South African Human Rights Commissioners: legality of nomination process

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Justice and Correctional Services

24 August 2009
Chairperson: Mr N Ramatlodi (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met to discuss the interview short-list of candidates nominated to fill the commissioner vacancies at the South African Human Rights Commission. However, before they could engage with the short-listing of candidates, there was a discussion about the legality of certain names appearing on the candidate list. There were concerns that some nomination letters had been received after the 19 August extended deadline and that a few names had been self-nominated. The Committee Secretary clarified that while all curricula vitae had been submitted by 19 August, some of the formal nomination and acceptance letters had arrived later. The Committee decided to seek legal advice and adjourned the meeting. There followed an informal discussion to enable inter-party consensus-seeking on a candidate short-list.

Meeting report

The Chairperson noted that in the Committee’s previous meeting there had been a proposal that perhaps 15 persons be short-listed.

Mr M Oriani-Ambrosini (IFP) called for a point of clarity. He stated that the Committee had decided to consider candidates who had submitted applications up until 19 August 2009. Given that the process was nominations-driven, he had asked the Committee Secretary for a list of the nominations on Friday 21 August 2009.  Mr Oriani-Ambrosini said that he had only received the list that morning. Some of the resumés had not been received by the deadline of 19 August 2009. Consequently would the Committee be considering candidates numbered 107, 115, 117,118, 119, 120, 121, 122, and 123 that appeared on the list?

Mr Vhonani Ramaano, Committee Secretary, responded that on the 19 August 2009 the CVs of all the candidates had been handed out to committee members. At that point, formal nomination letters had not yet been received. Some nomination letters had been received on Friday 21 August 2009. He pointed out that out of the 11 nominations by the ANC, 9 nominees had given their acceptance.

Mr Oriani-Ambrosini said that if nominations had been received on 21 August 2009, these had been received after the deadline. The Committee could thus not consider them.

Mr Ramaano stated that he understood that everything received before or on 19 August 2009 could be considered. He noted that the ANC nominations numbered 1-11 had been submitted on or before 19 August 2009.

Mr Oriani-Ambrosini felt that the Chair needed to clarify the facts about resumés received before the cut-off date and nominations received after the cut-off date.

Ms D Smuts (DA) stated that the Committee had agreed to accept late nominations on the 19 August 2009. She asked the Committee Secretary if it was correct that there were two candidates who had no nominations. She proposed that candidates 121 and 123 who had not received any nomination, should not be considered by the Committee.

Mr S Holomisa (ANC) asked whether a candidate had to be nominated.

Mr Ramaano replied that a candidate did have to be nominated.

Ms Smuts said that the issue of nominating candidates had been discussed in the past but required further discussion.

Mr Holomisa felt that candidates that had not been nominated should nevertheless be considered by the Committee.

Mr Oriani-Ambrosini asked whether a self nomination was considered a nomination. He noted that there were 107 resumés that were in order. No self nominations had been received. He believed that the Committee had to deal with nominations.

The Chair noted the concerns and said that the Committee needed to summarise what had been done thus far.

Mr Oriani-Ambrosini felt that the Chair should make a ruling on whether there should be consideration of resumés or nominations. He felt that the Committee should not consider resumés but should consider nominations.

The Chair said that members were being too technical. It could hamper the task at hand. The candidates on the list before the Committee would be considered. He had noted the observations of members. Mr Ramatlodi felt that the Committee had done quite well up until this point. He said that the process needed to move forward.

Ms Smuts emphasised that candidates 121 and 123 should not be considered by the Committee. She pointed out that these candidates did not have nominations and acceptance papers. She also asked that the Committee should discuss its previous meeting’s minutes. She pointed out that two persons whom the opposition parties had nominated, had been left out of the list of candidates before the Committee. The two individuals referred to were Ms Christina Bentley and Ms Janet Cherry.

Mr S Swarts (ACDP) said that Mr Len Joubert was a further nomination by the opposition parties. He noted that the opposition was happy with its nominations and said that the opposition and the ANC were almost in consensus as far as candidates were concerned.

Mr Oriani-Ambrosini asked that it be noted that he objected to Mr Joubert as a candidate.

The Chair reminded members that the Committee was in the initial stages of the process and that members should not be too inflexible. He did however note that there were some serious objections to some of the ANC nominations. Some of the ANC nominees could be removed, whilst it would be preferable for others to stay. He did not see the Committee finalising the process in the current meeting. Members should take their views and objections back to their respective parties and discuss matters. The negotiations amongst parties would not take place within the confines of a Committee meeting. The Committee would hence have something to show for their efforts and table what had been agreed upon at the next meeting.

Mr Oriani-Ambrosini supported the Chair’s suggestion.

The Chair stated that he did not wish to complicate matters. He wanted Committee members to work together even if it was outside the confines of a formal Committee meeting. Mr Ramatlodi stated that there was an emerging consensus and it needed to be nursed along.

Mr Swarts said that the Committee should consider the legality of the nominations process.

The Committee Secretary announced that advice on the issue was in the pipeline and would be available to the Committee shortly.

Mr Oriani-Ambrosini referred to candidates 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 122 and 107 and asked if it was correct that their nominations had been received on Friday 21 and Monday 24 August 2009.

The Committee Secretary responded that the nominations of candidates 92, 107 and 118 had arrived before the closing date. He was not quite sure what Mr Oriani-Ambrosini was asking.

Mr Oriani-Ambrosini clarified that what he was saying was that the aforementioned candidates’ nominations did not meet the process requirements.

Mr S Ntapane (UDM) said that the Committee should appoint capable people. Members should not be too technical. He felt that there was too much emphasis on technicalities.

Mr Holomisa agreed that capable persons should be appointed. The Committee had agreed to allow more persons to apply. The issue was whether persons who did not have nominations and an acceptance letter should be considered by the Committee. He agreed with the Chair that the Committee should not whittle down the list in a meeting which was open to the public.

Ms Smuts suggested that all the different political parties constituting the Committee could perhaps discuss the short-listing over a cup of coffee. She felt the legality issue to be of importance.

Mr Oriani-Ambrosini appreciated the suggestions made by members and said that he would represent the Inkatha Freedom Party in such discussions.

The Chair said that the Committee needed to consider the legality issue in order to do things the right way. They must have clarity on the issue before the process could be taken forward.

Mr Holomisa asked if Mr Oriani-Ambrosini was saying that the 11 candidates on the ANC list had been submitted without nominations and that nominations were given in only after the 19 August 2009. This consequently meant that those individuals could not be considered for appointment. He asked what the law said on the issue.

The Committee Secretary suggested that the Committee adjourn for ten minutes in order for him to obtain advice on the legality issue.

The meeting was adjourned and Committee proceeded to have an informal discussion on the short-listing of possible candidates.



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