Assessment of public hearings on Labour Brokering & the Way Forward

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Employment and Labour

31 August 2009
Chairperson: Ms L E Yengeni (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Members of the Committee discussed the submissions presented during the public hearings on labour brokering on 25th and 26th August 2009.  The submissions highlighted the lack of benefits applicable to temporary workers, for example low wages, long hours, no medical aid or pension benefits and no paid annual or sick leave.  Labour brokers deducted a fee charge from the wages of workers recruited and placed by them.  Temporary workers were discouraged from joining trade unions, received little training and were excluded from the protection afforded by prescribed disciplinary procedures.  The duration of temporary work contracts was not limited and temporary workers could work for years without being appointed on a permanent basis.  Existing labour legislation and regulations made no specific provision for labour broking practices and services.  The allowable fee deduction was not specified and varied from 3.8% to 70% of the worker’s wages.  The industry admitted that ill-treatment and abuse of workers was taking place.  The industry was worth R23 billion per annum.

Representatives of the interested parties present at the hearings failed to provide the Committee with adequate definitions of labour brokers and the employer.  Members of the Committee likened labour broking to human trafficking and slavery and roundly condemned the abuse of workers perpetuated by the system.  Members felt that labour broking made no contribution towards skills development and employment equity objectives.  Labour brokers cautioned against job losses if the industry was eliminated and indicated a willingness to comply with legislative and regulatory requirements.  The position of the different political parties was made clear during the hearings.  The ANC and IFP were against labour broking and proposed that the industry was banned.  The DA proposed that the industry was better controlled through legislation and regulation.  COPE suggested a review of existing legislation and suggested that the experience gained and models developed by other countries were considered.

Discussions during the hearings became heated and emotional.  The General Secretary of COSATU made a remark that the DA considered to be threatening.  Representatives of labour brokers were offended by the comments of some of the Members, likening labour broking to human trafficking and slavery.  The Chairperson did not call the participants concerned to order during the hearings and the DA subsequently made a statement in the National Assembly, questioning the competence of the Chairperson.  The ANC Members of the Committee raised the issue during the meeting and the Members and Chairperson took the DA to task for failing to discuss their complaints with the Committee before taking the matter public in the National Assembly.  A Member from the DA explained the party’s motivation for issuing the statement.  The statement made by the DA did not reflect the views of the Committee and the Chairperson undertook to draft a follow-up statement for submission to the House.

In response to suggestions made during the hearings, the Committee decided to call a second level of public hearings at the provincial level.  The Committee awaited the report on the hearings held on 25th and 26th August 2009 from the Committee Section before continuing discussions on the submissions.  The second round of provincial public hearings was included in the Committee programme.

Meeting report

The Chairperson stated that the meeting was called to assess the submissions made at the public hearings on labour brokering held on 25 and 26 August 2009. Advertisements were placed in the press, calling on interested parties to comment and submit their views to the Committee.  She said that she had not answered any questions pertaining to the view of the ANC on the issue of labour brokering when she was interviewed.

Mr A Louw (DA) said that the submissions made during the public hearings included very touchy issues and the personal testimonies of people subjected to ill-treatment and abuse. He said that the Democratic Alliance (DA) was completely against the exploitation and ill-treatment of workers and labour brokers guilty of abusing their position must be taken to task. However, the informative submissions received from other parties also needed to be taken into account. Although abuses did occur in certain sections of the industry, consideration must be given to the positive contributions made, particularly with regard to the creation of employment. Some of the contributors played a pivotal role in the facilitation of employment opportunities. The DA strongly condemned the exploitation and ill-treatment of workers but pointed out that other participants were working to the book and were prepared to comply with legislative and regulatory requirements. The DA urged that recognition was given to the positive aspects as well.

Mr I Ollis (DA) concurred with the summary provided by Mr Louw.

