Independent Panel Assessment of Parliament recommendations; Proceedings/decisions of 3rd Parliament on a review of Rules; Establishment of Joint Committee on HIV and AIDS

Joint Rules

23 March 2011
Chairperson: Mr Max Sisulu (Speaker of NA) & Mr J Mahlangu (Chairperson of NCOP)
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Meeting Summary

The Minutes of the Committee meeting held on 22 April 2010 were approved, but a Member noted concern that all processes seemed to be taking a very long time.

The Committee then discussed the progress of the Recommendations by the Independent Panel Assessment on Parliament, noting that some costings had been done on the recommendations, which fell into three broad categories of those matters that required further political policy direction, those where projects were identified, and those that formed part of line functions and could be catered for within divisions. A schedule of projects was presented. It was noted that many recommendations had already been incorporated into the current Parliament’s strategic planning, but there were some difficulties in trying to assess costs without knowing the exact scope of the projects. A DA Member noted that the Committee had not ever discussed the Panel Report thoroughly, and accepted the recommendations, and it was also not debated in Parliament, so he thought it was premature to attend to costings. The Secretary to Parliament conceded that although it had not been debated, recommendations were made and accepted at high levels of authority. Members agreed that it should be referred to the political caucuses and discuss it at POA.

The Joint Subcommittee noted that it had been given a mandate to consider whether it would be desirable to convene a Joint Monitoring Committee to deal with HIV and AIDS. There were some concerns that this would place undue stress on Members who might be expected to serve on yet another committee, but, after consulting with stakeholders, including the portfolio committees who were most involved with HIV and AIDS, it was noted that there was general support for establishing this committee, recognising that the effects of HIV and AIDS were much wider than health alone, but extended to economic and social stability. This would be a joint monitoring committee, playing an advisory, monitoring and supportive role, to ensure continued focus. Members agreed that the new Committee would be established, consisting of nine members from the NA and five from the NCOP.

The Task Team on Legislative Processes reported that it had been formed and had reported to the Joint Rules Committee shortly before the 2009 elections, and the Fourth Parliament’s Joint Rules Committee had decided that the matter should thereafter be dealt with at the Chairpersons’ Forum. She wished to deal with queries around the public participation model, and noted that this stemmed directly from Parliament’s second main function of oversight. Public participation in the legislative procedure followed a set pattern, and had also formed the subject of Constitutional Court rulings, so there was little leeway for changes here. A workshop, unfortunately poorly attended, had been convened for chairpersons to explain the report, and discuss it, to enable all parties to make an informed decision whether to accept the recommendations of the Task Team. The ANC and DA indicated that they would welcome this, but also agreed that time frames should be set.

The Joint Political Task Team briefed the committee on progress in the development of the public participation model. Unfortunately this was being hampered by parties not putting forward names of Members to serve, despite two attempts by the previous House Chairperson to do so. A workshop would be convened between the Joint Political Task Team and the project team to get political direction and set the scope. Members Frolick and Tau shared responsibility to provide names of members within a reasonable time, and the Joint Political Task Team would renew its attempts to brief the Chief Whips Forum. A Member noted that the Chief Whip’s Forum must accept responsibility as it had an obligation in this matter, and another Member suggested that the process must proceed, with or without the participation of some parties, if they still did not submit names.

Meeting report

Agenda items
Mr I Davidson (DA) referred to item 8 of the minutes of the last meeting, saying that although these indicated that the Report of the Independent Panel Assessment of Parliament would be an agenda item for this meeting, it was not listed.  

The Chairperson said it would be put on the agenda, and other items listed on page 4 of the minutes would also be included.

Minutes of meeting held on 22 April 2010
Ms Fazela Mohamed, Registrar of Members’ Interests, referred to the recommendations on the process of Parliament. The decision was to refer the matter to the Chairpersons’ Forum for discussion and deliberation. Item 5, relating to the review of the rules, concerned the subcommittee.

The Chairperson said that would be referred to the Speaker’s Forum.

A Member, who served on the Chairperson’s Forum, commented that the new Chairperson could follow up on it.

Mr Davidson commented that these processes were taking too long, pointing out that it was nearly a year since the last meeting.

Ms Mohammed noted that the matter had already been referred there, and she could brief the Committee on what had transpired there.

Ms Marina Nel, Parliamentary staff member, noted that item 5 referred to the Task Team on Public Participation. The agenda item related to a report drawn on this.

Members agreed to approve the minutes of the Joint Rules Committee, held on 22 April 2010.

Matters arising from Minutes
Recommendations by the Independent Panel Assessment of Parliament
There was a delay while documents were being circulated. The Chairperson reminded Members that documents must be circulated long before the meeting.

Ms Faizela Mohammed reported that a document was submitted to the Joint Rules Committee in April 2010, and the Secretary to Parliament had prepared a document on the estimated costing and implications of the substantive recommendations contained in the Report on the Independent Panel Assessment of Parliament (the Panel Report). The Panel Report had made three main categories of recommendations: the first required further political policy direction, the second related to matter where projects were identified, and the third category reported on matters forming part of the line functions of the divisions, which could be catered for within the respective divisions.

