Recommendation report on Trollip proposal to amend the Executive Members' Ethics Act: adoption; Van Rheede Special Petition: discussion; Committee Programme & Committee Reports

Private Members' Legislative Proposals and Special Petitions

24 April 2012
Chairperson: Mr S Thobejane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee considered and approved the recommendation report on the Trollip proposal to amend the Executive Members’ Ethics Act, 1998 (Act 82 of 1998). This was done despite the objections of the DA, which felt that the report did not reflect its views. The DA argued that the matter was not frivolous and should be discussed by the relevant parliamentary committee.

The ANC and Ms Mdaka apologised to the Committee for comments made by the latter. An impression had been created that the ANC did not uphold the Constitution and this needed to be corrected. The Committee accepted the apology and the Chairperson appreciated the spirit of all the Members.

The Committee briefly discussed the Van Rheede special petition. It had been agreed that the petition was not yet ripe for consideration by Parliament as the petitioner still had legal relief authorised by the law at her disposal. Members debated whether the language in the report was insensitive and what recommendations the Committee would give to the petitioner so that she could pursue the matter. As there were substantive changes needed to the document it was agreed that it be reworked and adopted at the next meeting.

The Committee also approved its First Term Sessional Report, Second Term Programme and Oversight Report to KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and Limpopo Provincial Legislatures.

Meeting report

The Chairperson reminded Members that much had to be done at this meeting due the backlog created by the lack of quorum at the last meeting. Documentation had been circulated in advance so that Members were familiar with their content.

Mr A van der Westhuizen (DA) apologised for his absence the previous week, he had not received sms or email notice of the meeting. There was a notice placed in his pigeonhole but he did not know of the meeting beforehand.

The Chairperson noted that communication was not up to standard.

Second Term Committee Programme
The Chairperson announced an amendment to the programme. On Tuesday and Wednesday, 5 and 6 June, the Committee would meet to discuss issues relating to the study tour to Canada as well as strategic planning for the remaining term of office in Parliament.

Mr van der Westhuizen was in support of the programme but asked whether there were any outstanding issues that had to stand over to the next term.

The Chairperson replied that the Committee was trying to clear the backlog, what was carried over was the study tour to Canada, which would not affect the work of the Committee that much but had an impact on the public because it had a bearing on how grievances could be managed.

Ms M Kubayi (ANC) supported the adoption. The report was a fine piece of work. She appreciated the approach so that from time to time Members could reflect on the work the Committee was doing and how to enhance and ensure that all were on the same page.

The programme was adopted with amendments.

Oversight Report to KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and Limpopo Province
The Chairperson tabled the report for consideration.

Ms Kubayi recommended that the last sentence, which said ‘report to be considered’ be changed to read ‘report to be adopted’. By saying considered the National Assembly would just consider the report and note it and no action would be taken. By saying adopted that meant there must be action after the report. If the Committee wished recommendations to be implemented then adoption was necessary.

The report was adopted with that amendment.

First Term Sessional Report
The Chairperson tabled the report for consideration.

Ms Kubayi said it was normal to have the names of Members and dates of participation.

The Chairperson said that information had been captured but not yet amended in the final report.

Mr van der Westhuizen noted that there was a word missing at the bottom of page 2, and suggested that the word ‘manner’ be inserted, in order to read ‘in processing legislative proposals in a transparent manner as constitutionally required’.

There was again a comment that Members who did not attend meetings should be removed, but the Chairperson said unfortunately the Committee did not have the power to do that.

Ms M Mdaka (ANC) noted that she was listed as an alternate Member, but this was not the case.

Ms Kubayi said that would have to be corrected by the ANC administration.

Mr Ximbi had the same problem, which the Chairperson assured would be corrected.

Ms Kubayi referred to page 4 and said the Committee strategic planning was about the Committee and had nothing to do with the Executive. It had to reflect the work the Committee did. That paragraph had to be corrected.

The Chairperson agreed. Instead of mentioning the Executive it should be about making Parliament effective, rather than about governance.

Mr van der Westhuizen would also like to see the word ‘none’ taken out there. He suggested that strategically the Committee wanted to deal with all petitions and proposals that came to it within a reasonable time, and to give clear answers to those that petitioned.

The Chairperson agreed that was a positive proposal, and added the issue of dealing with legislative proposals in a transparent, open, and honest manner.

The Chairperson also noted that the conclusion was missing and must be added.

The report was adopted with amendments; a section on conclusion would be added.

Trollip Proposal: Amend the Executive Members’ Ethics Act, 1998 (Act 82 of 1998)
The recommendation report had been circulated to Members.

Ms Kubayi said the ANC wished to apologise to the Committee and to the Chairperson. A statement was made at the meeting when this issue was deliberated that gave the impression that the ANC did not uphold the Constitution. She wished to correct that and say the ANC was committed to the cooperation of the Committee, to working and upholding the Constitution of South Africa and its laws. It was unfortunate that such a statement was made and on behalf of the ANC she apologised to the Committee and afforded Ms Mdaka an opportunity to withdraw that statement for Committee records. Ms Kubayi had apologised to Ms Kopane and Ms Kilian and indicated that the matter was being processed.

