Births & Deaths Registration Amendment Bill: finalisation

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Meeting report

SELECT COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL SERVICES

SOCIAL SERVICES SELECT COMMITTEE
19 February 2002
BIRTHS AND DEATHS REGISTRATION AMENDMENT BILL: FINALISATION

Chairperson:
Ms L Jacobus (ANC)

Relevant Documents
Births and Deaths Registration Act 51 of 1992
Births and Deaths Registration Amendment Bill [B53 – 2001]

SUMMARY
The Committee discussed the proposed amendments to the Births and Deaths Registration Act 51 of 1992.  The Bill was unanimously adopted.

The Chairperson discussed the revised programme, status of women protocol and International Study Tour relevant to the efficient administration of the committee.

MINUTES
The Department would discuss the proposed amendments to the Act, clause by clause.  This would lead to a finalisation of the whole matter, and the deliberations on the Bill would then end with a vote on the entire Bill.  The meeting was handed over to the officials from the Department of Social Services.

Births and Deaths Registration Amendment Bill
Preamble
Advocate Malachi, Department of Social Services, proceeded with reading the Bill.  Before reading the amendments to the preamble, he explained that the preamble indicated the purpose of the Act.  He read “To amend the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1992 so as to define and expression; to reduce the age of majority; to provide for the registration of a child in the surname of either or both parents; to further regulate the alteration of the surname of a minor; and to allow a widow to assume a previous surname; and to provide for matters connected therewith’”.

Mr Jacobus (ANC) asked if there were any problems with the amendment to the preamble.

Mr Moatshe (ANC) asked if a widow would now be obliged to assume a previous surname.

Ms Jacobus (ANC) explained that the provision would not be obligatory.

Clause 1
Advocate Malachi read the amendment to section 1 of the Act as amended by section 3 of Act 41 of 1995 and section 1 of Act 40 of 1996.  It proposed the insertion of the definition of a competent court, and the substitution of the definition of a major or a person of age that had already been provided for.

Ms Jacobus (ANC) enquired as on the definition of a competent court was in order.

The floor responded affirmatively.

Ms Jacobus (ANC) asked if the floor had any contradictions to the proposed reduction of the age of majority from 21years to 18years for the purposes of the Act.

The floor had no objections to the amendment.

Clause 2
Advocate Malachi then read the second clause, an amendment to section 9 of the 1992 Act as amended by section 4 of Act 41 of 1995 and section 1 of Act 43 of 1998.  Clause 2 proposed the substitution of section 9 subsection 2 with a subsection that would allow a child to bear the surname of either the mother or the father, or of both parents as a double-barrelled surname.

Ms Jacobus (ANC) explained that the amended subsection 2 of section 9 would allow for the registration of a child in either the name of the mother or that of the father, or in a double-barrelled name containing both surnames.  She asked whether the floor agreed to this amendment.

The amendment was agreed upon.

Clause 3

Advocate Malachi continued with clause 3 of the amendment Bill, an amendment of section 25 of the 1992 Act as substituted by section 11 of Act 86 of 1997.  Section 25 would be amended by the insertion of subsection 1A in terms of which the written consent of a father would not be required in cases where sole guardianship had been awarded to the mother, or vice versa.

Ms Jacobus (ANC) asked the floor for any comments.

There were no comments.

Ms Jacobus (ANC) then asked whether the floor agreed with clause 3.

The floor agreed.

Clause 4
Advocate Malachi read clause 4 of the amendment Bill, an amendment to section 26 of the 1992 Act, as substituted by section 3 of Act 67 of 1997.  This clause served to amend section 26 by the substitution of subsection 1(c) with the addition of a widow to the provision.

Ms Jacobus (ANC) asked the floor for any comments.

Ms Ntlabati (ANC) was not sure of the meaning of the section.

Advocate Malachi explained that in line with what he had read in the preamble, the purpose of the amendment Bill being to allow a widow to assume a previous surname, the 1992 Act did not include a widow in section 26 subsection 1( c ).  The result of the amendment would now be to allow either married, divorced or widowed persons to assume previous surnames.  The amendment therefore served to include widows in the provision.

Ms Jacobus (ANC) stated that the provision was fairly clear.

Ms Ntlabati (ANC) said that she would not be expecting a reply from any of the members.  She added that the comment would also be directed to the officials from the Department.  She called on the members to reflect on the amendment Bill at a later stage because in her opinion it remained a possibility that the amendment would serve only to complicate matters in the future by allowing children to bear double-barrelled surnames.

Ms Vilakazi (IFP) apologised for referring the committee back to clause 3.  She wanted clarification with regards to the position when dealing with sole guardianship of the child. 

Ms Jacobus (ANC) reminded the committee that a long debate had surrounded this issue at the previous briefing.  She added that she was not sure if Ms Vilakazi (IFP) was present at that meeting, and as a result decided to allow the Department to answer the question.

Ms Vilakazi (IFP) responded that it was possible that she was not present at the previous briefing.  However, she felt that given the possibility that the committee could conclude that the amendment Bill would be an official document, she stated that she would need the mercy of the Chairperson in order to understand the proposals holistically.

