Parliamentary Researchers briefed the Committee on the Legacy Report, the Five Year review, the Research Unit’s perspective on the State of the Nation Address imperatives that directly affected the work of this Committee, and the report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Review of Chapter 9 and Associated Institutions.
The Legacy Report showed what the functions of the Committee were, the entities overseen by the Committee and challenges relating to the Committee that would affect how the mandate would be exercised. It was noted that because of the heavy workload the previous Committee had appointed sub-committees to expedite the work, particularly the legislation. The challenge would be to create a balance between the Committee’s legislative programme and its oversight responsibilities. This was exacerbated by a shortened parliamentary term. About twelve or fifteen Bills would be introduced this year. The Committee had to establish sub-committees to help Members deal with Bills efficiently. The Committee agreed that the programme was an important issue needing to be dealt with. Members noted that they would have to consider how to deal with the volume of work, and believed that there were some oversight activities needed, which might be conducted in Cape Town. Members would also need copies of the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Review of Chapter 9 and Associated Institutions It was pointed out that the Traditional Courts Bill must be pursued, as these would lapse by the end of the year if new legislation was not passed or if the date on which the Repeal of the Black Administration Act would occur was not, once again, extended.
The Parliamentary Research Unit presented a Five Year Review that focused on the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s three main strategic goals. These included improving access to justice, enhanced organisational efficiency and transformation of the legal profession, judiciary and review of the criminal justice system. The key focus was to improve the functioning of the criminal justice system and to expand and integrate the Integrated Justice System programme
The Research Unit also gave a presentation on how the 2009 State of the Nation Address impacted upon the justice sector and work of the Committee. The first theme was the revamp of the criminal justice system to improve the fight against crime. The second key theme was the transformation of the judiciary. Some of the priorities identified in the previous year’s State of the Nation Address had already been addressed.
The briefing on the Report emanating from the Ad Hoc Committee covered three Chapter 9 institutions: the South African Human Rights Commission, the Commission on Gender Equality and the Public Protector. That Ad Hoc Report proposed that a single national human rights body, which would incorporate a number of other institutions. Members agreed it was imperative to formulate the year’s programme as soon as possible. Members and the researchers would formulate proposals.
The Committee Secretary noted that he had received apologies from Mr J van der Merwe (IFP), Mr S Ntapane (UDM) and Mr M Malale (ANC), who were unable to attend the meeting.
Mr J Jeffery (ANC) thought that Members tendered apologies for their absence, they should state the reason for their inability to attend.
The Acting Chairperson stated that this was indeed an important matter that would be attended to at the next meeting.
Mr Vhonani Ramaano, Committee Secretary, briefed the Committee on the Legacy report. He explained what the functions of the Committee were. This included consideration of legislation, overseeing the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJCD) and its entities, and considering the budget vote of the DoJCD. Some of the entities overseen by the Committee included the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE).
Mr Ramaano informed the Committee that, given the workload of the Committee, it had been decided to appoint sub-committees to assist in getting the work done expeditiously. He did not know if this would continue, given the budget constraints. The number of meetings held each year between 2005 and 2009 had increased, as a result of the amount of legislation that had to be considered. Some of the stakeholders included the Law Society of South Africa, Child Justice Alliance, Open Democracy Advice Centre, Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA). He briefed Members on oversight trips taken in 2008, as well as study tours undertaken. Some study tour reports could not be located as they were not adopted by the previous Committee. If Members wanted those reports, he would try to find them; however, they were not official documents.
There were challenges relating to the Committee’s work that would affect how its mandate would be exercised. One of the challenges would be to create a balance between the Committee’s legislative programme and its oversight responsibilities. This was exacerbated by a shortened parliamentary term. There were between twelve and fifteen Bills that would be introduced this year. Because there would be so many meetings, this would impact on Members’ other responsibilities and the Committee might not always be able to achieve a quorum. Mr Romaano warned that the Committee would have to meet every day if it wanted to pass all the Bills in November. It would also have to establish sub-committees to help Members deal with Bills efficiently.
