Immigration Amendment Bill: finalisation and adoption; Analysis of Biennial Summit on Substance Abuse: briefing; Outstanding Committee Reports

NCOP Health and Social Services

18 April 2011
Chairperson: Ms R Rasmeni (North West, ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee considered proposed technical amendments to the Immigration Amendment Bill. The amendments proposed were not of a substantive nature and hence the Bill was adopted as amended. The Committee also discussed participation on policy votes and the preparation that went into it. Members were provided with a report back on the Biennial Summit on Substance Abuse. The Summit helped towards setting a platform for the development of policy on substance abuse. The Committee adopted outstanding minutes. The Committee Report on its Study Tour to the Netherlands was also considered. The study tour was undertaken with the view of South Africa learning from the Dutch success story on the transformation of its health system. The Committee also perused its Annual Plan 2011-2012 and agreed not to adopt it as further inclusions had to be included. The Chairperson encouraged Members to read through the documents and to make inputs if there were any.

Meeting report

Immigration Amendment Bill
The Department of Home Affairs presented proposed amendments on the Bill to the Committee. Advocate Deon Erasmus, Chief Director: Legal Services, Department of Home Affairs, undertook the presentation. He pointed out that the proposed amendments were pedantic technical amendments which made the wording in the Bill clearer. None of the amendments were substantive in nature. Clauses 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 11, 13, 17, 20, 21, 24 and 26 of the Bill were amended.

Mr Theo Hercules, Principal State Law Advisor, Office of the Chief State Law Advisor, found the proposed amendments acceptable.

The Chairperson stated that the Department had effected the necessary technical amendments to the Bill and the Committee found them to be acceptable as well.

The Chairperson, however, wished to follow a less conventional route and asked political parties to vote in favour or against the Bill. 

Mr M de Villiers (Western Cape, DA) asked whether the technical amendments were the only amendments to the Bill.

The Chairperson answered that there had been other amendments to the Bill which the Committee had previously agreed to.

The African National Congress (ANC), Democratic Alliance (DA) and Congress of the People (COPE) supported the Bill.

The Committee agreed to the Bill as amended.

Mr W Faber (Northern Cape, DA,) stated that the DA was not satisfied with the content of amendments to the Bill that the Committee had, on an earlier occasion, discussed,  but was satisfied only with technical amendments discussed in the present meeting.

The Chairperson asked what the specific issues were that the DA did not agree with.

Mr Faber responded that there were clauses in the Bill that the DA wished to discuss with the Committee. He noted that Mr De Villiers and the DA’s shadow minister had discussed the issues.

Mr S Plaaitjie (North West, COPE) was not opposed to what Mr Faber was suggesting but asked what the implication of the discussion would have if the Department of Home Affairs was not present at such discussion.

Ms M Boroto (Mpumalanga, ANC) stated that when the Committee had adopted the Bill earlier in the meeting, perhaps the DA had not been given an opportunity to state its concerns because the Chairperson was not aware that the DA had issues with certain clauses of the Bill. Whatever would be discussed by the Committee at present would have no impact on the Bill as it was already adopted. She stated that perhaps an apology to the DA and COPE was in order as the rest of the Committee had not been aware that they had concerns over the Bill. There was an unfortunate misunderstanding.

The Chairperson emphasised that in the future Members should forward concerns over pieces of legislation in writing to the Committee Secretary, Ms Marcelle Abrahams, who in turn would bring them to the Committee’s attention. She apologised for the misunderstanding. The route taken on the adoption of the Bill as per political party vote would be followed on all Section 75 bills.

Policy Vote discussion
Ms Boroto, as the Whip of the Committee, stated that she needed to prepare policy votes at the last moment. The policy vote on Health was scheduled for the 14 June 2011, Social Development and Home Affairs were scheduled for the 21 June 2011 and a strategic session was scheduled for the 24 May 2011. She strongly felt that Members should be included in policy debates and should not be informed about them at the last moment. Members needed to fine-tune policy debates beforehand.

The Chairperson shared Ms Boroto’s sentiments.

Ms B Mncube (Gauteng, ANC) proposed that Ms Boroto as the Whip of the Committee should make follow-ups with ministries that had not confirmed policy votes. If policy votes were not confirmed, Members were made to work under pressure. She noted that budget votes were presently being held in Parliament. Members should be provided with policy documents. The Committee should task its committee researchers to focus on provincial specifics. Ministries must be asked to be specific on National Council of Provinces (NCOP) relevant issues. The idea was for Members not to get an analysis of a general nature that would be of benefit only to the National Assembly.

