“Democracy does turn into demo-crazy if public representatives remain ignorant of the responsibility they carry,” National Council of Provinces chairwoman Thandi Modise told them.
“You can’t do your job if you don’t begin to understand the concept of holding the executive to account.”
More than half of the members of the fifth democratic Parliament took up their seats for the first time, said senior parliamentary official Neil Nel.
Among them was Glynnis Breytenbach, the former senior state prosecutor who has became an MP for the Democratic Alliance.
Breytenbach said she thought the crash course in law-making appeared “quite well-structured”, adding she hoped to serve on the portfolio committee on justice for the official opposition.
“I hope so but I don’t have any expectation.”
She said the DA would allocate portfolios later in the week.
Economic Freedom Fighters MP Floyd Shivambu said he planned to take part in all portfolio committee work that went to the heart of the left-wing party’s policies.
“I’m going to work on land, nationalisation of mines, free education, all the issues that we have set out in our election manifesto,” he said.
The former ANC Youth League spokesman said he felt comfortable in Parliament.
“It feels good. We have a job to do and need to implement our agenda.”
His colleague Kgotso Morapela concurred: “I feel very much energised and looking forward to the work I have to do.”
The training course, dubbed “on-boarding”, will continue on Wednesday and, after a week-long break, resume on Wednesday next week.
It ranges from teaching new members how to access Parliament’s order papers and notices of announcements and tabled documents on their mobile phones to comprehensive guidelines on drafting legislation.
Timothy Layman, who manages policy analysis at Parliament’s legislative support sector said the course has become weightier in some respects, as it now sought to draw on the experience of the past two decades to improve efficiency.
“It is more extensive in the fifth Parliament than before. We have developed new modules and larger programmes that take an overview of work done in all the legislatures,” he said.
Friddah Nkadimeng, a teacher from Limpopo who is taking her seat as a first-time ANC MP, brimmed with excitement as she sat reading documents in the Old Assembly chamber.
“I have this passion and I know I must now just hit the grass running,” she said.
“I have been a councillor and a deputy principal, I am used to leading people but today it feels like a new start.”