The process in respect of projects was outlined and was detailed in a schedule.

A strategic planning process was looking at the Panel Report and the issues outlined to form a strategic plan for Parliament. Many of the recommendations of that Panel had already been included. A simultaneous process was identifying and establishing projects. One of the difficulties in costing was that much of the cost depended on the scope of the project. For instance, if the example was taken of establishing a scrutiny mechanism to oversee delegated legislation, the extent of implementation depended on the costing, which would in turn determine whether this was a priority, and where the mechanism would be placed. It was therefore necessary to get some further details around the scope.

She noted that there was already a project under way for the review of the impact of legislation, and once all the project plans and the detailed discussion had taken place, a detailed document would be submitted to the relevant body and the Joint Rules Committee. She indicated that the document circulated showed the status and details of projects to assess the impact of Parliament, the impact of legislation, and the impact in terms of the Constitution, all of which were in Parliament’s strategic plan. Most of the costing was already being dealt with.

Ms Mohammed referred Members to page 2 of the document circulated, which referred to development of guidelines containing principles and requirements of public hearings for Chairpersons and Members of committees, establishment of a mechanism to ensure feedback to persons/institutions who had made presentations to Parliament through public participation processes, and the provision of clear standards for public participation, in a Public Participation Model. Those were also still under discussion, and, when finalised, would be included in the Strategic Plan.

Mr Davidson said the Committee had never really had a thorough discussion on the whole document and had not formally accepted the Panel Report recommendations. Parliament itself had never taken a final decision. He said it was premature to do a costing before deciding what exactly what was to be assessed

The ANC Chief Whip said that political decisions must also be taken into account.

Mr Z Dingani (Secretary to Parliament) emphasised that most of the contents of the reports formed the basis on which the policy statements had been drawn. Recommendations were made to high authority level, and part was tabled last April at the Joint Rules Committee, so the process was being dealt with, although it may not have been discussed in the House.

Mr Davidson said the Panel Report was detailed and comprehensive, and he was worried that if only certain aspects were built into the Parliamentary strategic plans, this was selective, and there might have been other matters that Parliament as a whole would like to have incorporated. It would have been correct process for Parliament to have discussed the report as a whole, to decide what should be accepted, and then carry these forward into the strategic plan, with costing. The Chief Whip seemed to indicate that there was little, if any, political input in the process. He did not know where the process was at the moment.

The Chairperson said that this was presented for consideration at the Parliamentary Oversight Authority (POA) in March 2010. The Committee should read those documents and minutes. The proposal was for a more in-depth discussion.

An ANC Member agreed with the Chairperson and said that it was necessary to ensure a caucus when the matter was taken to the POA.

The Chairperson agreed that this matter should be taken back for caucusing.

Mr Davidson asked whether the Scrutiny Committee had been established. He again mentioned the delays, sometimes as long as two years, in putting matters into action, which was making a mockery of the process. The last Joint Rules Committee meeting was held in April 2010, and yet there were still proposals to refer matters to task teams. He urged that the Committee should act seriously and action matters more speedily.

Adv T Masutha (ANC) agreed with Mr Davidson. He had been involved in the early days of this matter, and agreed strongly that the matter had been long before Parliament and that the Committee must take a decision very soon. He would report later on the establishment of a committee on HIV and AIDS, but quipped that there were fears that if this continued to be delayed, the pandemic could well be over.

The Chairperson said some of the points raised by Mr Davidson would be discussed later in the meeting. He noted the comments and said that the Committee would return to the point.

Establishment of Joint Committee on HIV and AIDS: Second report of 2010 of joint subcommittee
Adv Masutha noted that in 2009 the Joint Rules Committee had discussed the establishment of a Joint Monitoring Committee to deal with HIV and AIDS. One of the points for debate then was whether it was desirable to establish yet another committee for Parliament, given the numbers of committees on which Members already had to serve. The Joint Subcommittee was given a mandate to consult with other stakeholders, and consider whether it was viable to establish another committee. He noted that Mr Geoff Doidge had chaired a meeting, and recommendations were made by stakeholders, as well as by the chairpersons of the Portfolio Committees on Health and on Social Development (who were most involved in work in this area) that Parliament should create a specific vehicle to focus on the pandemic, especially in light of the heavy economic and social burdens imposed by HIV and AIDS. HIV and AIDS spanned across many line functions, and this special committee would therefore be able to interact with Parliament and government departments. There was strong motivation that South Africa should not miss the opportunity to stem the pandemic and elevate the issues to the fore. The recommendation of the Joint Subcommittee was therefore that an HIV and AIDs committee should be established. Because it would not be a portfolio committee, it would deal with legislation but would play an advisory, monitoring and supportive role, a monitoring role to ensure that the entire Parliamentary system remained focused on the subject matter.

