BLSA CEO's weekly - 3 May

BLSA’s CEO’s Weekly Newsletter – The GNU is a historic opportunity to address the challenges we face

POSTED ON: June 17, 2024 IN by Admin
BLSA CEO's weekly - 3 May BLSA CEO's weekly - 3 May

By Busisiwe Mavuso

Our new MPs, many sitting in that role for the first time, should think through their approach to engaging with the public and ensuring their interests filter through into the law-making process.

Congratulations to the members of parliament who were sworn in last week. It was a confidence-building moment for the country as we watched the culmination of what has been a difficult few weeks for political parties to find each other. My congratulations to President Cyril Ramaphosa on his re-election as president by our new MPs. As BLSA wrote over the weekend, this is a strong signifier of continuity and ongoing progress in the reforms we urgently need to turn around the performance of our economy.

The new MPs have taken on an immense responsibility to represent the people of this country. They must hold government to account and, in the words of the Constitution, “ensure government by the people”. Parliament has sometimes been criticised for being ineffectual, merely rubberstamping laws on instruction from party bosses, but in this new era of coalition politics there is an opportunity for parliament to reestablish its authority as the key accountability mechanism for government. The portfolio committees that oversee government business, and to which directors general and other senior officials report, can bring a new era of rigour in assessing the work of government. The standing committees can ensure that important government functions are being performed and public resources are being well used. Parliamentary debates can help drive the creation of better laws.

Our new MPs, many sitting in that role for the first time, should think through their approach to engaging with the public and ensuring their interests filter through into the law-making process. As I’ve written before, we have recently seen a disturbing trend of public comments being ignored in the process of drawing up legislation. The primary job of an MP is to be a lawmaker, and in performing this job it is important to understand how different people are affected by laws and to engage with the evidence that many bring forward through the public consultation processes. We should never see a repeat of the kind of process that saw the National Health Insurance Bill, a completely unworkable piece of legislation that was forced through by the previous parliament without consideration of the abundant evidence of weaknesses and recommendations on how it could be improved, provided through the consultation process. MPs could also work to ensure that the socioeconomic impact assessments, which in theory every draft law should encounter, happen and that they are meaningful.

However, parliament is also a critical enabler of effective government, and it must ensure it works to support government to deliver. This is important where legislation is needed to enable reform. The important reforms of the electricity sector, for example, have needed to be enabled by legislation. There are many other examples where parliament will have to play its part in enabling the structural reforms that the economy clearly needs. While parliament must ensure accountability, and be effective in the law-making process, it must be careful not to frustrate reform through unnecessary delays. Government, though, must be ready to fully engage with lawmakers as part of the process of reform. Policymakers will need to convince MPs of the merits of proposals, but MPs must also engage and support positive reform. Holding government accountable and properly considering laws should enable the reforms the country so desperately needs, not frustrate them.

It is time for the government of national unity to begin the job it has been mandated to do, of solving our country’s challenges, providing jobs for our people and improving their living standards. Parliament will play a critical role in that process and should be both an enabler of success and a check on power. Organised business will be a willing partner to government in supporting it to deliver a conducive environment for the economy to grow. We will also contribute to parliament by providing our input in consultation processes and directly into parliamentary committees when asked.

A positive momentum has been created through the mature way the GNU has come about. It has sparked confidence among business and investors that the country has a historic opportunity to make a big leap forward to address the challenges we face. As the work ahead begins, we hope parliament will play a central role.


BLSA is a business organisation that believes in South Africa’s future and shares the values set out in the Constitution. BLSA is committed to playing its part in creating a South Africa of increasing prosperity for all by harnessing the resources and capabilities of business in partnership with government and civil society to deliver economic growth, transformation and inclusion.

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