He described the outstanding issues as matters pertaining to the Traditional Courts Bill, suspension of magistrates, Annual Reports and problems relating to various bodies who reported to the Committee.
The Acting Chairperson stated that the Committee programme was an important issue that needed to be dealt with. He wondered how the Committee would deal with the volume of work it was facing. Members needed to think about how they wanted to approach oversight responsibilities. They needed to have a strategic session where they could focus on all the issues they faced.
Ms D Smuts (DA) requested the report on the study tour to the United Kingdom (UK) because she wanted to know why there was sudden enthusiasm for the Commonwealth model.
Ms Smuts stated that she did not think that the Members would go on any oversight visits, as it seemed that they would be focusing most of their attention on legislation. She noted that the Committee would be interviewing candidates for appointment to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). She approved of this, as previously this had been done by an ad hoc committee. She noted that the advertisements had called for nominations for five vacancies, although the SAHRC Act, outdated as it was, called for eleven commissioners. She wondered if the Committee should initiate amendments to this Act.
Mr Jeffery stated that the Committee did not facilitate the appointments to the statutory bodies, and ad hoc committees were usually appointed. He thought this would happen again.
Mr Jeffery said that Members needed to have copies of the report of the ad hoc Committee on Chapter 9 institutions, that had been chaired by Dr Kader Asmal, as the relationship between Chapter 9 institutions and the National Assembly (NA) needed to be investigated. It was also crucial that the Committee performed oversight over the Legal Aid Board.
Mr Jeffery noted that two bills had not been dealt with. The first was the Traditional Courts Bill, and he warned that the traditional courts would lapse if there was no legislation passed by the end of the year. The Committee might need, once again, to apply for a further extension of time before the Repeal of the Black Administration Act would come into effect (scheduled for the end of this year). An ad hoc Committee, during the first part of 2009, had handled the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill, because the full Portfolio Committee on Justice had not had time to deal with it. The Committee would now have to wait for the Minister to revive this Bill.
Mr Jeffery stated that the DoJCD’s record, as far as meeting Bill deadlines went, was not good and therefore he would be surprised if twelve Bills were tabled by the end of the year. The Committee would have to ask the Department for a report on the status of the various draft Bills. Only then would the Committee be able to formulate its programme and to prioritise the most urgent Bills. He suggested that the Committee would also have to appoint subcommittees to deal with the workload and report back to the full Committee.
Mr Jeffery added that oversight visits to some courts were essential, and needed to be factored in to the programme.
Mr S Swart (ACDP) noted that the previous year’s programme was cut short due to preparations for the elections. The previous Committee could not focus on oversight and spent most of its time on legislation. There had not been sufficient oversight. He pointed out that the Committee was well able to perform oversight in Cape Town. He said that the Committee must hold a strategic session with the Department. He doubted that the Committee would be able to get through twelve Bills and agreed that these must be prioritised. He also agreed that subcommittees were needed, to help the Committee deal with the Bills.
Mr J Sibanyoni (ANC) also supported the idea of having subcommittees, as this had worked well in the past.
The Acting Chairperson agreed that the bulk of the Committee’s work would deal with legislation, but that it would have to find a balance between legislation and oversight. The Committee must be visible and must pay visits to courts. He agreed that the Traditional Courts Bill had to be prioritised and passed by the end of the year. He noted that Members were generally agreed on the value of using subcommittees. The nature of bills would determine the nature of the public hearings. These interactions would have to be efficient and coordinated. The Committee must decide how and when to deal with all matters.
Five Year Review: Policies and Oversight
Ms Gillian Nesbitt, Parliamentary Researcher, informed the Committee that over the past five years, the Department had focused on three main strategic goals. These were improving access to justice, enhanced organisational efficiency and transformation of the legal profession, judiciary and review of the criminal justice system.
In terms of intersectoral collaboration, the DoJCD was involved in development, planning and group meetings of the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster. The key focus was to improve the functioning of the criminal justice system and to expand and integrate the Integrated Justice System (IJS) programme.
