Legislative sector seminar gets underway in Durban

The country's legislatures have converged on Durban for the Secretaries' Association of the Legislatures of South Africa (Salsa) development seminar to reflect on the past 20 years of legislative work and map a way forward for the years to come.

The three-day biennial seminar from 8 to 10 December is working to the theme "Building Strong Legislatures - 20 Years and Beyond" under the auspices of the South African Legislative Sector (SALS). There will be plenary sessions and group discussions. Former finance minister Mr Trevor Manuel is one of the speakers who will address the delegates. He will give a perspective on the National Development Plan and will also speak on the role of the legislative sector.

The seminar has three objectives - to highlight the transformational role of the South African legislative sector over the previous 20 years, to strategise towards realising the vision of building a stronger legislative sector, and to ensure the development of the legislative sector through shared knowledge.

The first day of the seminar saw speakers invoke the name of the South Africa's first democratically elected president, the late Mr Nelson Mandela. KwaZulu-Natal Legislature Speaker Ms Lydia Johnson told delegates that Madiba had left them with the task of consolidating the gains of the first democratically elected Parliament and legislatures. "His famous words remain constantly in the minds of our people, but the legislative sector will remember him for this famous quote at the final sitting of the first democratically elected Parliament in March 1999," Ms Johnson said.

His words were: "It is in the legislatures that the instruments have been fashioned to create a better life for all. It is here that oversight of government has been exercised. It is here that our society in all its formations has had an opportunity to influence policy and its implementation."

Ms Johnson called on legislatures to work together in their endeavours to overcome challenges in the legislative sector. "This seminar comes during an era of development and implementation of sector models earmarked to standardise and optimise the way we carry out our mandates as legislatures. Delegates here are true agents of change and we shall all be proud of the outcomes of this seminar," Ms Johnson said.

National Assembly Deputy Speaker Mr Lechesa Tsenoli and Salsa Chairperson Mr Peter Skosana were among other speakers today. Mr Tsenoli's topic was "Focus on determining strategic priorities and interventions for the South African Legislative Sector". Mr Skosana spoke on "Reflection on 20 years of legislative work towards strengthening the South African democracy".

Mr Skosana pointed out that there has been little focus on the work of the legislative sector since the beginning of democracy in 1994. He said legislatures were usually "treated as step-children". Mr Tsenoli stressed the significance of "deploying appropriate technology" in the legislative sector.

Group discussions this afternoon will focus on "Strengthening synergy by breaking down the barriers to cooperation" and "Enhancing the value chain of the legislative environment through the systems approach".

This evening the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature will host a formal dinner to welcome delegates to the seminar.