Ms Mdaka apologised and withdrew the offending statement.

The Chairperson thanked Ms Kubayi and Ms Mdaka for the spirit in terms of upholding the laws of South Africa, and particularly the Constitution.

Ms Kopane on behalf of the DA appreciated the manner and spirit and accepted the apology without reservations. The DA was looking forward to working together in the Committee; their objectives were the same, for the interest of South Africans and to better the lives of the people.

The Chairperson commented that this was the spirit needed and that this country belonged “to all of us”. People sometimes became emotional when debating, but it was good that they reflected on their utterances.

Mr van der Westhuizen stressed that the recommendation report did not reflect the views of the DA. The DA therefore voted against the last paragraph and asked that the DA vote of dissent be minuted.

The DA believed that the Committee should allow detailed discussion as to how proposals should be integrated into other existing legislation and leave the mechanics of that to other relevant bodies of Parliament that were there to deal with those issues. The DA was concerned that in this instance the Committee was taking on itself what should actually be the work of another committee. Mr van der Westhuizen would have liked the proposal to have been submitted to the House and the other committee to consider the merits, wording, and possible amendments in a field that was part of their domain. Applying the criteria of the Committee a different conclusion was obtained.

Mr van der Westhuizen noted the Committee’s position that there were mechanisms in place to address the request sought by the proposal. The DA differed from that and would have loved that matter to have been discussed by that other committee because the DA believed the proposal did bring a new angle to that.

The DA also did not agree with the last paragraph that said the proposal was frivolous.

The Chairperson clarified that the reason why a decision was taken through voting was because it was acknowledged that there was a difference. That was why it was said in the conclusion that however, the opposition parties had registered their objection to the matter. He felt that captured the sentiment of the argument.

Ms Kubayi suggested that the report should specify that the DA and COPE registered their objections to be recorded.

The Chairperson said that the report would no longer be considered, it would be adopted, allowing further debate in the House.

The recommendation report was adopted with those amendments.

Mr van der Westhuizen said the DA was registering its objection to the adoption of the report.

Van Rheede special petition- praying for pension
Ms Kubayi reflected that when the Committee dealt with the proposal, the Committee felt that had the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) interacted with the petitioner correctly and informed the latter, it was not necessary for her to have approached Parliament. There was miscommunication at some point. That sentiment was not captured in the report and she felt it was important that it be captured.

In relation to the Committee’s responsibility and the rules it was still working towards; the reason it was doing study tours was to enhance the Committee’s work on petitions. Members were public representatives and there was a rule that said a petitioner should have exhausted all avenues. For an ordinary South African that did not have resources all avenues meant courts and other things that were costly. She felt that the last part of the report sounded very insensitive. It read ‘in light of the above it was of the view that the special petition of Mrs Van Rheede van Oudtshoorn was not yet ripe for consideration by Parliament as the petitioner still had legal relief authorised by the law at her disposal’. Ms Kubayi did not think that the Committee was saying she could come back; even coming back there was nothing that the Committee could do, so she did not think that statement was correct.

To say the petitioner had not exhausted legal processes other than legal relief authorised sounded very insensitive for public representatives. A person came to Parliament to be assisted by their public representative. Ms Kubayi proposed that paragraph be rephrased to sound more sensitive and put what was discussed properly.

Mr F Bhengu (ANC) concurred with Ms Kubayi in terms of insensitivity and the way in which the recommendation report was crafted. After having considered the report, the Committee should perhaps address a letter to the petitioner directing her as to where she could begin to go, rather than to simply say it was a closed case and she had nowhere to go. Where would the Committee then be direct her? The report should contain what recommendations the Committee made to her so that she could pursue the matter, having highlighted the issue of the GEPF and what should actually have happened.

Mr Bhengu was not happy with the way in which the report was crafted. He also felt when mentioning regulations they should be in chronological order, then observations and recommendations.

Ms Kubayi then suggested breaking the report into two – observations and recommendations.

Mr van der Westhuizen was concerned that the Committee Secretary had not been given alternative wording for that sentence.

As there were substantive changes it was agreed that the document be reworked and adopted at the next meeting.

Adoption of minutes
Minutes of Committee meeting held on 29 February 2012
Mr van der Westhuizen pointed out that Mr Manzini was a guest in attendance.
The minutes were adopted with technical amendments.

Minutes of Committee meeting held on 7 March 2012
The minutes were adopted with no changes.

The Chairperson urged Members to attend the meeting scheduled for 2 May to ensure there would be a quorum. He thanked the Committee for the work done.

Mr van der Westhuizen thanked the Chairperson for a job well done.

The meeting was adjourned.

Present

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