Ms D Rantho (Eastern Cape , ANC) stated that committee researchers should do their own research and not use research done by the National Assembly. She noted that on many occasions Members tended to ignore Constitution House. Constitution House assisted Members to co-ordinate matters that needed to go to provinces. It could also help Members to obtain more information from the provinces.

Mr T Mashamaite (Limpopo, ANC) added that when departments intended to present their strategic plans to the Committee, committee researchers should brief Members beforehand on the plans so that the Committee could better interrogate the strategic plans of departments.

Analysis of Biennial Summit on Substance Abuse
Mr Sean Whiting, Researcher, National Council of Provinces, provided the Committee with feedback on the Summit on Substance Abuse. The Summit was held in Durban between the 15-17 March 2011 and was attended by an array of stakeholders. The idea was to develop resolutions which would be a reference for the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Substance Abuse. There was a need to review current policy and legislation. The substances focussed on were drugs and alcohol. The resolutions taken at the summit were accepted by everyone on the last day of the Summit. The resolutions were what needed to be understood by Members as they would create a platform on which the Committee could engage with the Portfolio Committee on Social Services and other stakeholders on the issue of substance abuse. In South Africa the National Drug Master Plan served as a framework for various structures. South Africa needed a comprehensive substance abuse policy. Such policy would give specific roles to various stakeholders. The regulatory framework should be national and should be applicable to all provinces. One of the suggestions at the Summit was to raise the legal age of alcohol consumption from 18 to 21years of age. Other suggestions included imposing restrictions on when alcohol could be sold, stricter rules and regulations, the regulation of home brews and even increasing taxes and duties on alcohol. Mr Whiting had made a suggestion to the Chairperson that a wider discussion on the topic be had with the portfolio committee and other stakeholders. Various issues could be discussed. The discussion could take place whilst the Inter-Ministerial Committee was forwarding recommendations to Cabinet.

The Chairperson stated that substance abuse was indeed a priority of the Committee. The Committee’s work should be guided by what was recommended in the Committee’s Strategic Plan.

Ms Mncube suggested that Members read through the material which they had on the Summit and on substance abuse and come back to the Committee in order to prioritise the issue in its Committee Programme.

The Chairperson agreed that the material at hand would be used as base documents and that the Committee visit specific areas identified for oversight on the issue of substance abuse.

Outstanding Committee Minutes
The Committee made minor spelling changes to minutes where needed.

The minutes dated 15, 22 and 24 March 2011 were adopted as amended. The minutes for the 29 March 2011 were adopted without amendments.

Report on Study Tour to the Netherlands
The Committee’s Content Advisor, Dr Thulisile Ganyaza-Twalo, presented an overview of the Report to the Committee. The tour had taken place from the 19-25 February 2011. The Netherlands had transformed its health care system because the need had arisen. In 2006 the Netherlands introduced its National Health Insurance Act. The Netherlands model was a success and one of the best in the world, hence South Africa could learn a great deal from it, especially since South Africa was considering following the route of national health insurance. In the Netherlands the insurer was obliged to accept a resident of that country. Health insurance was also compulsory on every citizen of the country.

The Committee agreed to read through the Report and to make recommendations if need be.

Ms Boroto stated that the Report was good and clear.

Mr De Villiers agreed that the Report was very thorough and complete.

The Chairperson suggested that Members read the Report and make suggestions and amendments where necessary. Thereafter the Committee would fine tune the Report for tabling in the Plenary. 

Ms Mncube insisted that the Committee first meet to discuss the Report before tabling.

The Chairperson agreed.

Select Committee on Social Services Annual Plan 2011-2012
Dr Ganyaza-Twalo placed the Plan before the Committee. She noted that the only changes that had been made to the Plan were dates.

The Chairperson stated that verification of decisions that had been taken needed to be included in the Plan and it would hence be advisable for the Committee not to adopt the Plan as yet. She suggested that whatever needed to be included in the Plan be included before adoption. Members were nevertheless encouraged to read through the Plan.

The Committee agreed to the Chairperson’s suggestion.

The meeting was adjourned.


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