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LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND ADMINISTRATION SELECTION COMMITTEE
30 April 2002
DEPARTMENT ON COMMISSION FOR PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF THE RIGHTS OF CULTURAL, RELIGIOUS AND LINGUISTIC COMMUNITIES BILL: BRIEFING
Commission for Promotion & Protection of Rights of Cultural, Religious & Linguistic Communities Bill [B62 -2001]
Aims of the Selection 185 Commission Bill
Part 2 (Object of the Commission and its Powers and Functions) and Part 7 (Community Councils) of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities Bill were contentious issues in the committee meeting. It became obvious that there was no member in the meeting who seemed to adopt the provision of these two sections when, towards the end of the meeting an appeal was made to the committee that the Bill should be revisited. It was acknowledged though, that this was not a platform to amend the Bill as that would be done when the Bill was discussed in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).
Mr J Beukman, Chief planner: research (governance), department of provincial and local government presented an overview of the Bill. He mentioned that special debates started in 1998 by the National Assembly and all Provincial Legislatures and have passed through two National Consultative Forum before approved by the Cabinet on July 2001. Then the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Bill was analysed clause by clause before allowing questions or comments.
Mr T Ralane (ANC, Freestate) asked if the object of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities Bill was not creating racial divisions. He was concerned that if South Africa is a unitary state, there was no point in creating ethnic divisions by implementing the object of the Commission.
Mr J Beukman replied that Section 4 of the Bill which stated that the object of the Commission are:
-to promote respect for and further the protection of the rights of cultural, religious and linguistic communities
-to promote and develop peace, friendship, humanity, tolerance and national unity among and within cultural, religious and linguistic communities
in the wording of Section 185 (1) (a) and (b) of the Constitution.
Reference was made to Section 5 (1) (c) of the Bill which confers the power of nation building to the Commission. Mr J Beukman reminded committee members that the Commission for the Promotion and the Protection of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities has the same status as any of the Institutions Supporting Constitutional Democracy (Chapter 9 of the Constitution).
Mr T Ralane (ANC, Free State) alluded to the fact that he finds it strange for traditional leaders not to play any role in the composition and membership of the Commission (Part 3 of the Bill) because they are custodians of culture. With respect to powers and functions of the Commission, he wondered why should the Commission only report any matter that fell within its power and functions to the South African Human Rights Commission (Section 6 (3)) and not, for example, to the parliament or to the court for investigation.
Mr T Beukman replied that Human Right s Commission is specifically mentioned because it appears in Section 185 (3) of the Constitution. However, it is not easy to include that provision in the Bill or an Act. All these are covered by Section 5 (1) (k) of the Bill, that is, to bring any relevant matter to the attention of the appropriate authority or organ of the state, and where appropriate, make recommendations to such authority or organ of the state. The NCOP is therefore included. The Chairperson, Mr M Mkaliphi (ANC, Mpumalanga) added that the Bill must be debated by the NCOP anyway, before it becomes an Act.
It was added though, that the Commission was not meant to resolve conflicts between and within cultural, religious and linguistic communities, but to facilitate the resolution thereof, as stipulated in Section 5 (1) (g).
Ms C Botha (DP, Free State) commented that the Commission for the Promotion and the Protection of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Rights was not really needed as there was already the Human Rights Commission. She asked if Section 38 (1), which provides that the aims of the Community Council should be to preserve, promote and develop the culture, religion or language of the community for which it is recognised gives the platform to strengthen ethnic division as it were in Fryberg.
Mr P Beukman replied that Section 38 (1) of the Bill gives effect to Section 30 and 31 of the Constitution that guaranteed the freedom of language and culture and freedom of cultural, religious and linguistic communities respectively. But he noted the internal limitation in those sections that these rights should not be inconsistent with any provision of the Constitution. He added that the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities has specific functions as stipulated in the Constitution. He motivated his answer by mentioning that Koisan community's culture was historically diminished. They were denied their cultural rights and referred to as coloured. This Commission is aimed at rectifying the subversion of cultures and to develop the historically diminished cultural heritage.
Ms C Botha's asked if cultures which were not subverted would be held static. How would cultures that are historically diminished be represented in the Commission. Mr P Beukman replied that this issue was hardly debated in the National Assembly. Hence Section 3 (a) of the Bill stipulates that the Commission must be composed in such a way that it at least is representative of the main cultural, religious and linguistic communities in South Africa for Constitutional validity. He mentioned that cultures like Jewish culture are well instituted. So resources have to be diverted to those cultures which need to be developed.
Another question was if the Commission would consider Satanism and Rastafarians as religions. The answer was that unlawfulness will not be allowed, but Rastafarian is now constituted as a religion.
Mr M Makoela (ANC, Northern Province) was worried that the allocation of students according to their ethnic groups at residences at the Universities would be difficult to challenge. Reference to the youth in Section 5 (1) (d) would make it difficult for the youth to survive racial divisions. He asked Mr J Beukman how integration was going to be enforced. He answered that no organ of the state had the duty to bring community together. Furthermore, attitudes of the people may not be easily be legislated. Communities may only be encouraged to do so, like at national conferences are held.
Mr Ralane and Mr Nkaliphi argued that the Bill should be revisited.
The meeting was adjourned to be resumed on 8 May 2002.