South Africa Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) appointments: Interviews Day 1

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Justice and Correctional Services

13 September 2009
Chairperson: Mr N Ramathodi (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The following candidates were interviewed for the position of Commissioner on the South Africa Human Rights Commission (SAHRC)

Ms Lindiwe Mokate
Dr Danfred Titus
Mr Tseliso Thipanyane
Ms Janet Cherry
Mr Frederik van der Heerden
Mr Andile Mngxitama
Ms Nomazotsho Memani

Meeting report

Candidates were asked the following questions:

They were asked to provide a short overview of their work experience and their specific experience with human rights. They were also asked to motivate why they should be appointed as a Commissioner and what impact they would have on the SAHRC.

They were asked how they would deal with internal dissent in the SAHRC.

They were asked how they would take the SAHRC forward.

They were asked how they would manage the relationship between the SAHRC and the Executive and Parliament.

They were asked how they would deal with the Executive in cases where they were unresponsive to complaints and if they would be willing to litigate.

The members referred to the candidates other responsibilities and asked them if they would be able to serve as a full-time Commissioner. Related to this they were asked to comment on any conflicts of interest with their other role and whether they would prefer to be full-time or part-time Commissioners.

They were asked to comment on:

The shoot to kill controversy and the possible amendment of Section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act

The Caster Semenya issue

The race debate in South Africa

the conflicts between cultural traditions and equality rights, with specific reference to virginity inspection, circumcision of young boys and ukuthwala.

They were asked what the role of the SAHRC was on contentious issues.

They were asked what their strengths and weaknesses were

They were asked if they could work under pressure.

They were asked what to comment on the weaknesses of the SAHRC and how they would improve the SAHRC.

They were asked what should be done to ensure that the benefits of the legislation and protection provided for human rights accrued to the intended beneficiaries i.e. the poor and vulnerable, especially with reference to rural communities

They were asked how many indigenous languages they could communicate in.

They were asked to comment about the co-operation between Chapter 9 institutions and the possible amalgamation of the certain Chapter 9 institutions as proposed in the Asmal Report.

They were asked what the practical priorities of the SAHRC should be against the background of the human rights issues facing South Africa.

They were asked if the SAHRC took the initiative on certain issues or did they only respond to complaints.

Questions targeted at specific candidates:

They were asked if there was factionalism in the SAHRC

They were asked if they had training in criminology and penology

A candidates involvement with the Bruin Belange Initiatief was noted and he was asked if the Coloured Community and Afrikaans language were marginalised in South Africa.

Members referred to comment on the need for independence of the SAHRC and that the executive should respect this independence and was asked if the candidate thought there had been interference in the past.

They were asked for examples of how the government violated human rights more than protecting them.

They were asked if there were lacunae regarding the executive authority over the SAHRC and specifically as it related to the requirement of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).

The current CEO, Tseliso Thipanyane was asked several targeted questions:
In light of his application to be a SAHRC Commissioner, he was asked if the SAHRC did not need a CEO with his experience. Furthermore, if he was appointed as a Commissioner, did he have a capable deputy in place?

He was asked to what degree he planned to regionalise or provincialise the SAHRC.

He was asked to comment on the budgetary constraint of the SAHRC that only allowed for 6 Commissioners.

He was asked to comment on the differences between the SAHRC (as a Chapter 9 institution) and NGOs when engaging with government and the need for diplomacy, as a Commissioner of the SAHRC.

The interviews were adjourned.


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