Policy initiatives included the Re aga boswa Court management model, case flow management review in the Criminal Justice System, and Operation Isodlo aimed at improving the maintenance system, She expanded on these initiatives (see attached document).
She also raised the Committee oversight. She noted that a subcommittee was formed to oversee meetings with stakeholders and the Department regarding the issues of the Master of the High Court. Private sector skills and systems infrastructure were used in the Management of Monies in Trust Public/ Private Partnership (MMTPPP). In terms of legislation, the previous Committee’s progress report on the Traditional Courts Bill still had to be considered.
Perspective on the 2009 State of the Nation Address
Ms Sueanne Isaac, Parliamentary Researcher, stated that there were two main themes impacting upon the work of this Committee that emerged from the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA). The first theme was the revamp of the criminal justice system to improve the fight against crime. This would be achieved by establishing a transformed, integrated, modernised, properly resourced and well-managed criminal justice system, by improving the efficiency of courts and performance of prosecutors, and by increasing the number of prosecutors and Legal Aid Board personnel
The second key theme was the transformation of the judiciary. This would be done by ensuring that the composition of the Bench reflected the racial and gender demographics of the country, by enhancing judicial independence and entrenching internal systems of judicial accountability, and by ensuring full access to justice for all
Ms Isaac indicated that the State of the Nation Address in 2008 had also dealt with justice matters, and progress on the 2008 imperatives included the Criminal Justice System Review, transformation of the judiciary, implementation of the Victims’ Charter and implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommendations.
Overview of Report of Ad Hoc Committee appointed to review State Institutions Supporting Constitutional Democracy (Asmal Report)
Ms Christine Silkstone, Content Adviser, Parliamentary Research Unit, updated Members on matters regarding Chapter 9 Institutions. She gave an overview of the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Review of Chapter 9 and Associated Institutions, covering the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) and the Public Protector (PP), all of which had been established by Chapter 9 of the Constitution. This Committee, chaired by Dr Kader Asmal, had inquired into the effectiveness of the Chapter 9 institutions. The report was submitted on 31 July 2007, and the only recommendation accepted so far was to establish a unit in the Speaker’s Office to co-ordinate all interactions with the institutions.
The Ad Hoc Committee Report had said that SAHRC’s enabling legislation and regulations were not in line with the Constitution, and had also referred to the expiry of the term served by Commissioners. Issues raised in regard to the CGE included delays in appointments to the institution, the number of commissioners and the fact that enabling legislation was not in line with the Constitution. The Report had commented that the Public Protector needed to focus on increased public awareness, participation in a formal collaborative structure, staff retention at senior level and its relationship with Parliament and the Executive (see attached document for further details).
The Ad Hoc Committee Report proposed that a single national human rights body be established, to be named the South African Commission on Human Rights and Equality. It would incorporate the SAHRC, CGE, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Commission) and the National Youth Commission.
Ms Silkstone reminded Members that terms of office of Commissioners for the SAHRC and CGE and the Public Protector were about to expire.
The Acting Chairperson stated that it was imperative that the Committee formulate its programme for the year as soon as possible.
Ms Smuts noted that the previous Parliament had recommended that funds for Chapter 9 Institutions should no longer be distributed through the Departments, but through Parliamentary vote. The National Treasury (NT) agreed with this.
The Acting Chairperson proposed that the Committee close its discussion now, but commit to formulating a proposal that would guided by inputs from the researchers.
The Committee Secretary informed the Committee that the Public Protector would be briefing the Committee on Tuesday 7 July, and SAHRC would attend the meeting on Wednesday 8 July.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Overview of Report of Ad Hoc Committee on Review of Chapter 9 & Associated Institutions (chaired by Dr Kader Asmal): Human Right
- Justice & Constitutional Development Perspective on 2009 State of the Nation Address
- Five Year Review: Policies & Oversight
- Legacy Report of Justice & Constitutional Development Portfolio Committee
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