The Committee briefly considered and adopted the proposed changes to the Military Ombud Bill [B 9B–11]. The major amendment was that the Military Ombud would be a Presidential appointment rather than an appointment by the President on the recommendation of the National Assembly. This effectively meant that the power to appoint, as well as to remove, the Military Ombud would be the responsibility of the President alone, without the necessary consultation with the National Assembly. The Department of Defence and Military Veterans was in accord with the proposed amendments. The State Law Adviser and Parliamentary Legal Adviser both confirmed that the amendments did give effect to the proposal of the Committee. The Committee formally approved the proposed amendments.
The Committee discussed its role in considering the Protection of Information Bill [B 6–2010] and debated whether or not to hold further public hearings. The Committee agreed to meet the following week to consider a briefing from the State Law Advisers outlining the content of public submissions and explaining the contentious clauses of the Bill. The Committee would make a decision at the next meeting as to how to move forward on the matter.
Millitary Ombud Bill [B 9B–11]: Adoption of Proposed Amendments
The Chairperson informed Members about the proposed changes to the Military Ombud Bill [B 9B–11]. The major amendment was that the Military Ombud would be a Presidential appointment rather than an appointment by the President on the recommendation of the National Assembly. This would entail the omission of the phrase ‘on the recommendation of the National Assembly’ in Clause 5(1) of the Bill, as well as the complete omission of Clauses 5(2), 5(3), 5(9) and 5(10). In Clause 5(11), the words “Ombud and” were to be inserted in order to read that “[t]he President may remove the Ombud and the Deputy Ombud from office...” These changes effectively meant that the power to appoint, as well as to remove, the Military Ombud would be the responsibility of the President alone, without the necessity of consulting with the National Assembly.
Mr Thabiso Ratsomo, Chief Director: Strategic Support, Department of Defence and Military Veterans, confirmed that the Department did not have any objection to the proposals made by the Committee regarding the appointment and removal of the Ombud. The Committee’s suggested amendment was in line with what the Department had originally proposed, and as such, the Department was in accord with the proposed amendments.
The State Law Adviser explained the meaning and effect of the proposed amendments as set out in the Committee’s Report dealing with Clause 5. The proposed amendments were properly captured in the document distributed by the Committee.
Ms Sueanne Isaac, Parliamentary Legal Adviser, confirmed that the amendments did in fact give effect to the proposal of the Committee.
Mr A Matila (
The Committee then proceeded to approve outstanding minutes from 10 August, 19 October and 26 October 2011. All three sets of minutes were duly adopted.
Protection of State Information Bill [B 6–2010]: discussion on way forward
The Chairperson stated that the Protection of State Information Bill [B 6–2010] had been referred to the Committee for consideration. While it was uncertain whether the Committee would have time to consider the Bill properly before the end of the year, he suggested that the Committee make arrangements for a briefing to take place the following week, as well as for public hearings.
Mr Matila said that the Bill had been journeying through the parliamentary process for a long time, and that there had already been many public hearings. He acknowledged that the Committee might not agree with the contents of the Bill, but questioned the usefulness of holding additional public hearings.
The Chairperson replied that there were indications that the Bill would be challenged at the
Mr D Joseph (DA) added that there had been allegations that the National Assembly had failed to take proper consideration of the objections raised against the Bill during the consultation process. He therefore suggested that the Committee make a point of following the public consultation process.
Mr J Gunda (
The Chairperson queried if the Committee was required to hold public hearings.
Mr Gunda replied that because it was a Section 75 Bill the Committee did not have any obligation to hold public hearings. If the Committee did call for public hearings, the submissions most likely would be the same as those already made.
Mr Joseph said that according to the public, the consultation process had not been wide enough. The Committee should ensure that organisations whose views had not already been heard should be given a chance to make submissions. The Committee should consider whether the submissions and input of the public had been properly considered, and whether the NCOP could in fact make changes for the benefit of the country at large, not only the people who were represented through the previous submissions.
Another member felt that there may be no need to hold public hearings afresh. It was now the eleventh hour, it was abundantly clear that the public had grievances, and it was a thorny issue. The best method would be to obtain legal advice from the State Law Advisers and to then move forward without hearing any more submissions from the public.
Mr Matila suggested that the Committee obtain a report from the Department outlining the main content of the submissions that had already been made. From there, the Committee would be better placed to consider whether additional public hearings should be held or not. It could be to the advantage of the Committee to clarify certain aspects of the Bill for the public.
Mr Joseph asked whether the Select Committee on Security and Constitutional Development was the only Committee tasked with considering the Bill at this point, and received confirmation that it was.
Mr Gunda said that the Committee needed to take the Bill very seriously. Now was the time for the NCOP and the Committee to show integrity, as it was still possible to suggest changes that would change the content of the Bill for the better.
Mr Matila requested that the Committee’s researcher be tasked with research to assist the Committee, in addition to information already provided by the Department. The Bill had been under consideration for quite some time, and the public would be looking to the NCOP to deal with the matter properly.
Ms Patricia Whittle, Committee Researcher, said that the Committee had considered the Bill in the early phases of its drafting, with the assistance of research making comparisons to similar legislation in foreign jurisdictions. Such information could be made available to the Committee again. The best person to inform the Committee on subsequent developments as well as legal and constitutional aspects of the Bill would be the Parliamentary Legal Adviser who had assisted throughout the process. The Department would give the Committee a better understanding of what model they had decided to follow.
The Committee agreed to meet the following week to consider a briefing from the State Law Advisers and to map a course for subsequent action.
The meeting was adjourned.
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