Transport Laws Repeal Bill: Department of Transport briefing

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09 August 2010
Chairperson: Ms N Bhengu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Transport briefed the Committee on the Transport Laws Repeal Bill 2010. It was noted that the South African Law Reform Commission had been mandated with the task of identifying outdated or unconstitutional legislation, and it had drawn the Department of Transport’s attention to 218 Acts administered by that Department that needed to be re-examined. The Department was now seeking to repeal or amend those Acts. The Bill had been published for comment in Government Gazette 31864 of 13 February 2009. Comment had been submitted from several stakeholders, including Transnet, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa,  the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. The Bill had been approved by the Office of the Chief State Law Advisor. The Department said that most of the amendments were of an entirely technical nature, and the comments had supported the Bill. The Bill included two schedules, the first listing twenty Railway Construction Acts dating back to 1939, while Schedule 2 listed a number of laws that were to be repealed or amended to the extent listed in a column of that schedule.

Members noted that the Bill had never previously been presented to this Committee of the Fourth Parliament. The call for public submissions had been made in February 2009, during the Third Parliament, and Members had never previously received any briefing from the Department on the legislation it now sought to repeal, nor had any knowledge of what may have transpired between February 2009 and the present. Members therefore considered that they were unable to deal with the matter. They requested that a full summary be prepared and tabled to the Committee, setting out the nature of each piece of legislation, the reasons why the Department wished to amend it, comments received from stakeholders, and the extent of the amendment. This shoul ideally be provided before 17 August, as public hearings were due to commence on 7 and 8 September. The Department undertook to prepare the document requested by the Committee.

Members briefly discussed the third term Committee programme. They noted that a report must still be presented by the task team on the visit to China, but asked that other systems also be presented by way of comparison. They also noted that it would be desirable to conduct oversight over certain South African transport scenarios.

Meeting report

Transport Laws Repeal Bill: Department of Transport (DoT) briefing
Mr Trevor Mphahlele, Deputy Director: Legal Services, Department of Transport, briefed the Committee on the Transport Laws Repeal Bill (the Bill). He noted that the Bill sought to repeal various legislative enactments that were no longer necessary for the Department of Transport (the Department).

Mr Mphahlele gave an overview of how the Department had identified the legislation that was to be repealed, why each was recommended for repeal, and the basis which qualified it for repeal, either partially or entirely.

The South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC) had been mandated to conduct an investigation into the statute book of South Africa and was systematically identifying legislation which was outdated or  did not conform to Constitutional principles. It had collaborated with the Department, which had then investigated the legislation identified, and drawn the Bill.

218 out of the 2800 Acts identified were administered by the Department of Transport. Some, such as the Railway Expropriation Act of 1955, and the Railway and Harbour Strike and Service Amendment Act of 1914 had no further practicality and had become obsolete.

Mr Mahahlele drew Members’ attention to the schedules in the Bill. He noted that the intention of the Bill was to repeal the twenty Railway Construction Acts dating back to 1939.  Schedule 2 listed a number of other pieces of legislation that were to be repealed to the extent as set out in the third column of that Schedule (see attached document for details).

Mr S Farrow (DA) raised his concern at not being able to access the Bill electronically to view the comments, queries or concerns raised by the parties consulted.

Mr Mphahlele responded that the Bill was published for comment in the Government Gazette 31864 of 13 February 2009,. Comments from major stakeholders, such as Transnet, Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and others were received and taken into account. Overall, many of the amendments were deemed to be of a technical nature, and the parties submitting comments were in agreement with the proposed amendments.

Ms P Ngwenya–Mabula (ANC) questioned whether, if only national bodies were consulted, there would be an impact nonetheless on the provinces.

Mr M De Freitas (DA) agreed with this point. He was also concerned about any effect on provincial issues. He also asked what effect the repeal of the various pieces of legislation would have on the existing transport system.

Mr Mphahlele said that all amendments proposed by this Bill were in the National interest. He reiterated that parties had been given the opportunity to comment, by the Government Gazette in February 2009.

The Chairperson remarked that the Department’s request that the Committee approve the submission of this Bill to Parliament could not be acceded to by this Committee. It was a Committee of the Fourth Parliament and had not been seized with the matter when it commenced in February 2009. This Committee was not involved in the process of what the amendments entailed. A written summary, detailing all those pieces of legislation identified for amendment or repeal, together with a written summary of who had commented, and what those comments were, would be required, in order to apprise the Committee of what had transpired between the call for public comment in February 2009 and the current situation.

Mr Mphahlele noted that this information was basically contained in Schedules 1 and 2. The amendments were of a non-technical nature. However, he conceded that the Department would now draw a summary expanding on the information in the Schedule, what the amendments would entail and why the Department had decided that each piece of legislation should be amended or repealed.

The Chairperson questioned whether this could be done by 17 August, to enable the scheduling of hearings by the Committee on 7 and 8 September 2010.

Mr Mphahlele agreed that he would attend to the matter immediately.

Committee Programme for third term: Adoption
The Chairperson tabled the proposed Committee programme.

A Member questioned whether it would not be possible to combine the deliberations on the Cross Border Road Transport Agency and Road Traffic Act.

The Chairperson proposed that this should be done on 24 September.

Mr Farrow queried the developments in relation to the proposed trip to China, and asked whether half an hour would be sufficient to deal with the matter.

An ANC Member responded that he had a different view on whether China had the best system and suggested that other systems should also be examined.

Ms J Maluleke (ANC) said he had a different view on wether or not China has the best system. He suggested looking at other systems as well for comparison.

Mr De Freitas agreed in principle that more options should be presented.

Ms P Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC) agreed, saying that comparisons would assist the Committee to decide on any areas of uncertainty.

Ms N Ngele (ANC) agreed, but raised her concern that the report might be delayed.

Mr de Freitas suggested that a minuted report should be adopted prior to 24 September.

The Chairperson noted that the Task Team had already visited China to investigate problems already identified in South Africa. They needed, firstly, to account for the money spent, and secondly, to report on their findings in China before visiting a second country. Members were more knowledgeable about technical considerations in China than in South Africa. She proposed that oversight be conducted in South Africa, so that Members could familiarise themselves with what happened on the ground locally, before making comparisons with and recommendations on the Chinese systems.

Ms Ngwenya-Mabila agreed that this would provide more opportunity, and suggested that perhaps the report must then be delayed.

Mr de Freitas proposed that the report should still be tabled, using the findings in China as a guideline to what would then be decided in future.

The Chairperson expressed her admiration about her dealings with the Minister of Transport in China. She noted that exact statistics, costs and scales were evident in the planning of objectives, and that the transport system had been an eye-opener, being vastly better developed and advanced than in South Africa.

The meeting was adjourned.  


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