Ad Hoc Committee's Draft Report on the Green Paper: National Strategic Planning: Discussion

Ad Hoc Committee on Green Paper on National Strategic Planning

04 November 2009
Chairperson: Mr T Mufamadi (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met to consider its draft Report on the Green Paper on National Strategic Planning. However, at the outset, Members of the opposition parties were reluctant to proceed with the meeting, saying that the draft report had been made available too late for them to read it thoroughly, whilst other media reports suggesting that other issues were still being discussed outside this Committee, and the possibility that whatever comments this Committee made may well be overruled by other issues, made them feel that they were engaging on a futile exercise. Other Members expressed views that the Committee had been given a particular task and should finalise it. Even if other processes were to intervene, at least the Committee would have been heard. They urged that the Committee Members should seize the moment and engage with what was before them.

The Chairperson ruled that the meeting should proceed. While he asked Members to avoid discussing the detail of the document at present, many inputs were made about the structure of the report. Members agreed that the final draft should be in a user-friendly format, and should clearly indicate the submissions made to the Committee. The deliberations of the Committee, its findings and recommendations should be indicated separately.

It was agreed that the Committee would meet again the following week to finalise the report. It was due to be debated in Parliament on 11 November 2009. Members appreciated the urgency of the matter.

Meeting report

Draft Committee Report on the Green Paper on National Strategic Planning (the Green Paper)
The Chairperson said that at the last meeting the response from the Presidency had been considered. The first draft of the report had been compiled but he had only seen it late the previous afternoon. He had sent it back to the drafters for revision. Am improved version had been made available that morning. He had accepted it but there were still some issues. He was aware that Members had not had enough time to familiarise themselves with the document. The final adoption of the report would be on the following Tuesday, 10 November, with the report to be tabled in Parliament on 11 November 2009.

Mr R Trollip (DA) said that it was difficult to proceed with the matter. He should not respond to reports in the media, but felt he had to react. Public hearings had been held and submissions had been considered. The newspapers were now reporting that there was a division in the ruling party around whether there should be a Planning Commission in the Presidency or a Presidential Planning Committee. He felt it was futile to rush to meet a deadline when the matter would be debated elsewhere. More clarity was needed on what form the National Planning Commission (NPC) would take.

Mr I Davidson (DA) supported Mr Trollip’s comments. This was part of a Parliamentary process. This process would be going nowhere if it was to be superseded by a process from outside Parliament, and Members would simply be wasting their time. It would reflect on the credibility of Parliament. He urged the Chairperson to take the Members into his confidence. He suggested that the Committee process should be halted until the other processes were finalised, and the Committee could then reflect on whatever new developments might emerge.

Mr N Singh (IFP) had only received the document that afternoon, and that was by chance. From a first reading he felt that the document gave the basics, but highlighted no decisions. He agreed that the Committee needed to advise the drafters, but they needed to be taken into the Chairperson’s confidence. Both sides of the House needed this. He had discussed the issue at length with his party caucus that morning.

Mr S Swart (ACDP) said that there was an issue of urgency. There were many issues and the Committee had received substantial input. He was happy to postpone the meeting. He also wanted to know what was going on elsewhere. He respected the role of the Chairperson and realised that he might not be able to be open with the Members. He realised that Parliament would soon be rising, but it was not unprecedented for Parliament to be recalled if necessary. The issue of the NPC was of national interest.

Mr M Gungubele (ANC) said that the Committee was operating in a vibrant environment. There were many key stakeholders, of which the ruling party was one. This Committee was a structure of Parliament and had been tasked to do a particular job. The issue of the NPC would be debated until it was concluded. This Committee could not prescribe who would take part in the debate and at what time. If there was no other input then this particular discussion could wait. He agreed that it was a matter of national importance. He noted that because this was an ad hoc Committee, there would be many interpretations given, should it suspend its discussion. An impression could be created that Members were waiting for instructions from elsewhere. The particular exercise at hand was to engage with the draft report. This would be the Committee’s contribution to the debate. There was a task at hand, and the Committee should carry it. Should other inputs be made then the Members would deal with them as they occurred.

