Members unanimously elected Advocate Holomisa as the Chairperson of the Ad Hoc Committee. The Committee discussed the letter that had been submitted by the Chief Justice to the Speaker of Parliament concerning the filling of vacancies in the Electoral Commission. The letter summarised the work done by the interviewing panel. The interviewing panel had narrowed down the names from 17 to 10. It was up to the Committee to choose only four candidates out of the 10 candidates to fill the positions in the Electoral Commission.
The Committee agreed that there was no need to re-interview the candidates since a prominent panel, which consisted of the Chief Justice, the Public Protector and the Head of the Human Rights Commission, had done so. The Committee however grappled with whether, in choosing the right candidates, it should determine which candidate was supposed to be part time of full time. No agreement was reached but however one Committee Member stated that it was up to the President to choose which candidate was supposed to be full time or part time. The Member stressed that the mandate of the Committee was to choose the right candidates.
Election of Chairperson
The Committee nominated and elected Adv Holomisa as Chairperson of the Committee.
The Chairperson asked whether Members had any comments on the draft agenda.
Ms J Kilian (COPE) asked for a copy of the ATC which highlighted the deadline that the Committee had to meet in electing suitable candidates for the Electoral Commission.
The Chairperson agreed with Ms Kilian and stated that the ATC was supposed to guide the Ad Hoc Committee.
Letter submitted by Chief Justice to Speaker
The Chairperson read out a letter that had been submitted by the Chief Justice to the Speaker of Parliament concerning the filling of vacancies in the Electoral Commission. The Chief Justice had indicated that he had interviewed a number of candidates and 10 names had been short listed for consideration. From this list, 4 candidates would be selected and presented to the National Assembly by the Ad Hoc Committee. The names of the 4 candidates would be forwarded to the President. Some of the candidates would be working on a full time basis and the others would be working on a part time basis. The Committee had the Curriculum Vitaes (CVs) of the candidates and the organisations that had nominated them. Members would be guided by a number of legislation such as the Constitution and the Electoral Act as well as their own intellect. There was need to deliberate on the procedure that was supposed to be followed by the Committee. The Committee was however not going to deliberate on the candidates in the current meeting because there was a need to look at the documentation that had been submitted first.
Ms A Lovemore (DA) noted that a meeting had been scheduled for Friday, 21 October 2011 to consider candidates for the Electoral Commission. She sought clarity on whether the meeting was a Home Affairs or an Ad Hoc Committee meeting.
Mr Eddie Mathonsi, Committee Secretary for the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, clarified that it was an Ad Hoc Committee meeting.
Ms Kilian asked whether the list that had been submitted to the Ad Hoc Committee had been narrowed down from 69 to 17 and then 10 candidates.
The Chairperson clarified that a call was made to the nation for candidates. 69 nominations were forwarded to a Panel for consideration. The Panel identified 17 names and interviewed these candidates. Out of the 17 candidates 10 were chosen for consideration by Parliament.
Mr J Jeffery (ANC) replied that there was need to look at the information that had been submitted by the Chief Justice, including the candidates CVs and the nomination letter. The Committee had to complete its mandate as soon as possible before 27 October 2011. He suggested that the Committee adjourn to consider the documentation that had been submitted.
The Chairperson agreed that there was need to look at the report that had been submitted to Parliament and as such there was no need to re-interview the candidates. There was however need to consider the times during which the Committee was supposed to meet because most Members had other Committee businesses to attend to.
Mr M Masutha (ANC) noted that objections had been lodged by Members of the public in the past after candidates had been nominated. He asked whether the public was supposed to be notified.
Ms N Bhengu (ANC) said that there was need to follow what had been done in the past in order to prevent the Committee from being overwhelmed
The Chairperson replied that the potential candidates had been interviewed publicly hence it was not necessary to publish to the public again.
Mr Jeffery agreed with the Chairperson. He added that it was a requirement of the Electoral Act that the panel was supposed to act in accordance with transparency and openness. The Committee was supposed to consider the report that had been submitted by the Chief Justice and there was no need for them to engage in a new process.
Mr M Masizole (DA) said that section 2(d) of the Electoral Act outlined the processes that were supposed to be followed. Parliament was supposed to have made provision for a briefing on the process that must be followed. He suggested that there was no need to interview the candidates unless there was a necessity to do so. The Committee was supposed to consider the documentation that had been provided to them.
The Chairperson reiterated that there was no need to interview the candidates and that the Committee would meet after hours in order to deal with the matter speedily.