Mr W Madisha (COPE) welcomed the contributions made by the participants during the public hearings.  He was of the opinion that the participants were prepared and that most of them came to the hearings with a clear mandate.  Although there were problems and differences of approach between the organisations and individuals who made submissions, all parties shared the same objectives, namely the creation and protection of jobs. He said that the position taken by each of the political parties and the various labour unions differed on the issue of labour brokering as well. He suggested that the Committee found a way to reach consensus and that compromises were made by the different parties to allow the Committee to present a unified front for the benefit of the 40% of the population that was unemployed.

Mr F Gona (ANC) had found the submissions made at the public hearings to have been highly charged and emotional. He said that the public response had been overwhelming and it was clear that the Committee faced a mammoth task in dealing with labour brokering. Some of the labour brokers had displayed at least a theoretical intention to work within the system and had made suggestions to establish systems to regulate the industry. There was a general acknowledgement of instances where the system was abused. However, when the Committee asked questions of the participants in an effort to identify the gaps and anomalies in the legislation and regulations, the participants failed to provide detailed information.  Although guidelines were not suggested, participants representing labour brokering organisations were opposed to the over-regulation of the industry.

Mr Gona likened the personal testimony of victims of abuse by labour brokers to the testimonies of victims heard by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). He was appalled that the current system still allowed the treatment of people in a manner akin to slavery. He rejected the claims made by labour brokers that they provided jobs and said that labour brokers merely placed workers in jobs that had been created by companies, which was not in itself a problem. The problem was that the practice increased the risk of abuse of workers. The labour brokers played the role of the employer but referred to the employees concerned as “assignees”.  The use of such a term indicated that people working for labour brokers were not categorised as workers.

Mr Gona said that there appeared to be unexpected consequences of the legislative framework and some people referred to labour brokering as human trafficking.  He pointed out that labour brokers earned an income by placing people in jobs but the amount charged by the broker was not specified.  The fee or commission charged varied from 3% to as much as 70% of the wages earned by the worker.  The industry was worth some R23 billion p.a. but this was money taken from the sweat of workers and went to the brokers rather than accruing to the workers who earned it.  Although the Constitution made provision for the right to decent work and fair labour practice, the labour broker system did not provide workers with any benefits, such as annual or sick leave, pensions or medical aid benefits.

Mr Gona was appalled by the level of abuse that existed in the labour brokering system.  The submissions included reports of the use made of child labour and of subjecting women to sexual abuse and degrading practices like strip-searching.  He said that Parliament had failed to condemn these abuses and allowed the system to exist through current legislation.  He called on Parliament to question the need for the labour brokering system.  He asked if Parliament could allow labour brokering to continue, given the atrocities that were committed against workers.

The Chairperson asked Members and the Committee support staff to take notes as proceedings were not recorded.

Mr E Nyekemba (ANC) said that, prior to the public hearings on 25 and 26 August 2009, the Committee had held a workshop on 11 and 12 August 2009 on the issue of labour brokering.  Three labour unions were invited to submit presentations at the workshop but only COSATU attended.  The
National Council of Trade Unions (NACTU) and the Federation of Unions in South Africa (FEDUSA) did not attend.  The invitations to the workshop were an indication that the Committee was open to engagement on the issue.  The Centre for Rural Legal Studies briefed the Committee on the research conducted by the organisation one week prior to the public hearings.  The Committee requested the Centre for Rural Legal Studies for a full report on the research undertaken, which was subsequently provided.

Mr Nyekemba expressed disappointment in the statement released by the DA on 19th August 2009, immediately after the report from the Centre for Rural Legal Studies was received.  Members of the Committee had questioned the representatives of the Centre, as they were entitled to do.  He felt that the comments made in the statement by the DA about the ANC were incorrect.  During the National Assembly held the previous week, the DA had attacked the Chairperson of the Committee in a Member Statement.  The Member Statement referred to the incompetence of the Chairperson of the Committee during the public hearings.  He felt that the Chairperson was attacked by a Member of the Committee before the Committee had an opportunity to determine whether the work done by the Committee was acceptable.  He said that the attack on the Chairperson by one of its Members constituted an attack on the Committee.  He felt that the matter should have been discussed by the Committee before being brought up in the National Assembly.  He said that the intention of some of the Members appeared to be to “drag the name of certain individuals through the mud”.  Claims were maid that there was swearing during the public hearings but the Chairperson had remained silent and did not call the offenders to order.  He deplored the methods employed by the DA in the handling of the matter and requested an explanation on the reasons for taking the chosen course of action.