 Mr E Rasool (ANC) said that the Members should have no illusions. The ultimate responsibility for the NPC was an Executive function. The Green Paper had been published and the Committee had an opportunity to engage with it and air their views. They must not dishonour the early work that had been done by saying it would all come to nothing. They had a choice of waiting for further developments or pushing on. The Executive would make its decision in any event. Parliament had heard a range of opinions and had arbitrated in the matter. They had done this honourably. If it were true that the final decision would be taken elsewhere then at least the view of Parliament would have been expressed. Parliament should not be the victim of external processes. Members should seize the moment.

Mr X Mabasa (ANC) said that the Committee had never envisaged that this would be a simple process. They had a critical role to play. In the effort to get inputs they had played a critical role of being a conduit. They had also made their own inputs. Any input would take the process forward and enrich the document. The meeting should proceed. This was still the first draft and there were still gaps.

Mr Swart said that it was a difficult situation. One assumed that the Green Paper emanated from Cabinet with the backing of the majority party. The same party now seemed to have different versions of what should happen. This was confusing. Economic policy was the nub of the debate. There was a need to respect the process but it was difficult. He had not had a chance to read the draft report. He suggested that a brief adjournment be called to allow the Members to read it before they proceeded.

The Chairperson said that it would be a sad day if the work of the Committee were suspended because of newspaper reports. No documents had been tabled except the Green Paper. A lot of work had been done. They could not wait without knowing the reason. He conceded that there were differing opinions. The draft report was a reflection of the work done to date and the Members needed to look into it. A meeting was scheduled for the following week but there would be an impact on the work of Parliament if the discussion were deferred to then. The report had been published in Business Day. The debate was public discourse. Parliament must take its work seriously, without fear or favour. The ruling party issues were part of the debate.

Mr Mufamadi said that it had never been the intention to adopt the report at this meeting. The Members needed to guide the drafters and bring recommendations to Parliament. He had been told that the report had been circulated at approximately 11h00 that morning. It had been placed in the Members’ mailboxes and not delivered personally. Perhaps the distribution process was incorrect. Members could bring concrete proposals to the meeting the following week.

Mr Davidson had not read the draft report. He was happy to agree with the Chairperson’s proposal, as he agreed that it would impact on Parliament’s work. Parliament needed to put its mark on the debate. Parliament needed to make clear what it believed was the correct way forward. Whatever else followed had to take cognisance of Parliament’s opinion. Whoever took such a decision had to realise that they were not talking to one faction.

The Chairman called a brief adjournment to enable Members to read the document. After the break he asked Members to discuss page 1 of the draft report.

Mr Davidson objected to this. He felt that the Chairperson had asked the Members to go through the document and embellish it, but was now proposing that they go through the draft in detail. He felt that it would be better to take the document away and read it carefully. He would like to compare it to the Green Paper and then come back with detailed comment.

The Chairperson said that it would be of no use to take the document away and merely recycle it at the meeting the following week. Members could still bring detailed comment to that meeting.

Mr Gungubele said that the proposal was to talk to the document. This was perhaps not necessary. It would be useful if this meeting looked at the structure of the document. Compelling issues could be raised. This would make the drafting of the final version easier.

The Chairperson said that Members should accept that this was the first real engagement with the document. Submissions had been taken. There was a need to agree on the structure of the report. The first section was a background. This put the need for the NPC in an historical context. Challenges were outlined. The NPC was then discussed briefly. He asked Members how else they thought the background could be captured. The responsibilities and role of Parliament should be highlighted. The Executive was consulting with Parliament. He agreed with the content.

Mr Rasool said that the first two paragraphs were the background. It was possible to expand on this by quoting international experience and social needs. The third paragraph in Section 1 was not background material. The role and objectives of the Ad Hoc Committee should be included, together with the limitations placed on it. This paragraph should be a section on its own.

