Joint Constitutional Review: Report on 2010 public submissions; Study Tour Report to Venice and Strasbourg

Constitutional Review Committee

17 March 2011
Chairperson: Mr S Holomisa (ANC) and Mr B Mnguni (ANC, Free State)
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Meeting Summary

The meeting started with clarification and adoption of outstanding minutes once a quorum was reached. The Committee experienced some back and forth discussion as some Members wished to change details in the already adopted minutes. They then went on to look at the Draft Report on 2010 Public Submission; it was adopted after some minor modifications. Finally, the Report on the Study Tour to Venice and Strasbourg was addressed. Some unclear sentences and statements were discovered and the report ended up not being adopted. It was agreed that Members would give their input to the Committee Secretary beforehand so that she could add any amendments. The Management Team of the Committee would be tasked with going through the report before it came before the Committee.

Meeting report

The meeting started with the Chairpersons acknowledging that the Committee was short of a quorum. It was decided that the Committee would continue going through the minutes and draft reports in anticipation of more Members showing up.

Outstanding Minutes
The Committee commenced going through the minutes.

A wording error in the Minutes of 11 October 2010 was corrected.

An unclear sentence was corrected in Minutes from the 12 November 2010 page Six.

Questions were also raised on the Minutes from the 18 February and some of its wording.

The quorum was reached as more members joined the Committee.

Mr D Bloem (COPE, Free State) moved to have the minutes adopted with the discussed exceptions corrected.

This was seconded and the minutes were adopted.

Ms B Mncube (ANC, Gauteng) said that she would like to see the Committee become more structured and better at addressing issues they take on and to avoid having issues drag on for years. She wanted the issues to be addressed in a more expedient manner.

Mr Bloem noted that one of the minutes contained a sentence, which indicated that any decision on the constitutional amendment of languages would be held off until after the municipal elections.

Adv S Swart (ACDP) clarified that a decision had been made to hold off until after the election any ruling (on this matter) so that it would not play into the political discourse or campaigning of any party or candidate. It could also have a negative effect on stability before the election. That was what the sentenced referred to and what the Committee had discussed and decided on.

Ms Mncube wanted the Committee to remove the sentence on local government so that constituents would not read it and misunderstand and believe a decision had been made.

Mr Bloem commented that it was unfortunate that the deliberations could be misunderstood as decisions for those reading the documents.

Mr T Chaane (ANC, North West) asked the Chairpersons if they had reopened the minutes for rectification as they had already been adopted and could not be further modified. He wanted clarity in what they were doing at the present.

The Chairperson said that he was correct, the minutes had been adopted they were merely discussing matters arising from the minutes.

Mr Swart asked if that meant they would be deleting the offending sentences.

Mr Bloem supported the Mr Chaane and said the minutes had been adopted as they were, they could not be modified at this point.

Co-Chairperson Mr B Mnguni (ANC, Free State) said this was actually correct, the minutes were adopted and could not be modified. However, Members were free to discuss their contents. With regards to taking decisions in matters that had now dragged on for years, he agreed, they should be able to manage it by the end of the year.

Mr Swart commented that although the Committee had adopted the minutes, Members could still reflect on the reasoning and the intent behind the decisions in today’s minutes so that it remained clear that no decision on any matter had yet been reached.

Report on 2010 public submissions
The Chairperson reminded Members that the report had already been before them and had been deferred to a later date due to a lack of a quorum.

A correction was made on page six, the very last sentence. Thereafter, the report was adopted.

Report on Study Tour to Venice & Strasbourg
Mr Swart commented on the reasons for certain paragraphs and phrases, and the desired neutrality they had sought to invoke. He also thought it prudent to include a mention that they had visited the European Court of Human Rights.

Co-Chairperson Mr Mnguni noted that there was some confusion concerning whether South Africa was a full member of the Commission of Human Rights in Europe. The trip had nothing to do with the country joining the Commission; but had been a study trip to learn from Europe.

Mr Swart suggested that the Committee should at least send the details of the invitation on to the relevant Department and also clarify South Africa’s status in the Commission.

The Chairperson asked if they Committee would be willing to adopt the report with the modification suggested by the members, particularly by Advocate Swart.

Mr Chaane said that the wording from the minutes of the 11 October 2010 already referred to South Africa’s status in the Venice Commission and as it was adopted earlier in the meeting it would be conflicting with the report. He asked that perhaps in the future the Committee Secretary or whoever drafted the reports could highlight the changes that had been applied so Members could easily find them and discuss them.

The Chairperson once again called for the adoption of the report with the amendments brought up.

Ms Mncube said that the report could not be adopted.

Mr Bloem suggested that they read through the report and give their input to the Committee Secretary beforehand so that she could add any amendments.

Ms F Hajaig (ANC) said that the Management Team of the Committee could be tasked with going through the report before it came before the Committee.

The suggestion was seconded and passed.

The Chairperson said that Parliament considered Friday a normal working day and hoped that Members would make themselves available for meetings so that there was always a quorum. Finally, he said that the next meeting set for the 20 of May would most likely fall away due to the upcoming elections. It would have to be rescheduled.

The meeting was adjourned.


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