Mr Nyekemba said that many submissions were received from labour broking organisations as well as from individuals.  It became clear that there was a lack of legislation to control labour brokering activities.  Labour brokers “hid behind” the provisions of Section 198 of the Labour Relations Act.  However, the section concerned made no reference to labour brokers.  Statistics concerning the training provided were submitted but the presenters were unable to respond to questions from Members pertaining to the Skills Development Act, for example what training was provided by labour brokers when equipment and training was provided by the company employing workers provided by the labour broker.

Mr Nyekemba said that two trade unions had requested the Committee to go to the people in the provinces and had called for State intervention in dealing with labour brokering.

Mr P Chauke (ANC) said that the Committee awaited the report on the public hearings from the Committee Section. All the submissions made at the public hearings would be summarised in the report and would assist the Committee to follow up on the issues raised.  The subsequent conduct of the Members from the DA was a separate issue.

Ms A Rantsolase (ANC) felt that the complaint made by the DA in the National Assembly was not justified and that an apology from the DA was required.  Although the proceedings in the public hearings ran late, she agreed with the Chairperson’s decision to allow as much time as necessary for submissions and discussions. In all her time as a Member of Parliament, she had never seen such a “fight on the floor”. It was unfortunate that all participants had differing positions, which was understandable as different constituencies were represented. English was not her first language but she understood nonsense when it was spoken. She felt that it was not correct to say that the Chairperson was incompetent and had insulted presenters by saying that labour brokering was comparable to human trafficking. The Chairperson did not say that.

Ms Rantsolase said that no-one could provide a definition of a labour broker.  The provision of temporary services was different to labour brokering but the difference was not clarified.  The questions asked by the Members of the Committee on whether or not the selling of a person’s labour was akin to human trafficking was an attempt to understand the difference.  She suggested that the Committee listened to the recording of the hearings to clarify what was actually said.  It was important to understand the difference between the content of the submissions and the actual practice of labour brokering.  All the organised labour unions called for labour brokering to be defined as it was not covered in existing legislation.

With regard to the issue of training, Ms Rantsolase suggested that the opinion of individuals on the ground was sought on the claims made by labour brokers in the submissions.  Clear definitions of ‘labour brokering’, the ‘employer’ and the ‘employee’ were required in legislation.  All the labour brokers represented at the hearings agreed that employee benefits were not provided to the workers and that people were being exploited and ill-treated.  All agreed that the current system allowed the exploitation and abuse of workers and should no longer be tolerated.  The employer was blamed for the abuse of the system but no-one was able to determine who the employer was.  She suggested that the Committee focused on the issue of labour brokering rather than on who complied or not.  It was unclear what the practitioners were supposed to comply with.  There was no provision in current legislation for a limit on the fees or charges a labour broker was allowed to deduct from the worker’s wages.  There was confusion over which laws applied to temporary employment services.  The current situation was shameful and should not be allowed to continue.

Ms Rantsolase said that none of the labour brokers complied with the Skills Development Act and the Employment Equity Act.  She wanted to know how the labour brokers would comply with any new legislation introduced when they did not comply with existing laws.  The labour brokers profited from the labour of the workers.  The submissions from individuals highlighted the abuse suffered by workers but no solutions were offered and no efforts were made by the labour brokers to correct the situation.  Labour brokering affected all levels of society and was a divisive system.  Temporary workers provided by labour brokers were treated differently from the permanent employees of the company.  Temporary workers were discriminated against; different working conditions applied to them and they did not enjoy the same benefits as permanent employees.  The temporary workers were denied training by permanent employees and the situation caused tension on the shop floor.

