Commission for Promotion and Protection of Rights of Cultural, Religious & Linguistic Communities Bill: adoption

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

12 March 2002
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Meeting report

PROVINCIAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

PROVINCIAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
13 March 2002
COMMISSION FOR PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF RIGHTS OF CULTURAL, RELIGIOUS & LINGUISTIC COMMUNITIES BILL: ADOPTION

Chairperson:
Mr Y Carrim

Documents handed out:
Portfolio Committee Report on Bill (see Appendix 1)
New Clause 24 (see Appendix 2)
Proposed Amendments [Stage 4 will shortly be made available]
Commission for Promotion & Protection of Rights of Cultural, Religious & Linguistic Communities Bill [B62 -2001]

Department of Provincial & Local Government delegation: Mr Johan Beukman; Dr Petra Bouwer

SUMMARY
The Department took the Committee through the Working Draft of the Bill (Stage 4) checking the amendments that had been effected. The Committee agreed to the new Clause 24, dealing with two national consultative conferences. The Stage 4 draft was accepted with a few additional minor technical amendments. The Portfolio Committee report was read out to the members and the Committee agreed to the Bill and adopted the report.

MINUTES
The Chair drew the Committee's attention to a newly drafted Clause 26 which had not been discussed at previous meetings and was not contained in the Stage 4 draft of the Bill. He stated that the original Clause 24 was problematic with respect to independent Commissions, and sub-clause (2) implied a commission had to find its own funding for consultative conferences. This had therefore been amended to allow for parliamentary funds to be used for convening these conferences.

He illustrated the implication of the terms of the new Clause 24(1)(a) by saying that if there should be the need to hold a United Nations Conference on Indigenous Communities, or if there is a sudden outburst of violence in communities which needs to be addressed, then funding for these conferences can be obtained.

The Committee then went through the proposed amendments as effected in the Stage 4 draft.

In the new Clause 6, the heading was amended to read "Cooperation between the Commission and other Institutions".

In Part 5, the "p" in "part" was to be capitalised to read "Part".

Clause 38(1) (a) the sequence of "culture, language or religion" was amended to read "culture, religion or language".

In Clause 8 of the Bill, headed "Chairperson", subsection (1) was not altered and the words "another person" were not removed, despite previous debates about the section giving the President the option of appointing a person who is not a member of the Commission to be the chairperson. The Chair remarked that this was an exceptional situation. What has been done to Clause 8(1) is because of the nature of this commission and the need to secure national consensus. He said that the section should not be meant to be a precedent to Parliament to allocate such powers to the legislature.

Mr Grobler (DP) said that he was not in agreement with this section, however the inclusion of it is not a major disaster - if there is the feeling that the commission members are not suitable, and no appointment can be made for a chairperson from the commission then this puts doubt on the quality of people who sit on that committee.

The Chair responded to Mr Zam Titus's previous explanation that given the volatility of the nature of the issues which the commission might have to deal with, it is better to appoint a neutral person such as a judge or a professor of anthropology.

Mr. Ngubeni (ANC) pointed out that there had been a lengthy debate on this issue, and the Committee should not engage in yet another debate. However there is a feeling that the members of the commission should be in a position to unite South Africa about its culture, religion or language.

The Chair responded that the section is linked to Clause 8(2), as the President is not in a position to choose his "buddy" as the chairperson. Also the words "fit and proper" imply that the President has to take into account that the person is fit and proper to serve on the commission.

The Chairperson alerted the committee members to the exceptional circumstances and the nature of the commission, and he stated his belief that the words "another person" should be retained in the clause.

The Chair referred the committee to the placing of "nation-building" in Clauses 5 and 11 and to note the manner in which the paragraphs had been restructured. This was as a result of the previous meeting where members felt that the placing of the word at the end of the sentence had made it appear tacked on as an afterthought.

The Chair pointed out that the issue of qualification and disqualification of members had been addressed in Clause 6(2)(b).

The draft Portfolio Committee Report on the Bill was then read out to the Committee. The only change the Committee made was that in paragraph 5, the word "prescription" was amended to read "prescripts".

The Chair read out the motion of desirability to the Committee. Mr Mulder of the Freedom Front abstained from each and every provision of the Bill. The Democratic Party abstained from Clause 8. The Committee adopted the Bill as amended. The Committee also formally adopted the Portfolio Committee Report, as amended.

The Chair thanked the committee members and adjourned the meeting.

Appendix 1:
The Portfolio Committee further reports:

The Portfolio Committee believes that the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities can serve a vital role in providing for the expression of cultural, religious and linguistic rights in a way that fosters nation-building. If the Commission is effective, it will represent a significant further step in the consolidation of the process of our transition from a divided past to a common future that acknowledges both our diversity and unity.

The Committee notes that the Ministry and Department of Provincial and Local Government undertook an extensive three-year process of consultation with a wide range of stakeholders before finalizing the Bill for introduction into Parliament. The process included consultative conferences, workshops, provincial public hearings, and the establishment of a technical committee, representative of key stakeholders, to process earlier drafts of the Bill. In fact, the process was so consultative that several key stakeholders decided not to participate in the parliamentary public hearings because they felt that they had been given adequate opportunity to express their concerns. The Committee congratulates the Ministry and Department for the sensitive way it has processed this Bill.

The Commission is the only institution "supporting constitutional democracy" provided for in chapter 9 of the Constitution that has not yet been established. With the passing of this Bill, the Commission can now be established - and the Portfolio Committee proposes that the Commission be launched as soon as possible. It seems to the Committee that 24 September - Heritage Day - might be a suitable day.

The Portfolio Committee recognises that there could be an overlap between the powers and functions of the Commission and other institutions, including the South African Human Rights Commission, Pan South African Language Board, National House of Traditional Leaders and the Commission for Gender Equality. The Committee is also aware that questions are being raised about how productive and effective some of these institutions are, and whether the country, with its limited resources and many challenges, can afford to have so many constitutional institutions. The Portfolio Committee believes that these issues should be carefully considered at some appropriate stage.

Within the prescripts of the Constitution, the Portfolio Committee sought to both define a specific role for the Commission and to encourage the Commission to co-operate effectively with other institutions. Section 6 in particular focuses on the need for this co-operation. It is in the practical implementation of the Bill, however, that certain issues around the specific role of the Commission, its co-operation with other institutions, and its productivity and effectiveness will be addressed. We urge the Department and to-be-established Commission to ensure that these issues are appropriately dealt with. We will certainly be monitoring the process.

In many senses, the proposed Commission is unique. There are few, if any, parallels for it anywhere in the world. The Commission has a major responsibility to provide for the expression of diversity and unity in a mutually reinforcing way as part of our nation-building process. We wish it well.

Appendix 2:
New Clause 24

Convening
24.(1) (a) The Commission must convene two national consultative conferences during every term of the Commission, the first of which must take place within the first 12 months of a new term of the Commission.
(b) The Minister must be consulted if the Commission needs to convene moer than two national consultative conferences during a particular term of the Commission.
(2) The Commission may generate funding for a national consultative conference in addition to the money appropriated for that purpose by Parliament.

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