Mining Portfolio Committees' mandates, roles & functions, Legacy Report and 2nd term programme

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Mineral Resources and Energy

04 August 2009
Chairperson: Mr F Gona (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Legacy Report of the previous Committee dealing with mining matters was tabled. It was noted that the London Oversight Visit Report was not mentioned in that report, and that the Report on the visit to India to study beneficiation had not been published, although it would have an impact on the work of this Committee, which was to make recommendations on beneficiation issues. The absence of those Reports was noted, and the Legacy Report was adopted.

The Committee was then briefed by the Manager the Committee Section, who explained the implications of the mandate, and Committees’ roles, powers, function in relation to international agreements, role in relation to legislation, oversight, tools and mechanisms, and reports on Committee work. Members’ concerns included the steps that could be taken if a Minister refused to appear before the Committee, the reasons why Committee Reports may not be signed and who was responsible for the ratification of international treaties.

The Committee then considered a document on its own mandate, and noted the concern that this Committee was not always able to have 15 members present, because of the number of commitments that some had to other committees. Some technical amendments were proposed, and the document was adopted.

The Committee finally discussed its draft Programme for the second term, noting the insufficient implementation of the Mine Health and Safety Act, and highlighting the need to deal with beneficiation, eradication of poverty through exploiting certain mineral wealth, general transformation issues, the unreported deaths of some illegal immigrant workers and the disuse of the mine schools. It was noted that a delegation of the Committee would be visiting illegal mines and the titanium deposit in Eastern Cape. The Department would be briefing the Committee on its five-year plan and then the State Owned Enterprises involved in mining would be asked to indicate their activities. Members adopted the programme.

Meeting report

Committee’s Legacy Report 2004-2009 and Key Policy Initiatives
The Chairperson tabled the Legacy Report of the previous Portfolio Committee that had dealt with mining matters, and noted that the first page dealt with the mandate of the Committee, and also listed some of the State Owned Enterprises (SOEs).

Item 5 dealt with the legislation, from 2004 to 2008, that was finalised by the previous Committee during its five year term.

Page 5 then dealt with the work done by the Committee, and page 6 listed the oversight visits. Page 7 dealt with the international oversight visit,  to the jewellery beneficiation industry in India. He raised his concerns that the report of the Indian trip was not published. The recommendations from that trip must inform this new Committee about the benefits of beneficiation. He said that he was certain that the report had influenced the Precious Metals Act. The Namibian and the Botswana government had been working in partnership with De Beers on beneficiation.
The Chairperson said that the Committee was still waiting for a briefing from the Department around international agreements, and how they would affect the country.

Ms F Mathibela (ANC) noted that the London report was not mentioned in the Legacy report.

Mr E Lucas (IFP) confirmed that he never saw the Indian Visit report at all.

The Chairperson warned Members that the omission of some issues should serve as a warning that this Committee should be thorough as possible during oversight visits. 
Members noted the absence of some issues from the matters forwarded to this Committee, but nonetheless adopted the Report.

Briefing on the Mandate Of Committees, and the roles and functions of Committees and International agreements: Manager of Committee Section briefing
Ms Zanele Mene, Section Manager of Committees, Parliament, apologised to members for the unavailability of hard copies. She mentioned that the Committee system was only introduced after 1994. The role of Committees was to work on legislation, do international work and perform oversight. Section 52(a) of the Constitution contained the authority for the establishment of Committees. She mentioned that Committees could establish sub-Committees to subdivide the work, and cited the example of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, who had appointed various sub-committees to deal with different aspects of its work. The mandate of the Committees was derived from the Parliamentary Rules and the Constitution. The Management Committee was comprised of the Whip of the Committee, the Chairperson and the support staff.

Ms Mene noted that the role of the Committees was to consider legislation, oversee the Executive and to facilitate public participation. Public participation was often done on a national level. Section 76 Bills dealt with issues of Provincial importance. There were exceptions to the rule on public participation; for example the Portfolio Committee on Sports would be having public hearings on the Safety in Sport and Recreational Events Bill. The Committee Section suggested that the public hearings should be held in five Provinces. The reason was that the 2010 World Cup would be held in Provinces, although it was not legislation that was of particular provincial importance. The Local Municipalities would be invited to attend the hearings, and so would the Provincial Legislatures’ committees, the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), and the Provincial Departments.
The Committees would also have to consider the ratification of international agreements that had implications on the work of the relevant Committee. The Executive was obliged to brief the Committee on the implications of the international agreements. Sometimes Members had to explain these matters also to their constituencies.