Mr Swart agreed. The Members had to go beyond expressing the role of Parliament as being a stakeholder of the Executive. Parliament was comprised of the representatives of the people. There were also many grammatical errors and matters of form which needed addressing.

Mr Davidson supported the thrust of the argument. His party had a problem with the concept of the NPC in respect of central planning. They disagreed with the principle of centralism. They did agree with the need for proper resource allocation, co-ordination, cohesive planning and the other concepts that the NPC would embrace. The background should not include long histories, and he felt that any references to similar institutions would involve centralised states.

Mr Trollip was concerned that the NPC was referred to by different names throughout the report. The term NPC should be used consistently in the document.

The Chairperson asked the Members to move on to the other sections. The drafters needed the input of the Committee. He asked Mr Rasool to capture his thoughts on that part of the report and submit them in writing by the following meeting.

Ms M Tlake (ANC) said that the whole process started with the Constitution. Reference to the Constitution in Section 4.4 of the draft report should be included in the background section. The Constitution was the overall law of the land. It provided the legal mandate for the work of the Committee. The production of the report was based on Chapter 3 of the Constitution.

Mr Singh said that references in the report should be consistent. The NPC would be an instrument to promote integration and co-operative government. The focus should be on the NPC itself. There was a reference to the Minister in the Presidency for the NPC. There was no such title. Mr Trevor Manuel signed the Green Paper as Minister in the Presidency: Planning.

The Chairperson agreed that the terminology needed to be consistent. There was a glossary at the end of the draft report. Section 2, headed Introduction, described the process followed by the Committee. This was factual.

Mr Rasool proposed that a more appropriate header for this section would be something like “Work of the Ad Hoc Committee”. The process followed should be laid out in a systematic way. It was all captured in the draft, but could be clearer.

The Chairperson asked if the Members agreed with this.

Mr Swart did agree. The first paragraph should be the Introduction. This was the same as the background, but “Introduction” was the better word.

Mr Gungubele said that this section should describe the process. He agreed that the terms “background” and “introduction” were interchangeable. Government had called for internal planning mechanisms many times. The challenges faced by the country needed to be addressed by long-term planning.

The Chairperson concluded that the Members agreed on the recording of the process.

Mr Swart suggested to the researchers that in drafting the second version they should follow the techniques used in making amendments to Bills, namely striking out text to be deleted and underlining text to be included.

Mr Gungubele said that they were attempting to be perfect. He felt that a separate, updated document should suffice.

Mr Swart conceded that a clear, new document would be acceptable.

The Chairperson said that the second draft would capture all the proposals being made by Members.

Mr Singh said that some of the abbreviations, such as BUSA, needed clarification.

Mrs F Mushwana (ANC) said that there should be a clear statement of strategic objectives, stakeholders and issues for redress.

The Chairperson responded that this was a report and not a plan.

Mr Mabasa said that there was reference to three levels of Government. There should be interaction between the different spheres, and this was captured in the report. However, the active role was only described for National Government. He did not know this could be done. The text should indicate what was to be done regarding consultation with the other spheres or have a reflection on their participation.

Ms Tlake said that the section on the process should include the word “Consultation” in the heading.

Mr Davidson was uncomfortable with the process. He had not been able to digest the document. He reminded the Members that a camel was a horse designed by a committee, and he feared that they were heading in that direction. He could not add value to the discussion at that time. He wanted to apply his mind to reading the draft report in conjunction with the Green Paper. He felt that he could not carry on with the meeting.

The Chairperson said that the current meeting was not about agreeing on the document. An improved document would be available for the next meeting. He did not want to go into that meeting with a flawed document. They could debate the content at that meeting.

Mr Davidson said that Members were not only talking about the structure of the document. He needed to read it first, reflect on the Green Paper, and then make his contribution. He might still feel the need to propose structural changes at the next meeting. He felt that the Members were being asked to make suggestions off the top of their heads.