Ms Rantsolase asked if the experience of labour brokering in South Africa was similar to the situation in Namibia.  Although the Labour Relations Act and the Basic Conditions of Employment act governed employer/employee relationships, questions arose on whether the legislation covered labour brokering and whether the labour brokers conformed to the laws.  During the hearings, the presenters admitted that a few of the operators complied with the legislation but the majority did not.  Questions were asked on whether the selling of labour was not comparable to the selling of people for sexual purposes.  In this respect, labour brokering was akin to human trafficking.  The questions asked on the reasons why employers did not employ their own staff were not satisfactorily answered.  It was claimed that employers were reluctant to apply the legal requirements for the provision of benefits and disciplinary action against employees.  Temporary employees provided by labour brokers were treated unfairly and were “dismissed like dogs”.  She felt that the Committee needed to look deeper into the matter and thoroughly analysed all the issues raised during the hearings.  The Committee must be seen to protect the people from abuse.  The relationship between labour brokers and workers was ambiguous; the workers were not adequately protected by legislation and were ignorant of their rights.

Ms Rantsolase referred to an expert report on the issue released in 2003 and suggested the Committee revisited the report.  She recalled that there were tense negotiations between Government, organised labour and employers in 2007.  She said that it was necessary to clarify the definition of ‘decent job’, ‘labour brokering’ and where labour brokering fitted into the system.  Clarity was required on the changes necessary to legislation and the method used to ensure that labour brokers complied with the legislation.  During the public hearings, claims were made that labour relations were over-regulated and prevented the country from attracting investment.  Under the apartheid Government, the situation was better as labour brokers were not allowed and temporary work was limited to a term of six months.  She considered labour brokering to be nothing more than human trafficking unless it was defined otherwise.  She felt that more public hearings on the issue were necessary.

Ms R Tsotetsi (ANC) noted that labour brokers employed more males than females so that they could “enjoy the fruits of slave labour”. She remarked that Government was blamed whenever things went wrong and nothing was said about the action taken by people that resulted in the problem.  She cited the example of teachers taking early retirement, spending the retirement package paid out to them and then blaming Government for being unemployed.  She said that labour brokering defeated the objective of providing decent jobs. The labour brokers themselves were unable to define exactly what constituted labour brokering. She asked what the Committee’s mandate on the issue was. The different parties represented may differ politically but all were subject to the Constitution and the law.  Members of Parliament were obliged to defend the rights of the people.  She noted that people of all races were begging on the streets but labour brokers avoided employing poor whites and targeted blacks and coloureds because they knew that a white person was more likely to be aware of his rights.  She questioned the veracity of the claims made that the demise of labour brokering would increase the rate of unemployment in the country. During the apartheid era, the ANC called for sanctions against the country because the organisation wanted to cripple the economy. The organisation was aware that sanctions would result in job losses and increased levels of poverty.  She asked why labour brokers did not employ more people if it was such a good system for eradicating unemployment.

Mr V Ndlovu (IFP) wondered why the ANC did not anticipate the action taken by the DA. He said that labour brokering was the 21st century’s version of slavery; workers were bought and sold and cheap labour allowed for super profits to be made. Claims were made that the banning of labour brokering would create more unemployment and that the exploitation of workers was part of the system and would not end if labour brokers were banned. However, people must not be subjected to slavery and be bought and sold by someone for the purpose of making money out of them.  He said that the matter must be investigated further at the provincial level. He cited the example of temporary workers in supermarkets, who had worked for twenty years without any benefits, who were not allowed to join labour unions, were paid low wages, worked long hours and had no medical aid or paid leave benefits. The current system was indefensible and regardless of what was done, the people must not be failed.  He felt that labour brokering cannot be reformed.  The practice was not needed and must be completely destroyed.