Ms Mene then moved on to describe the powers and functions of the Committees, which were set out in Rule 138 of the National Assembly Rules. Committees were expected to consider any matter that was referred by the House. The issues were referred through the ATC, and there was usually a direction stating whether the matter was for consideration and reporting. It was expected that Committee reports be published and adopted by the Committee, and signed by the Chairperson. The report of that particular Committee then would be scheduled for a debate in the House.

The Committees were expected to report before the House, because they undertook work on behalf of the House. In the past it happened that some issues would be taken up by the media, even before they were reported before the House. Committees could make their own enquiries on any matter and could summon any person or an institution to appear before that Committee. If that person or institution refused, then the Committee would write to the Speaker and explain the reasons why the Committee wished to have the person or institution formally summoned to appear.

Ms Mene noted that Committees could take decisions only if there were enough Members to form a quorum, which constituted half of the committee plus one person who must be present at the meeting. In the event that a particular Committee could not form a quorum from its own Members, the Committee could also co-opt members from other Committees, or postpone decision making process. Committee programmes had to be approved by the House Chairperson. When Members went on oversight trips, or a meeting was held outside Parliament, then the Chief Whip should be informed because this person was responsible for the House sitting.
The reason that Committees had to exercise oversight over Departments was that the Committees mirrored government departments. Because Parliament had now been enacting legislation for the past 14 years, the Fourth Parliament had to make sure that the legislation was being properly implemented, through the oversight process. 
The tools and mechanisms that were used for oversight were two fold. Firstly, the Committees could invite the Minister or Departmental officials to account, in a meeting situation. Committees could also conduct oversight visits, inviting local provincial and national officials together with the affected communities, to a meeting. Such a meeting would eliminate the “finger pointing syndrome”, where one put the blame on another who was not present. The Departments were expected to report on the work they had done. The Committees could use the annual and quarterly report to see how money was spent. The findings would be used when the Committee compiled its annual Report, and that report would be presented to the Minister and the National Treasury before the Budget vote. The relevant Minister would be obliged, in the event that he or she had not implemented the recommendations of the Committee, to explain why this had not been done.

Ms Mene then turned to the monitoring of legislation. She indicated that Parliament had passed over one thousand pieces of legislation, and the Committees must monitor any legislation that was relevant to them. Committees were allowed to amend legislation without waiting for Departments to initiate the process.
The Committee Section was also expected to submit the weekly, monthly and quarterly reports to the House Chairperson on the work done by the Committee. The Chairperson of the Committee had to give an overview of the work of the Committee. All the abovementioned reports must have attendance registers for all specific political parties.

Ms Mathibela asked what would happen if a Minister refused to appear before the Committee.

Ms Mene replied that Ministers’ diaries and schedules were booked in advance, because Ministers had to deal with trips overseas, party political commitments and Cabinet commitments. It sometimes happened that a Committee would invite a Minister to appear before it in the following week, rather than booking the Minister in advance. There were, however, emergency cases where Ministers could be summoned in a short space of time.

Ms Mathibela wanted to know the reason that reports were not signed.

Ms Mene responded that the Committee Secretary drafted reports, and then the Report would be referred to the Committee for consideration and adoption at a meeting. The Committee Secretary would then make the necessary amendments, and that report should be signed by the Committee Chairperson. The report would be published in the ATC and debated in the House. She said that there were some cases that caused tension between the support staff and the Committee itself. The problem usually came when Committees made recommendations that were unprocedural. All Committees had to respect the laws of the country and Parliament. She cited an example of a recommendation that was made to dismiss the management of a mine, who had been responsible for health and safety issues, after an incident in which miners had died. The separation of powers must be respected at all times. Parliament, being the legislature, should not try to play the role of the judiciary. It had happened that when the Committee Section advised the Members that they must rephrase their recommendation, with the help of the House Chairperson, Members would sometimes not take kindly to the suggestion and say that they were expected to serve their constituencies.

Mr Lucas commented that the opposition should not oppose for the sake of opposition, but that Members who constituted a Committee should work together.
Mr Zakhele Hlongwane, Departmental Parliamentary Liaison Officer,  asked for clarity on the powers of committees to make recommendations. He also asked what had happened to the idea of taking Parliament to the people. He further enquired who was responsible for the ratification of international agreements.

