Workshop: Oversight functions of Rural Development & Land Reform Portfolio Committee

Rural Development and Land Reform

15 September 2009
Chairperson: Ms H Matlanyane (ANC) (Acting)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee held a workshop in which it received various presentations on the oversight model of Parliament, including an information sharing session, and also received presentations from the Information and Content Development Unit of Parliament, and the Land and Agrarian Reform Studies Unit of the University of the Western Cape, who outlined the courses offered. The purpose of the workshop was to empower the Committee with the skills and knowledge that would help Members to execute their duties effectively, particularly since the Committee was comprised mostly of new Members, who had a mammoth task in rural development. It was noted that Members would receive ongoing training throughout their term in Parliament. Members’ concerns included the limited powers of the Committees with regards to enforcing Departments to implement recommendations emanating from oversight visits, the inadequate budget allocation for Committee work and how the allocations were determined, the do-option of Members for the purposes of forming a quorum and the amounts offered to Members by way of bursaries.

Meeting report

The Committee Secretary informed Members that the Chairperson was on medical leave, and the Rules stipulated that an Acting Chairperson should be elected. Ms Matlanyane was elected to be the acting Chairperson. She commented that the workshop would enhance the skills of the Committee.

Content Advisors briefing
Mr Tshililo Manenze, Content Advisor, Parliament, mentioned that most of the Members were new to the Committee. He said that the mandate of the Committee had been expanded to include rural development. It was imperative that Members had to undergo continuous training. He then went through the presentation page by page (see attached document) and briefly spoke about capacity building being more than training individual Members. It also encompassed systems, resources, and knowledge of the institution. Mr Manenze noted that the strategic plan and policies would guide the programme of the Committee.

He said that Members had identified certain issues for training, including analysis and scrutiny of financial statements, and the necessity to link the work of the Committee with Chapter 9 Institutions like the South African Human Rights Commission, in regard to the ongoing human rights abuses in farms. The Committee should integrate constituency work with Committee work. Monitoring and Evaluation should be linked with the work of the Planning Commission. He mentioned the generic need to train Members on policy analysis. He mentioned that the Government was behind in complying with International Agreements like the Millennium Goals. 

Members Support Services Presentation
Mr Msimelelo Mnyikana, Manager: Members Support Services, Parliament, mentioned that his unit focussed mainly on making sure that Members received accredited training, in skills that could be used even when Members were no longer in Parliament. The training would also be of use when Members had been moved to work in Provinces. The needs analysis would be done and finished in October 2009, and the actual training would begin in January 2010. In respect of bursaries, he indicated that Members were expected to identify the courses and institutions where they wished to study. 

Mr M Swathe (DA) wanted to know the reason that Members would have separate entry points to the training courses rather than training as a group. He feared that the Committee Members would be divided amongst themselves if they were not treated equally.

Mr Manenze replied that separate entry points were meant to accommodate the unequal level of education amongst Members. Some Members did not have matric certificates, some did have matric, and others had degrees.

Ms Mabila-Ngwenya asked about the amount that was offered as a bursary for Members.

Ms Mabila-Ngwenya also urged the Secretary and the Content Advisor to familiarise the Committee with all the international agreements that had an impact on the Committee work.

Mr Mnyikana replied that there were no limits to the bursaries available to Members but when Members dropped out of the studies then they would have to pay. In cases where Members were redeployed to other provinces then they were allowed to continue with their studies. The documents on international agreements would be forwarded and explained to Members.

Mr E Nchabeleng (ANC) said that most of the Members belonged to more than one Committee. His concern was that the courses would not be speaking to each other, so it would be impossible to work as a Parliamentarian and study three courses.

Mr Mnyikana replied that the short courses lasted for about five days while the academic courses took longer. Members should be sure that they would cope with the demands because they had to have intrinsic motivation. Members could be able to do three short courses, as all Committees were grouped into clusters and the courses were linked to the clusters.

Mr Swathe asked whether the Members would have powers to compel Departments to implement recommendations that were made by Parliament.

Mr B Zulu (ANC) said that Committees had compiled reports that emanated from oversight visits but the Departments simply ignored them. Committees had no powers to force Departments to implement decisions. The ongoing service delivery protests were the evidence of discontent expressed by the electorate.

Mr Mnyikana informed the Committee that Ms Mene would be speaking about the powers of the Committees.

Critical Analysis of Oversight Model of Parliament
Ms Zanele Mene, Manager: Committee Section, Parliament, explained the reasons behind the formulation of the oversight model. Parliament wanted to assert itself and fulfil its Constitutional Mandate. The model provided tools to conduct oversight. The tools were the State of the Nation Address, annual reports from the Departments and the annual reports from institutions supporting democracy. She spoke about the analysis of the Oversight Model, and the role of Parliament in relation to oversight and accountability as mandated by the constitution, the institutional characteristics of oversight and accountability and existing mechanisms utilised in Parliament. The Model introduced the new mechanisms for oversight and accountability and the procedure for amendment of Money Bills.

She said all spheres of government had to work together on oversight visits. The tools were also used to increase capacity for Committees and Members and could be used as best practice guides. Lastly the tools could be used for audit of public bodies and their accountability to Parliament. Ms Mene hastened to add that the Model was not static but continually evolving. The administration was required to review the support that the Model provided to Members, so that they could do their core business satisfactorily. Challenges that could hamper the success of the Model could be reluctance to change, lack of understanding of the model and inadequate resources.