Mr Madisha agreed with the comments made by the Members and that labour brokering was a problem. He pointed out that many foreigners were working in low-level jobs. By targeting supermarkets, other institutions making extensive use of temporary workers escaped scrutiny.  He cited the example of professional football and rugby players, who were effectively owned by agents and who were bought and sold to the clubs. He agreed that the Committee needed to extend the investigation into labour brokering to the provinces and suggested that other institutions making use of labour broking services were included.  Labour brokering was a substantial market, involving billions of Rands.  He suggested that the Committee obtained factual information and based any decisions concerning legislative changes on empirical information gathered.  He felt that a review of the existing legislation was required.  The primary employer must be determined and the role of labour brokering must be clarified.  The Committee needed to establish the situation at all levels of society and know exactly what people were saying in order to make informed decisions.

Mr Madisha asked if standard practices regarding salaries and wages, employer/employee relationships, skills development and fees for brokering services could be enforced if labour brokers were organised under a responsible entity.  The question needed to be asked if existing legislation was applicable and effective in dealing with labour brokering.  He wanted to know if the problems with labour brokering could be corrected if the industry was effectively regulated.  He noted that sections of the Labour Relations Act were not implemented by labour brokering.

Mr Madisha suggested that the Committee considered the experience gained and models developed in other countries (for example Namibia and the Netherlands) in addition to the local input received. He said that labour brokers were motivated by profit-making and would do anything to increase profits.  He asked if labour brokers would simply go underground if the industry was controlled and regulated.  The exploitation of workers could be expected to escalate.  Regulation of the industry will ensure control over the operations of labour brokers, for example audited annual financial statements and skills development reports would have to be submitted for scrutiny.  The Committee had to acknowledge that labour brokers were making profits out of workers and that the industry was not controlled.  Government must not fail the people by allowing the exploitation of workers to continue.

Mr Nyekemba understood that the discussion at the meeting was restricted to an assessment of the submissions made during the public hearings.  Other Members of the Committee were however presenting suggestions for the way forward and he, Mr Gona and Mr Louw had not been afforded the same opportunity to present their views on that aspect as they were limited to what had transpired during the public hearings.  He requested clarity on the subjects under discussion in the meeting.

The Chairperson replied that the current discussion was an assessment of the submissions made during the public hearings and that time would be allowed at a later stage for all Members to present their views on the way forward.

In response to the comments made by Members concerning the statement by the DA in the National Assembly, Mr Louw said that the DA had supported the Chairperson from the time of her appointment. He had personally congratulated the Chairperson on her appointment and had stated that the DA looked forward to working with her for the next five years and wished to add value to the activities of the Committee. He suggested that the recording of the proceedings in the National Assembly was listened to in order to establish what exactly was said by the DA.

Responding to the question asked by Mr Nyekemba, Mr Louw stated that he came from Kimberly in the Northern Cape, where 52% of the population was black coloured people. Many of the young people in the province were uneducated and Government was the biggest provider of employment in the area.  He wanted to know what was wrong with labour brokers wanting to facilitate employment and approaching the unemployed youth in the province with job offers. He said that potential employees had to conform to certain requirements before they could be appointed to positions.

Mr Chauke interrupted Mr Louw and called a point of order. He said that the purpose of public hearings was for the Committee to receive input on an issue from the public. Comments made by Members of the Committee indicated that the process of public hearings had not yet been completed.  The debate of other issues arising from the public hearings and the different party positions on the matter was premature and should be avoided.  He suggested that the Committee noted the position of the different political parties and reached agreement that the process had not been completed before continuing the debate on the submissions made at the hearings.  He said that the position of the political parties was relevant when the Committee was discussing legislative changes.  He suggested that the DA was given an opportunity to respond to the questions concerning the statement made in the National Assembly and clarified the position taken by the DA at this stage in the proceedings, before the Committee continued to discuss the public hearing submissions.

