The Committee Report produced at this meeting was in its third draft and would be adopted after consideration. Some points needed clarification – these would be revised and members would then adopt the report. The meeting did however, have elements of a debate, with the Democratic Alliance firmly voicing disapproval of today’s process in that it did not provide a chance to debate on the need for the National Planning Commission (NPC). More than this, the DA was against the assumption being made that the majority party would continue to be so into the long term future. Along this thread it made an appeal for a debate on both the appointment of Commissioners, and on the implications of a NPC effecting a uniform input and output for all provinces and municipalities, especially where it affected those governed by the DA. The Chairperson settled the matter, however, when he ruled that there would be debate in the National Assembly on this. All political parties commented on the process that the Committee had followed. The meeting proceeded to clarify various matters. The DA wanted to make a condition that the Green Paper had to follow through to a White Paper. The prerogative of Cabinet was discussed, and this led to the adoption of the report, with amendments, being seconded by the DA.
The Chairperson asked whether there was a need for interaction on Point 1, the Introduction. He noted a general agreement. Mr R Trollip (DA), however, raised the following matters:
Mr Trollip said that both the Report and the Green Paper must be presented together, since a debate on the Green Paper’s content had yet to take place. He said that it seemed a centralised plan would be effected, despite the concern of the Democratic Alliance (DA). Several submissions had also picked up on the same concern and theme of centralisation. He said that while many submissions supported a National Strategic Plan (NSP), these had reservations of doing so without a White Paper process.
The DA’s second area of concern was about policy making. Under the current political framework, he said, there is an assumption that the African National Congress (ANC) would continue to be the ruling party into the long term future. This presented a problem if this process resulted in policy being made exclusively by the ANC, and which would carry on into the long term.
The Chairperson responded that these issues were covered under Point 2 of the report. He noted that there was agreement from members on the body and form of Point 2.
The Chairperson then proceeded to briefly summarise each of the points, noting the minor typing errors. There was partial agreement on some points. The meeting then discussed each in turn, with the major discussion emanating from the final point on “Recommendations”.
Mr I Davidson (DA) asked for debate on whether a National Planning Commission (NPC) was necessary in the first place. If so, he wanted to know, what its intent was, since, as it stood, the Minister reported directly to Cabinet and the Cabinet reported directly to its own party, the ANC. He said the Committee therefore needed to look into a “structure of intent”. He argued that this would lead to even greater centralization than already existed. He said his party’s stance was that clearly there was a need to map the way forward for the nation, but it was doubtful whether this could be achieved by means of the NPC.
He referred again to the point previously made by Mr Trollip on the assumption that the ANC would be the ruling party into the long term future. Not only that, however, he said the deeper assumption was that it would be the ruling party in all provinces and municipalities across the country. This problem would be difficult to address if a uniform policy across the country were to be implemented. He said it was difficult to deliberate paragraph by paragraph of the report when there was in principle disagreement from the DA.
Mr M Gungubele (ANC) said he appreciated what was beginning to unfold, in that he understood it as a difference in ideologies between the two parties. The ANC was proposing a coherent vision, and he further understood that the DA did not have a problem with that. He said that as a nation, we could therefore “sit together”. Not engaging with one another would be contrary to the spirit of the Constitution. An unnecessary conflict was being created on the matter of planning and policy. He urged that a mechanism be pursued that would ensure the building of a coherent vision in order to maximize ability, but that would respect that we are not a homogenous nation. This path would also maintain respect for our Constitution.
The Chairperson felt that the preceding discussion would fragment the task the Committee had been assigned to do, which was to receive the submissions and engage on and interrogate these. He reminded parties that each would still have the opportunity to raise and debate issues in the National Assembly. He furthermore appealed for patience, since the DA’s point was due at the end – on Point 10 – “Recommendations”.
Ms M Tlake (ANC) said that the second paragraph on page 2 outlined the gist of the work of the Committee, which should not lose focus. She said that if the state were to accommodate 9 differing policies from 9 different provinces it would become a burden. She said ample opportunity had been afforded to engage with the Minister, as well as all deliberations being recorded in print and audio for further study. Now was the time to engage on matters of clarity in the report.
Mr X Mabasa (ANC) said that the nature of the Committee was to collate the submissions and inputs from stakeholders, then to produce a documented report. Naturally, there would be different views on certain aspects of the Green Paper. The Committee should detail the recommendations for amendments, but ultimately these were the stakeholder’s views that were being represented. He was of the opinion that areas where there were differences were few, while in contrast the areas of convergence were many. He proposed that the meeting drive forward and deliberate on the other more substantial aspects of the Green Paper.
Mr E Rasool’s (ANC) response was that the work of the Committee was important and had been invigorating for all members. But, he said, he had sympathy for the DA since they had participated in the tasks as detailed at 2.1 on page three. However, they now realized their idealogical difference, and because it was so late in the process, he wondered whether they had misled the Committee or whether the Committee had misled them. But, he suggested, the ANC had had harsher criticism, and moreover, the Minister had engaged fully with the DA and other opposition parties. He did not think that any of the processes and outcomes of the proposed NPC would usurp the powers of municipalities.
Mr N Singh (IFP) said that he was satisfied that the problems with terminology had been captured in the report, but the issue of centralization needed more discussion. He described the state’s 15 year service delivery record as “regrettable” and therefore there was a need, from his caucus’ point of view, for a planning function which would optimize service delivery. The IFP therefore was in full support of the concept of planning, but not centralization.