Mr Trollip felt that the Members needed to follow a disciplined approach to their discussion. Typographical errors needed to be corrected.

Mr Rasool felt that there was a lot in the document, but some things had been omitted. If the debate were captured in one broad statement, then Members would not be helping themselves. Clarification was needed on names and titles. There were conceptual areas to be addressed such as policy, planning and differences. There was a question over the structure. The status of the NPC and the role of the Ministry needed to be addressed. There were also fundamental areas such as the duplication of planning and economic development. The primacy of Cabinet had to be discussed.

The Chairperson moved on to the Section 3, headed “Areas of Convergence”. This was not what the Committee agreed on, but described issues where various presenters agreed with each other.

Mr Gungubele said that once they had worked through a section there was no need to go back. Members could skip the details at present. Even if there was disagreement there should be no debate at this meeting. He asked if this section was necessary.

Mr Davidson proposed that Mr Rasool should meet with the drafters and assist them in capturing his ideas. His proposal represented a logical structure for the document.

The Chairperson agreed. Section 3 covered most of the submissions.

Mr Trollip said that there had been significant convergence on the recommendation for a White Paper.

Mr Gungubele said that the contents of Section 3 and Section 4 were difficult to separate. The reader might think that the views expressed were those of the Committee. He proposed that the word “Submissions” be indicated in the heading, and possibly the two sections could be combined. It had to be clear whether these were the views of the Committee or of the different presenters. Orderly numbering was also needed.

Ms Tlake suggested a title of “Public Participation”.

The Chairperson said that such detailed discussion was not needed at this meeting. Section 4 did contain areas in which clarity was sought. He asked Members to read this section and think of ways in which it could be expanded. Some of the issues were easy and others were more involved. He felt that Subsection 4.6 did not fit into this section.

Mr Singh said that there was a lack of emphasis on certain sectors, for example people with disability.

The Chairperson pointed out a section in the second paragraph of Subsection 4.6 that contradicted the Green Paper.

Mr Gungubele said that the report must capture what was said during the public hearings.

Mr Mabasa was not sure that the heading of Section 5 should refer to “Response” by the Minister. He felt that “Input” would be a better word. He also felt the need for a new section under the heading of “Deliberations”.

Mr Gungubele agreed that the absence of such a section was conspicuous. This would convey the original thoughts of the Committee.

Mr Davidson said that certain issues had been raised which required comment and recommendations. He asked if these should be included in the part of the report where they were applicable or should all be grouped together in a section at the end of the report.

Mr Gungubele said that the Committee was attempting to organise an overview. He proposed that the document discussed clearly long-term planning and how this could be realised. Clear principles should be expressed which would be the guidelines for the discussion. The purpose of the Green Paper was to lead the debate on planning in issues such as responsive processes that needed to be adaptable.

Mr Trollip said that the structure of the report should capture what had been heard. It should be summarised under the headings as proposed by Mr Rasool. The findings of the Committee on the issues raised and the resulting recommendations had to be tabled. He asked that the document be distributed to Members by email as soon as it was ready, so that they could compile their findings.

Mr Gungubele said that the submission had to be interpreted before the Committee could make findings. That was where the principles should be discussed. Another aspect to be made clear was how the findings informed the Committee and helped it to achieve its objectives.

Mr Rasool wanted to restructure the report into a user-friendly document. This would allow the House to evaluate it and tabulate it. The current format would hinder debate. Members must be allowed to get to the political role.

The Chairperson felt that the Members were now at one in their thinking. It was not a simple process. The Secretariat would proceed with this with the aid of Mr Rasool. They would start work the next day. He reminded the Members of the vast amount of work needed to compile such a document. He told Mr Singh that the report would be ready by Monday. It would be emailed to Members. He did not want to see a repetition of this day’s events. The drafters had spent long hours on the report, working until midnight the previous day.

Mr Trollip suggested that the inputs of Mr Swart be considered as well.

The meeting was adjourned.


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