vision of a new constitutional order for South Africa on the table not as conquerors, prescribing to the conquered. We speak as fellow citizens to heal the wounds of the past with the intent of constructing a new order based on justice for all.…This is the challenge that faces all South Africans today, and it is one to which I am certain we will all rise."

Outside Parliament, in the provinces, two parliamentary committees – the Joint Constitutional Review Committee and the Portfolio Committee on Transport – are also scheduled to hold public hearings this week.

Public hearings, which Parliament's Joint ConstitutionalReview Committee is holding, have stimulated a national conversation about the role of land reform in constructing the new order to which Madiba referred.

Parliament mandated the committee to determine whether a review of section 25 of the Constitution and other clauses is necessary to make it possible for the state to expropriate land in the public interest without compensation and to propose constitutional amendments, where necessary.

The public hearings, already held in six provinces, move to the Eastern Cape tomorrow and to Gauteng on Thursday.

From Tuesday, the Portfolio Committee on Transport starts its nine provincial public hearings on the Road Accident Benefit Scheme Bill in North West, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. The provincial hearings follow those held earlierat Parliament.The Bill is intended to replace the Road Accident Fund Act, to improve administration of benefits and payments for road accident victims, among other things.

No committee meetings are scheduled to take place at Parliament this week.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Republic of South Africa: The Parliament.
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