Mr L Greyling’s (ID) view was that a planning function was long overdue. He agreed that many good submissions had come before this Committee, but the process lacked debate. From his reading of the document submitted by the DA, he understood it but did not share their concerns. He felt that moving towards conflict rather than consensus could be avoided if greater clarity could be forthcoming on the roles and responsibilities of Cabinet on the one hand, and the NPC and the Minister on the other.
Mr S Swart (ACDP) said there was a lack of a coherent plan, and this was important to debate, although he noted the time constraints and lifespan of the Committee. He tended to disagree with the ANC members that a party political position could not be taken in the Committee. His point was borne out by the reference, in the Green Paper, to the international precedent which mentions a “state controlled economy”, which South Africa clearly was not. He said that this kind of content would have to be subject to debate since it involves the role of the state and the role of markets.
The Chairperson again appealed to members not to wear their party political hats and reiterated that submissions by parties had been acknowledged, and that those submissions had been addressed to the Committee, not the ANC. He asked that members compare the reading of the report to the reading of the Green Paper.
Mr Trollip said that his party had sent in two submissions, and in addition he had voiced his party’s concerns right at the outset, and he had fully participated in all subsequent meetings of this Committee. These concerns therefore could not be construed as subversive as these were once again being forwarded today. He quoted from page 7 of the document submitted – on the structure of the NPC and the ANC’s cadre deployment, and 5.2 of the same document – on changing provincial boundaries. These were far-reaching concerns for his party.
Mr Gungubele appealed that the meeting should engage and make proposals. He noted the concerns over centralization, and the free-market economy, but he said, he did not understand how these could undermine the success of the NPC.
The Chairperson said in response that members should not generalize.
Mr Davidson made a process suggestion and requested that the meeting proceed towards adopting the report, but on the understanding that if the DA were silent on certain issues that it did not amount to agreement.
Mr Greyling then said that on the first recommendation there was no comment because it was out of their sphere.
Mr Trollip said the report was recognized as a product of the Committee’s work.
Mr Gungubele agreed with Mr Trollip, and also agreed with the Chairperson that issues of content and disagreement could be debated in the National Assembly. But, he asked, whether there were any of those issues that could be discussed within the Committee today. He had a sense that there was common ground on some of the issues in the recommendations.
The Chairperson proceeded to note all the revisions, Point by Point of the report, as suggested by members regarding spelling, terminology, style and clarity of meaning by re-ordering the wording. He said that draft 4 would be prepared by the Secretariat. The opposition parties continued to raise their concerns wherever the issues of centralization, the relationship of the NPC with Cabinet, and the progress from the Green Paper to a White Paper occurred.
With regard to the White Paper, Mr Trollip said that one of the recommendations must stipulate that the report had been adopted on condition that a White Paper process was to follow.
Mr Swart responded that it was Cabinet’s prerogative to accept or reject recommendations, and therefore making this recommendation would not compel Cabinet to follow the Committee’s recommendation.
Mr Mabasa wanted to know what would be gained in content, in taking the Green Paper to a White Paper process.
The Chairperson asked members whether the Committee could agree that an adequate process had been followed, especially bearing in mind that Minister Manuel had been invited in good spirit to do his response prior to the drafting of this report. He said the Committee was indeed at liberty to recommend a White Paper, but that the time factor had to be acknowledged.
Mr Davidson said that Mr Mabasa’s point was worthwhile. As a result he was more convinced than ever that the NPC’s relationship with Cabinet was critical, and that the White Paper could deal with the matter.
The Chairperson responded that if so, a list of all the items would have to be made.
Mr Gungubele suggested that there may be a lack of understanding of the difference between a Green Paper and a White Paper. He then elaborated by saying that one was for brainstorming while the other was intended to capture policy. He further suggested that the time constraint was partly informed by the budget cycles of Parliament and government.
Mr Trollip, in response to Mr Gungubele, said it was the employment cycle Minister Manuel had referred to, not the budget cycle. He suggested that perhaps it would be for the better if the time constraint was not a factor, as this would then afford the Minister more time for the White Paper process, and to consider its content.
Mr Singh agreed with Mr Trollip. He pointed out that Cosatu had also requested a White Paper.
The Chairperson said that the Minister had more than fulfilled his role during this Committee process and had accomplished good input.
Mr Davidson said the DA recommended a White Paper.
The Chairperson said that recommendations were binding.
Mr Gungubele proposed adoption of the report.
Mr Trollip agreed with Mr Gungubele, and that the DA agreed with the report. Furthermore he proposed that it be formalized into a White Paper, leading to legislation.
The Chairperson asked if he understood it correctly, the DA was agreed on adoption but that Cabinet should consider a White Paper.
Mr Trollip said no, that rather, it must be firmly stated that a White Paper process was needed.
The Chairperson indicated that it was the Committee which would have the say over adoption.
Mr Gungubele wanted to know from Mr Trollip whether Cabinet “must” or “should consider” and suggested that either way, it was still Cabinet’s prerogative.
The Chairperson then called for a seconder, to which Mr Davidson responded that he would second the adoption of the report. He said that the report was adopted with amendments, that the NPC needed further refinement, in further consultative processes. He thanked all present for their participation.
The meeting adjourned.
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