Ms Mene replied that the Committees were to be seen as an extension of the House. Committees would make recommendations, and amend the Bills, while the House would approve the final Bills after they had been to the Committees, who would undertook all the necessary spadework.

Ms Mene noted that international agreements were agreed to by the Executive, and it was the Executive who must brief the Committees on the implications of the international agreements. The Committees could only recommend to the House some amendments.
Ms Mene reported that the “Peoples Assembly” and “Taking Parliament to the People” were projects of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). The NCOP were to compile a report and send it to the Deputy President’s Office, She admitted that she did not know what happened to the report afterwards. 

Mandate of this Portfolio Committee: Deliberation and adoption 
The Chairperson said that the developmental goals and the current political developments in the country should inform the decisions of this Portfolio Committee. South Africa was rich in mineral deposits yet the majority of the citizens were trapped in grinding poverty. He invited Members to comment on and amend the document on the mandate, which he tabled.
Prof L Ndabandaba (ANC) suggested the insertion of the word “concomitant” after the word “mining” in the second line of the first paragraph.
The Chairperson suggested that Members should look at Rule 200 of the mandate on composition of Committees. The rule stated that a Portfolio Committee should have not less than 15 Members and more than 40 Members. The Portfolio Committee on Mining found it was difficult to have 15 Members attending a meeting, and he pointed out that some Members did not attend certain meetings at all, as they were overstretched.

Ms Mathibela said that Mr Diale had three Committees that sometimes held meetings on the same day. He found it simply impossible, from a health point of view, to attend some of those meetings.

The Chairperson mentioned that he would raise the matter with the Chairperson of Chairpersons.

The Chairperson read out the mandate.

Prof Ndabandaba suggested minor technical amendments.
Members then adopted the Mandate document.

The Chairperson asked Mr Hlongwane to forward the details of all the State Owned Enterprises that reported to the Committee.

Committee Programme: Second Term:  
The Chairperson tabled and summarised the draft Programme, which had gone through the Parliamentary processes. The report on illegal mining would be dealt with at a later stage. He said that the mine visits would be guided by the report on illegal mining. He emphasised that there would not be a surprise visit. The Committee would be accompanied by law enforcement officers, because of the threat posed by the syndicate bosses who were running the illegal mining. He mentioned the notorious hostels in the Free State Province. Members would meet with mine management and other stakeholders from the province.

He noted that on 19 August, the Committee would look at the implementation of the Mining Health and Safety Act measures in relation to mine management. He said that the Department should play a role on enforcing the Health and Safety Act.
Beneficiation would also be an area that needed to be fast tracked, because it was linked to job creation. The mining industry had been bleeding jobs profusely, and the communities that resided around the mine complained that they were not benefiting from the wealth that was extracted from beneath their feet. This issue was linked to the broader transformation strategy. All State Owned Enterprises that were linked to the mining industry should brief the Committee on their activities. This would be done after the Department had briefed the Committee in relation to its five-year strategic plan. He said that he was concerned that the Chinese and the Russian investors who were allegedly ready to invest in the mining sector had not done so. He wanted to know what was holding this up, and said that some foreign investors might have ulterior political agendas.

The Chairperson also expressed his concerns about the delays in developing the Exholobeni, Eastern Cape, and the titanium deposit in that area. Environmentalist groups were concerned about damage to the natural ecosystem. There should be a middle way that could balance the needs of the environment and help to eradicate poverty in the area. Eight Members would form the delegation that would visit the mines.
Prof Ndabandaba said that he was saddened by the dilapidated nature of the once-successful mine schools in Vryheid. He suggested that mining houses should intervene to change the situation.

Mr Marais said that he was willing to be part of the delegation to the mines.

Ms Mathibela said that a certain mine in Lydenburg was employing foreigners who had entered the country illegally, and it was alleged that some of these miners had died whilst working, yet the mine management had not even reported the deaths, so that their families were completely unaware of what had happened to their loved ones.

Mr Lucas questioned the logistics of the visit to the mines and suggested that it needed to be rearranged. 
The Chairperson replied that he had consulted with the Department around the logistics of the trip, but Members were free to change the arrangement, and the travel agents would assist. He urged that Members attending should thoroughly read the Mining Health and Safety Guide in preparation for the trip.

Members adopted the programme as tabled.

The meeting was adjourned.


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