Ms Lovemore noted that some of the candidates preferred full time positions and others part time. She asked whether there was a requirement in law that allowed for a certain number of full time or part time Commissioners.
Advocate Nonkosi Cetywayo, Legal Advisor: Office of the Speaker, replied that there was nothing in law that stipulated that a certain number of Commissioners had to be full time or part time. She added that there were however three full time and two part time Commissioners since the Commission started.
Mr Jeffery said that it was up to the President to determine which Commissioner was supposed to be full time or part time in terms of Section 7(2) of the Electoral Act.
The Chairperson believed that the Committee should have an idea of how many candidates were supposed to be full time or part time.
Ms A Muthambi (ANC) said that the candidates were supposed to have indicated whether they wanted to serve on a full time or part time basis.
Mr Masizole suggested that the state attorney brief the Committee on the processes that were supposed to be followed. The Committee was supposed to be clear on what mandate it had.
Ms Bhengu replied that the mandate of the Committee was very clear. If there was need for a briefing then this should be arranged. She added that some people found it difficult to understand written information hence they would request verbal information.
Mr Jeffery said that the mandate of the Committee was to select 4 candidates and it was up to the President to determine who was supposed to be full time or part time commissioners.
Mr A Gaum (ANC) said that he agreed with Mr Jeffery. He suggested that the Committee was not supposed to consider any preferences. In addition there was no need to have a briefing from anyone.
Ms C Dudley (ACDP) noted that the report that had been submitted by the Chief Justice included information regarding the candidates preferences hence the information would affect the thinking of the Committee.
Mr Masizole stressed that there was no need for the Committee to become impatient and intolerant. The Committee was supposed to be clear on the issue of part time and full time because there was a need to avoid a situation where it would appoint a person to a full time position and that then the person would refuse.
Ms Lovemore said that the resumes provided some clarity because some of the candidates preferred to serve on a part time basis.
The Chairperson said that it would make sense if the Committee decided candidates on the basis of what they preferred regardless of the fact that the President had the final say.
Mr Masutha said that the Act envisaged a situation where it was okay for some of the Commissioners to be part time or full time. The issue of part time or full time was not a question of law but a question of discretion. The Committee must satisfy itself whether there was any legal requirement in making a selection that a certain percentage (of candidates) be either part time or full time. There was no rule that prescribed percentages between part time and full time. In the absence of such a guide there was no need for the Committee to make a decision on the matter of how many candidates were supposed to be part time or full time. All that the Committee could do was to deal with the names of the candidates that were before it.
The Chairperson said that the Committee was supposed to look at the criteria that it was supposed to follow.
Ms Bhengu proposed that the meeting be adjourned because the debate became irrelevant. There was no need to determine the outcome of the process that was beyond the Committee.
Ms J Moloi-Moropa (ANC) said that there was no need to open the discussion. The problem was that candidates were interviewed elsewhere. She suggested that an additional two candidates be elected in case some of the other candidates refused to accept the nomination.
Ms Killian said that the issue of part time and full time candidates had been adequately deliberated on. The panel that interviewed the candidates determined the suitability of the candidates in safeguarding the integrity of the Commission. She asked whether the candidates impartiality had been assessed since some of them were still involved with political organisations.
The Chairperson reiterated that there were a number of documents that the Committee needed to have so that it could satisfy itself on what it was supposed to do and how it was supposed to do it. Unless there was a reason that the interviewing panel did not apply their minds there was no reason to question its judgement. In terms of political profile of candidates, he emphasised that there were in actual fact very few people who were not involved with a political party.
Ms Killian said that she did not want to rule out the possibility of the Committee further interviewing some of the candidates.
Mr Jeffery said that the process of selecting candidates was set out in the Electoral Commission Act. The names were selected by a panel which was composed of very high ranking officials such as the Chief Justice, Public Protector, Head of the Gender Commission and Head of the Human Rights Commission. He emphasised that the panel had not drawn any names out of a hat.
Ms Killian said that she was not casting any doubt on the panel. She asked that the Committee reconsider interviewing the candidates.
The Chairperson said that Ms killian was invalidating the decision that the Committee had adopted earlier on. The Committee would not be interviewing any candidates.
Ms Killian responded that she was not invalidating the decision that had been adopted earlier on in the meeting. She urged the Committee to consider the possibility of further interviewing candidates.
Ms Lovemore requested that the documents that had been submitted to the Committee Members be made available electronically.
The meeting was adjourned.
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