The Chairperson noted Mr Chauke’s comments. She wanted to know the motivation behind the DA’s statement in the National Assembly. She said that she came from a democratic organisation and enjoyed hearing all points of view. She encouraged Members to raise their concerns and wanted to know what was said that constituted an insult to the participants at the public hearings.

Mr Louw expressed surprise at the Chairperson’s comments.  He said that everyone was given the opportunity to voice their opinions but when he attempted to build a platform for his argument, he was silenced.

The Chairperson said that she wanted to hear what was said at the hearings that was interpreted as an insult and motivated the DA’s statement.  She said that the questions asked by the Members of the Committee were to obtain clarity on the role of labour brokers. There was a clear distinction between the role of placement agencies and labour brokers. There was no problem with placement agencies. She said that what was said during the public hearings had been misinterpreted and distorted by the media.

Mr Louw said that the remark made by
Mr Zwelinzima Vavi (General Secretary: COSATU) during the hearings was very intimidating and sounded like a threat.  Mr Vavi had said “Do you want a street fight? We do this every day. We can go outside.” He expected the Chairperson to call Mr Vavi to order but she had done nothing. He accepted that one could not always control what was said during public hearings. With no regard for the facts, Mr Ollis was called a foreigner by one of the presenters. Again, the Chairperson did not call the person concerned to order. The term “human trafficking” became the order of the day and caused much offence to the presenters, who was insulted by being labeled as human traffickers and slavers. At one point, Mr Suraj Maharaj (President: Association of Personnel Service Organisations (APSO)) asked for protection from the Chairperson against the accusation that his organisation was involved in slavery but the Chairperson took no action.  He requested that Mr Ollis was given an opportunity to address the Committee as well.

The Chairperson said that Mr Ollis was a Member of the Committee and knew the procedure to be followed if he wished to speak. She said that all Members of the Committee were entitled to participate in discussions.

Ms Rantsolase said that she had apologised to Mr Ollis for the remarks made against him during the public hearings. She suggested that the meeting proceeded with the discussion of the issues raised during the public hearings.  She pointed out that several issues had not been clarified during the hearings, for example the definition of a labour broker, the sectoral determination and the fees charged by labour brokers.  The comparison to human trafficking in the questions asked by the Members was an attempt to understand what labour brokering was about.  Even Government made use of the services of labour brokers.  The issue of freedom of association had also not been resolved.  She suggested that the Committee continued to discuss the submissions, decided on the way forward and approached the people on the ground on the matter before deciding on the best approach to be adopted.

Ms Tsotetsi remarked that people interpreted words like “slavery” differently. She cautioned against getting bogged down in semantics.

Mr Ollis wished to respond to two questions raised by Members: how the Members felt about the hearings and what had been learned. The comment was made that “all agreed that the system was exploitive”. He disagreed with the statement as there was a difference between some exploitation of the system and always exploiting the system.

The Chairperson interrupted Mr Ollis and asked if he was speaking on behalf of himself or on behalf of the labour brokers. She said that she would not allow Members to speak on behalf of other parties who were not present during Committee Meetings.

Mr Ollis reiterated his position that it was not correct to say that the system was always exploited by labour brokers. He said that it was also not true to say that no proposals to fix the problem were made. The Committee did receive proposals from Solidarity, APSO and Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) but the suggestions were not discussed. Examples of suggestions included the need for the joint accountability of labour brokers and employers and the establishment of a tripartite board to control labour brokering. It was therefore incorrect to say that no proposals were received from the participants at the public hearings.

The Chairperson said that she would not allow Members to comment on behalf of labour brokers in Committee meetings. She was prepared to discuss the remark made by Mr Vavi in terms of its motivation for the DA’s subsequent statement. Members were to express their own views at the meeting and to make their comments on behalf of labour brokers outside the meeting.