Information Sharing Session
Ms Mene told the Committee that the presentation would be a summary of the Rules of Parliament. She then spoke about the role of the Chairperson and the mandate of the Committee, as well as its functions and powers. She spoke briefly about how Committees took decisions, and the procedure for co-option of members when a Committee could not form a quorum. She then went through all the required processes such as reporting, political approval of budgets and other expenditure. With regard to tabling of a bill in Parliament, she outlined the procedures from the time of presentation of a draft Bill, referral to Committees, and certification of bills. She then briefly explained the difference between a Section 74, 75, or Section 76 bill and the six-week cycle of legislation. She briefly touched on the role of the Mediation Committee, consisting of members from the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces, which would be convened if the two houses did not agree on a Section 74 or 76 bill. She mentioned that the Parliament could set deadlines for consideration of bills. She spoke about the role of Committees in introduction of legislation and the challenges that were facing legislation fast tracking.

Mr Zulu raised his concern regarding the insufficient budget allocations to Committees. He also said that Committees were toothless in enforcing recommendations to the Departments.

Ms Mene acknowledged that many recommendations were not taken up by the departments, for many reasons. Sometimes the departments had already prepared their budgets and the recommendations could not be accommodated within the existing budget. She said that it was important that Committees should invite department officials both at national and provincial level and should engage with South African Local Government Association (SALGA) during oversight visits. Some of the problems could be resolved there and then, and that would also avoid finger pointing between the different spheres of government. Committees had the right to summon departments or State entities to appear before the Committee.

Ms Ngwenya-Mabila asked about the tools that were used to determine budget allocation to Committees. She enquired about the six-week cycle when legislation was enacted.

Ms Mene replied that all Committees were allocated equal amounts because the year was halfway through when allocations were made. The establishment of six new Committees meant that the original R800 000 allocations had to be cut. The strategic plan and costing were some of the considerations that the Presiding Officer used when determining budget allocations. In 2010 all Committees would get R1 million, and R12 million would be kept for emergencies when Committees had exhausted their allocations. She said that there were competing demands for funds in Parliament, such as administrative work and personnel expenditure.

She said that the six-week cycle was not enough because the Committees could sometimes reject a piece of legislation and even the President could turn back legislation for one reason or another.

Ms N Balindlela (COPE) said that the training workshops should be done for other Committees, especially when Committees were working together. She suggested that the Planning Commission should be informed about the recommendations that were often ignored by the departments.

Ms Mene replied that portfolio committees such as Energy and Water Affairs had to work together to address issue of development in rural areas.

Mr C Msimang (IFP) asked for clarity on the co-option of Members from other Committees for the purposes of forming a quorum, as he felt that co-opting other members to endorse something they did not know could cause problems.

Mr Nchabeleng raised his dissatisfaction with the R450 000 allocated for Committee work and he asked for clarity on relevant legislation.

Ms N Hangana (ANC) said that all Members belonged to caucuses of their political parties that all Bills were discussed in caucuses. Co-option of Members for the purposes of forming a quorum was not bad thing because Members knew what was being discussed.

The Chairperson suggested that Ms Mene had to be excused because she had to go to another meeting, all the remaining answers would be forwarded to Members at a later stage.

Land and Agrarian Reform Presentation
Professor Ben Cousins, Director of Land and Agrarian Reform Studies, University of Western Cape, said that his unit had initiated a postgraduate programme that was funded by the Norwegian and the Belgian government. He said that some members, senior government officials, Non-Governmental Organisations’ (NGO) personnel and foreign students had done the course over the years. The course dealt with policy analysis to capacitate law makers and other influential people and develop their research skills.

He noted that the postgraduate diploma was a one year course that comprised six modules. The M Phil programme took a minimum of two years and comprised of six modules and a mini-thesis. The second M Phil was comprised of a long thesis for research purposes. The PhD included both a thesis and course work. He mentioned that entry requirements also made use of Recognition of Prior Learning. The programmes required that learners attend three two-week sessions in March, July and September. He emphasised that learners were expected to do assignments. He described the content of the modules. Module 1 dealt with the history of land in South Africa, while Module 2 dealt with the Agrarian question in Southern Africa. Module 3 focussed on the debate on property rights and agrarian question in Africa, Module 4 dealt with land and agrarian reform, and Module 5 focussed on Agrarian reform versus rural livelihood, HIV/AIDS and poverty. Module 6 dealt with the legal implications of land reform in South Africa. Professor Cousins said that learners could pay the fees in instalments even after they had finished the course.

Mr Swathe raised his concern regarding the closing date of 30 September 2009. 

Prof Cousins replied that late registration would be in 31 October 2009, but he urged members not to wait until the last day.

Mr Msimang asked whether learners were required to write exams.

Prof Cousins replied that learners were assessed per module, and there were no formal exams.

The Chairperson asked whether people who needed to start with Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) could be accepted into the programme.

Prof Cousins replied that the University accepted people who could express themselves, and that the course was conducted in English. Most work in the programme required members to write assignments. He added that the course was offered on demand and only accepted 20 learners for each.

Ms Ngwenya-Mabila said that it would be difficult for Members to be absent for two weeks because Parliamentary work was demanding.

Prof Cousins replied that the dates were not fixed, therefore they could be shifted to fit the schedule of learners. Proper planning was essential if dates were to be shifted.

Information and Content Development Unit Presentation
Mr Mava Lukani, Principal Communications Officer, Parliamentary Communication Services, briefly spoke about the vision and objectives of his unit. He said that unit provided access to information on issues before Parliament, and the workings of Parliament. The unit also provided the Chairperson with support in areas such as interaction with the media. He briefly touched on the Parliamentary protocol on press statements and deadlines on press statements.

The Members had no questions nor asked for any clarification.

The meeting was adjou


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