He drew Members’ attention to the terms of reference and draft rules. The Joint Rules Committee should determine exactly how the new committee should be constituted. It would be a joint committee, with membership from both the NA and NCOP, and must reflect the multi party democracy.

He noted that there were various models. One model was to have 14 members, of whom nine would be from NA and 5 from NCOP. Another model, the PTIR, proposed eleven members.

The Chairperson thanked Adv Masutha for the report.

Mr Davidson wondered if much of what was intended to be done by the new committee had not perhaps been taken over already by other committees.

Mr J Jeffery (ANC) reminded Members that Cabinet had taken a decision in 2009, referred to the Joint Subcommittee on Review of the Joint Rules. The debate on whether there should be a separate committee for HIV and AIDS was a long one, but there was acceptance that HIV and AIDS had far broader ramifications than merely health. He understood Mr Davidson’s frustration that it had taken nearly two years to implement the decision and urged the Committee to accept the proposal before it.

Members agreed to adopt the proposal of the Joint Subcommittee, to establish a new committee.

Members also agreed that the new committee would consist of nine members from the NA, and five from the NCOP.

Report of Task Team on Legislative Process
Ms Fatima Chohan, now Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, briefed the Committee, noting that this matter originated from a range of discussions during prior terms of Parliament. There was concern that despite informal processes at portfolio committee level, there was no formal policy that was started by Parliament, and certainly not one that could uniformly guide and inform committees on proceedings when legislation was started. All of that came to a head when the Speaker, in his official capacity, was cited in court cases dealing with substantive and sub jure matters. The Speaker and the Chairperson of the NCOP had then convened many workshops to discuss aspects of the legislative process, and a Task Team on the Legislative Process (the Task Team) was formed.

That Task Team submitted a report to the Joint Rules Committee shortly before the 2009 elections. After the first Joint Rules Committee of the new Parliament, it was decided to deal with the matter at the Chairperson’s forum. During that discussion there might have been some indications around a public participation model. However, she wanted to note that Parliament had two major roles and functions – the first being a legislative function and the second being the oversight function, from which the public participation model stemmed directly, as was outlined in the Panel Report.

Public participation in the legislative process was governed by set procedures, and had been pronounced upon in court rulings, and there was little leeway for any changes here by the Task Team. It was also felt that because Chairpersons were dealing constantly with legislative processes in their day-to-day committee functions, the proposals should receive input from the Chairpersons’ Forum. Ms Chohan and the Chair of Chairs had convened a workshop, and all chairpersons from both Houses were invited. Adv Anton Meyer, who was contracted to equip the Task Team to develop the document, had run the workshop, which was very useful, although not many chairpersons arrived.

The matter then came back to this Committee. She pointed out that the document was quite long, and she was not sure whether the Committee wished to discuss some aspects, or to refer it back to political parties. She suggested that perhaps the Task Team and Adv Meyer should make a presentation that could inform all parties so that they could approve or reject the recommendations of the Task Team.

The Chairperson thanked Deputy Minister Chohan for the briefing. He understood there were two reports, one being the Task Team’s recommendations and the other being the public participation model, also on the agenda.

Mr Davidson indicated that this was a very detailed topic and he would welcome an opportunity to engage on the suggestions, and get feedback. He asked when the public participation model would be dealt with.

The Chairperson responded that this would be dealt with under item 7 of the agenda.

The Chief Whip agreed that the matter should be referred to the political parties, and said the ANC would like to avail itself also of hearing a presentation.

Mr Davidson suggested that time frames be set, and Members agreed to this.

The Chairperson then referred Members to Annexure 3, on page 29.

Development of public participation model: Progress report
Mr C Frolick (ANC) briefed the Joint Rules Committee on the progress in the development of the public participation model. The Joint Rules Committee had decided, on 22 April 2010, to set up a Joint Political Task Team to develop a Public Participation Model (PPM). There had been two attempts by the previous House Chairperson to constitute this Joint Political Task Team, and get people to serve on the Team. The next stage would be convening of a workshop between the Joint Political Task Team and the Project Team to provide political direction and to set the scope for the project team to proceed with its work.

Mr Frolick and Mr Tau shared responsibility to provide names of members within a reasonable time frame. The Joint Political Task Team would make another attempt to brief the Chief Whips’ Forum.

Mr Davidson noted Mr Frolick’s points but said that there would come a time when, even if the political parties still did not submit names, the process must proceed, so the Joint Political Task Team could not be held hostage by a few political parties that were reluctant to provide names.

The Chief Whip submitted that the Chief Whips Forum must accept responsibility to ensure that that was done as it was an obligation.

Ms J Terblanche (DA) asked whether Chapter 5 of the previous item was being discussed. A lot of work still had to be done.

Mr Frolick responded that that would be taken into account, because much of the process would ultimately form part of the Public Participation Model.

The meeting was adjourned.


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