Mr Gona asked what the procedure was for Members to deal with instances where they had been offended. He asked why the DA did not refer their complaint to the Committee but had chosen to “play to the gallery” by raising the matter in the National Assembly.

Mr Louw referred to Ms Rantsolase’s suggestion that the Committee continued with discussions on the submissions. He asked if the Committee was going to move on or continue to belabour the issue of the DA’s statement. Earlier, he was prevented from speaking on a number of issues.

Mr Chauke said that the issue under discussion was on how Members of the Committee should conduct themselves and he thought that he had clarified the matter in his earlier remarks. Mr Louw had listed a number of points that had led to the DA’s statement in the National Assembly.  He said that Members should not expect to be treated gently by members of the public during public hearings and that Members of Parliament should be able to absorb the remarks made by participants. He felt that the remark made by Mr Vavi and the failure of the Chairperson to protect the Member concerned was very wrong. The incident forced the DA to take a position on the matter.  The Chairperson allowed ample time for everyone to speak at the hearings.  He felt that Members of the Committee should support the Chairperson and all Members had the right to raise their hands if they disagreed with the manner in which the Chairperson conducted the proceedings.

Mr Chauke remarked that politicians liked to play to the gallery but felt that it was wrong for a Member of the Committee to criticise the Chairperson in public. Such action was not conducive to enabling the Committee to do its work. He felt that it was wrong if Members took a party position up front, before the process of public hearings had been completed.  He agreed that the process concerning labour brokering had not been completed and that a number of suggestions had been made during the public hearings that required further discussion.  He suggested that the Committee received the report on the hearings from the Committee Section before discussing the matter further.  The second tier of public hearings at the provincial level still had to take place and he warned the Members that they could expect harsh treatment from the public at that level.

The Chairperson conceded that the Committee was unable to continue with the process of assessing the submissions and deciding on the way forward until the program of public hearings had been completed.  She noted that the question concerning the procedures to be followed and the behaviour of Members of the Committee remained unresolved.  he understood that the Member concerned had read out a written statement in the National Assembly.  She accepted that Members had different views on the issue of labour brokering but the Committee needed to present a unified front and Members should not fight in public. Members needed to understand how the Committee operated. The perception created by media reports was that the view of the ANC dominated and no second opinion was allowed. Different communities had different thoughts about the issue of labour brokering.

The Chairperson said that labour brokering resulted in a class war as some were benefiting to the detriment of others. She said that racism between the black and coloured communities was brewing on farms, particularly in the Western Cape, which was under DA control.  The issue of exploitation of workers by labour brokers was sidelined.  Labour brokers practiced slavery and dictated to workers which language they had to use at work.  She said that labour brokers were in the business of selling people and the practice was nothing more than human trafficking. Nothing was said in the DA statement about this aspect.  There were many different definitions of labour brokering but ultimately, the labour of workers could never be a commodity that was sold by labour brokers.  After two days of public hearings, she remained convinced that labour brokers were selling human beings.  The labour brokers were unable to provide clarity to the Committee on the issue but were insulted when they were likened to human traffickers.

The Chairperson said that the matter must be taken to the House and the record put straight. She challenged the DA to listen to what the workers on farms had to say about labour brokering. The statement by the DA made no mention of the plight of workers and was a diversionary tactic to deflect the focus on labour brokers.  She was determined that labour brokers would be allowed to continue operating “over her dead body” and that the brokers would be dealt with.  She recalled that the DA had made another statement claiming that the ANC was against profit-making but had been put right on that occasion.  She understood that Mr Ollis had presented a written statement in the National Assembly.  She said that she had warned Mr Ollis on many occasions not to speak out of turn but to raise his hand when he wished to speak during proceedings.  She said that the DA wanted to please their constituents and had their “backs against the wall because this was a class war”.  She said that the DA would be “eaten alive” when the party told farm workers that they wanted labour brokers to continue to operate.  She said that the DA should listen to what the people wanted, not just what was said by the labour brokers.

