Regulations on Judges' Disclosure of Registrable Interest: discussion on Committee Programme for public hearings

Ad Hoc Committee on Code of Judicial Conduct and Regulations

22 November 2011
Chairperson: Mr J Sibanyoni (ANC); Mr M Matila (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Ad Hoc Committee on Judicial Conduct and Judges’ Disclosure of Registrable Interest met to consider the draft programme fro the public hearings. The Committee could not adopt the draft programme because it did not have a quorum. The Committee debated as to how and when it would have public hearings on the Regulations. Some Members were of the opinion that the public hearings should be in Cape Town in order to save costs whilst others were of the view that the Committee should divide itself and hold public hearings either in three provinces as it was proposed in the draft programme or in all nine provinces. The Committee eventually settled for certain key interest groups being given the Regulations for comment. The Regulations should also be published for public comment and the comments received would then give an indication as to who was interested, how much interest there would be and where the public hearings should be held.

Meeting report

Mr Sibanyoni (Chairperson) stated that the purpose of the meeting was to get a briefing from the Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ) and to adopt the Committee’s Programme going forward. The Committee had already advertised the Code of Judicial Conduct and had also received public comment. The submittants had expressed a desire to give oral representations to the Committee. The Programme of the Committee included the advertisement for public comment on the Rules for Disclosure of Registrable Interest. 

Mr B Mashile (ANC) referred to the programme and said that he had problems with only three provinces being earmarked for public hearings. The Committee should rather divide itself and go to all nine provinces.

Mr N Koornhof (COPE) referred to Parliament’s programme and pointed out that the week in which the public hearings were scheduled was meant for the training of Members of Parliament (MP). It would be very costly to fly the whole Committee across the country, surely it would be one or two judges that would   have interest and make submissions. It would be far cheaper to have the public hearings in Cape Town.

Mr Matila (Chairperson) said that after the last public hearings there were complaints raised by various interest groups; this was why the programme had included having the public hearings. The programme could be amended as the Committee went along. To have people come down to Parliament would be costly as well.

Mr Koornhof said that he could not think of more than five groups that would be interested and if the lawyers wanted to attend public hearings they could pay for themselves.

Mr Mashile agreed that to divide the Committee and have three days in succession for public hearings may be a problem; perhaps it was best to adopt the programme as it was currently drafted.

Mr L Landers (ANC) said that it was a good idea to split the Committee in order to cover as much ground as possible. The Committee had to be careful because it wanted as many judges to speak with it as possible, would having public hearings in Cape Town mean that a judge would have to set aside their court business for the entire day? The Committee should try and make things as easy as possible for all concerned. It was not clear whether the Committee could cover all the provinces and Members should be aware that there were was enormous pressure for the Committee to finalise this.

Mr Matila (Chairperson) said that the Committee should adopt the programme.

Mr J Van der Merwe (IFP) said that in light of what Mr Mashile had said, if the Committee was going to go to divide itself then it should not take shortcuts, it had to go to all the provinces.

Mr Sibanyoni (Chairperson) requested that the Committee should adopt the programme and then it would be modified as the Committee did its work.

Mr H Schmidt (DA) said that all the interest groups from the legal practice should be invited and also if any provinces were going to be excluded there should be good reasons for that.

Mr Landers said that if the Committee were to go to Gauteng then judges in Limpopo and other surrounding provinces should be able to avail themselves.

Mr Koornhof said that his understanding was that the various judges would communicate their views through the Heads of Court, could the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJ&CD) comment on this.

Adv Jacob Skhosna, Chief Director: Policy Development Unit, DOJ&CD, said that a comprehensive submission has been received from the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) on the Regulations; they would most likely want to be heard. The Heads of Court normally had their own position and the judges under their jurisdiction may have different views which would be noted. Just because one had received comment from the Heads of Court it did not mean that the views of the judiciary had been obtained. The Code and Regulations were published for comment and public hearings were held for the Code and not the Regulations. Comments and public hearings for the Regulations were still outstanding. The Heads of Court were due to meet on 8 February 2012 in anticipation of the opening of Parliament.

Mr Koornhof suggested that the Committee should reduce the programme so that it fitted in with Parliament’s programme, this could be done together with the Department.

Mr Matila (Chairperson) said that the Committee did not have a quorum from the Members of the National Council of Provinces, thus the programme could not be adopted today.

Mr Landers suggested that certain key interest groups should be given the Regulations for comment; in addition they could be advertised for public comment. The comments received would then give an indication as to who was interested, how much interest there would be and where the public hearings should be held.

Mr Skhosana informed the Committee that the Heads of Court had prepared their own Regulations after the ones from the Department had been completed. The Regulations from the judiciary had been sent to the Minister. The Committee may want to also have the Regulations from the judiciary published for comment. Where the Chief Justice (CJ) was not in agreement with the Regulations drafted by the Minister they had to draft their own and both sets of Regulations had to be tabled in Parliament, the difficulty was that the judiciary have not indicated whether they disagreed with the Minister’s Regulations.

Mr Matila (Chairperson) said that the issue of the difference between the Regulations had been raised during the public hearings for the Code.

Mr Koornhof said that he supported Mr Landers’ suggestion.

Mr Matila said that there was no quorum so the meeting should be adjourned and Members would be informed on all developments. The meeting with the CJ would also be brought forward.

The meeting was adjourned.


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