Advocate Malachi explained that in most cases courts would reach decisions regarding the guardianship of children following divorce proceedings.  It would therefore be possible in some cases for guardianship to be awarded solely to one parent.  This proposed provision meant that it would not be necessary for the parent possessing sole guardianship to acquire the written consent of the other parent with regards to the child.  By doing so, the discretion of the court would be respected and would not be frustrated.  Once a parent had been given sole guardianship of a child, that parent would have to be given the necessary powers to take care of that child.

Ms Ntlabati (ANC) followed up on the previous question.  She asked if children concerned would be given the right to express personal desires regarding guardianship matters.

Ms Jacobus (ANC) told her that her question did not pertain to the issue in discussion.  She explained that it was more of a social issue that had to be resolved via other measures.

Ms Jacobus (ANC) asked that floor whether they were agreed on the inclusion of a widow as per clause 4.

The floor agreed on the amendment.

Clause 5
Advocate Malachi read clause 5, the Short title of the amendment Bill.  He said that the Act would be called the Births and Deaths Registration Amendment Bill 2001.

Ms Jacobus (ANC) stated that clause 5 was fairly straightforward.  She stated that the committee seemed to have agreed upon all the proposals, before proceeding to confirm the results on a party basis. 

Ms Jacobus (ANC) explained that the UDM party had not been represented at the meeting.  However, given the fact that five out of the six parties represented in the committee had agreed upon the amendment Bill, she concluded that the Bill had been agreed upon.  She then read the motion of desirability.  After referring the committee to the preamble, she asked the committee if it would be possible to include all of which the Bill provided for in the motion of desirability.

The committee agreed to amend the motion of desirability.

Ms Jacobus (ANC) stated that the Committee Report would read that the Select Committee on Social Services agreed to the Bill. 

The floor agreed upon this.

Ms Jacobus (ANC) explained that the committee had concluded the discussions surrounding the Bill, and stated that the Bill had been adopted.

Logistical Matters
She moved on to a logistical matter.  The amendment Bill was scheduled for approximately a 1 and a half-hour debate on Thursday 21 February 2002.  She requested that each party forward, to the Committee Secretary, the name of a person in that party that would speak on behalf of the party with regards to the Bill.  Each party would probably have five minutes within which to speak.  A shorter debate had been requested, but the Chairperson of the NCOP felt that it would be better to talk the matters out in order to inform the public and in order for the constituencies to be heard. 

Revised Programme
The committee had been programmed to meet a week earlier in order to discuss the National Mental Health Care Bill (NMHC Bill).  However, the majority of the legislatures had not opened yet, and she explained that she thought it fit to have the briefing on Tuesday 26 February.  This would mean that the latest time at which the committee members could go to their individual provinces would be on the Friday of that week as the matter would still be fresh in their minds.  They would be dealing with a whole new Bill, and she wanted them all to have a full understanding of it before approaching the provinces.  This would also allow the provinces to have public hearings if they desired them. 

Ms Jacobus (ANC) read the amended agenda:
            26 February – briefing on the NMHC Bill
            4 – 8 March – Provincial Week
            12 March – Negotiations mandated
            19 March - Final mandates and voting
            20 March - Plenary
She added that the programme had only been finalised up until that date and that the rest of the programme would come at a later date. 

Ms Vilakazi (IFP) was confused with the programme. 

Ms Jacobus (ANC) clarified the fact the on 28 February and 29 February the committee would only be dealing with the NMHC Bill.

Ms Jacobus (ANC) went on to say that she had received and distributed correspondence from the Health, Social Development and Home Affairs Departments.  She asked the committee to familiarise themselves with the NMHC Bill.  This is because they would not be calling the relevant departments to brief them on the legislation.

Ms Vilakazi (IFP) asked how the Select Committee on Social Services would be allowed to miss the plenary session on 26 February 2002.

Ms Jacobus (ANC) explained that she would formally write a letter to the House on behalf of the committee.  However, she was of the opinion that once excused from the plenary cession, this would extend only to their committee.

Status of Women Protocol
Ms Jacobus (ANC) moved on to the protocol on the status of women.  She said that in June/July 2001 the committee received a protocol from the Home Affairs Department dealing with the status of non-South African women that were married to South African men.  The committee had already dealt with the protocol but as a result of a problem with the procedure, the protocol never went to the ATC and therefore never appeared on the committee agenda.  This matter was brought to the attention of the committee in the previous week.  The result was that the protocol had to be taken to the ATC.  The committee would not be dealing at length with the protocol, but that a meeting would be scheduled for 21 February 2001 to finalise the matter.  A five-minute statement would be needed from the committee and that a volunteer from the committee would be required to carry this out

Mr Nel (NNP) agreed to do it.

International Study Tour
Ms Jacobus (ANC) explained that she was trying to work towards having the tour during the middle of the year, the aim still being to go to Canada. She said that the Frederick Stiftung had been approached for funding. 

The meeting was adjourned.


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