The Chairperson said that the ANC had promised people decent jobs in the party’s election manifesto and at party conferences.  She said that there were no decent jobs under the labour brokering system and that labour brokers must be eradicated.  The system of labour brokering was compared to drug trafficking.  She had voiced her opinion on the issue to the media.  Clear direction on what needed to be done was not received but calls were made for the State to intervene.  She stated that no amount of propaganda, diversionary tactics and statements that did not reflect what was said would stop her.  The class war against labour brokers would continue to the end, until the will of the people was implemented, regardless of what was said in the submissions and what was said by the Chairperson or the ANC.

The Chairperson reminded Mr Ollis that he was an elected official.  She said that the DA was still “in the era of apartheid” and tried to get rid of the ANC whenever anything oppressive was being removed.  She said that the ANC had the mandate from the majority of the people.  The Members of the Committee needed to approach those people working on farms and mines and talk to the families who had received nothing when family members had died.  She said that the Committee had to present a collective front and that Members needed to hide their personal, political interests.  She will listen to the voice of the people, the vulnerable and the victims and the voice of the majority will prevail.

Mr Chauke said that the statement from the DA did not reflect the position of the Committee.  The Committee was entitled to pass a motion or a counter-statement in the House.  He proposed that a motion was drafted, circulated to Members and submitted to the House within the next two days.  He proposed that the second phase of public hearings was published in the Committee’s programme.

Mr Ollis was against the proposal, on behalf of the DA.

Mr Nyekemba supported the proposal.  He pointed out that the DA had issued a statement on the 19th August 2009.  This statement was issued before the public hearings held on the 25th and 26th August 2009 and did not reflect what had transpired during the hearings.

Mr Louw remarked that the understanding of an interpretation was open to an individualistic approach.  The letter of the 19th August was the DA’s interpretation of the issue.  Mr Nyakemba presumed that the letter dated 19th August had to be read in conjunction with Mr Ollis’ subsequent statement in the House.  He took exception to the report on page 6 of the Diamond Fields Advertiser dated 1 September 2009.  He challenged the comment made that the DA never acknowledged the positive achievements of the ANC.  He said that the comment was not true and cited examples where he had applauded the actions taken by the ANC.  He pointed out that Members had the prerogative to differ on matters of opinion.

The Chairperson pointed out that the statement made by the DA was widely reported.  She acknowledged Mr Louw’s remarks and said that she confined her response to the comments made about the Committee.  She said that certain Members said little during Committee meetings but was vociferous outside the meeting.  She suggested that Members behaved in an honourable manner during future public hearings.  She said that it was not honourable to attack the Chairperson of a Committee in public.  She had to have a mandate before she could speak on a particular matter and could not speak on behalf of the ANC unless she had such a mandate.  She said that it was not honourable to distort issues for political gain and urged all the Members of the Committee to “speak with one voice” in future.

Mr Madishe noted that the Chairperson had said that Members had to discuss their concerns in Committee meetings.  From the comments made by the Chairperson, his understanding was that the ANC had already taken a position on the issue of labour brokering before the public hearings were held and thereby negated any other input on the matter.  He understood that the purpose of the hearings was for the Committee to gather input from all other interested parties.  All the information gathered was put on the table for further debate.  He had a problem if the ANC had already taken a final position on the issue before the process was completed.

Mr Chauke explained that, although the ANC had taken a position on the matter of labour brokering, the party respected the views of the public as expressed during the public hearings.

The Chairperson remarked that her views on the issue had been placed on record.

Ms Rantsolase asked if the Committee’s statement would be circulated to Members before it was issued.

Mr Chauke suggested that the statement was drafted by the Chairperson and circulated to all Members for comment and input on the following day.  He suggested that the statement included reference to the fact that the process of public hearings was still underway.

The Chairperson said that the statement could be compiled on the following day.  She thanked the Members for the open and frank discussion, which assisted the Committee in addressing the issues at hand.

The meeting was adjourned.


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