The South African Human Rights Commission presented its Annual Report, Strategic Plan as well as the Budget to the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development. The Committee was informed that the focus for South African Human Rights Commission was on transforming society and restoring dignity as a human right and an access to water campaign was launched in March 2012. In terms of assignment of duties the Chairperson of the South African Human Rights Commission was now going to focus on asylum seekers, migration, housing g, xenophobia and equality. The Chairperson was also responsible for the
The Auditor General was happy with the governance of the South African Human Rights Commission. Just over 86% of backlog complaints have been handled and the number of cases has been reduced from 2209 to 295 as the end of March 2012. At the end of 2009/10 performance was at 52% by the end of 2010/11 performance was at 67% and now it was at 80%. The majority of funds went to personnel services and the increase was at 18.12% with an increased allocation of 65.79%. Admin was a major cost driver and increased by 0.43%. The total budget allocation for 2012/13 was R100.736 million which was a 12% increase from the previous financial year at R89.773 million. The ideal budget was R123 million, therefore the additional funding that was required was at R23 million. Despite the Commissions consistent improvement in performance, including clean audits, positive quarterly dashboard reports and an overall increase in performance from 52% to over 80% in less than two years the budget was a constant constrainer.
The Committee raised issues around the performance of the Organisation for Institutions Supporting Democracy that had been set up under the Speakers Office for purposes of assisting Chapter 9 institutions. The Committee raised several questions on Human Rights Commission‘s handling of the toilet saga as well the provision and aces of water and sanitation in the country. The Committee expressed disappointment that the Human Rights Commission had requested additional funding of R23 million but did not provide details as to what this would be for. The Committee was also disappointed that the Human Rights Commission had not provided details as to which government departments were not cooperating with it. The Committee asked whether there was any overlap between some of the key human rights promotion activities of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. The vacancy rate of the Commission was required by the Committee. The Commission was commended on its new approach for handling complaints; it was also commended on its international recognition. The Committee asked for more information on trends and patterns relating to human rights violations
Presentation: South African Human Rights Commission Strategic Plan 2012-2015
Mr Kayum Ahmed, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said that the focus for SAHRC was on transforming society and restoring dignity as a human right. Some of the work that the SAHRC had done was in Makhaza in the
Annual Performance Plan
The SAHRC wanted to move from being a performance driven to an impact driven organisation. The annual performance plan was now commissioner driven and integrated both commissioner and secretariat objectives. Some of the key activities for 2012/13 was the implementation of a new complaints handling mechanism; provincial hearings on access to water and sanitation; the National Convention on the right to food and a back to basics service delivery programme. The finalisation of the restructuring project entailed the appointment of a new management team; the finalisation of the recruitment process and the monitoring and evaluation of the restructuring project. There would also be specialised training for legal and advocacy staff. Just over 86% of backlog complaints have been handled and the number of cases has been reduced from 2209 to 295 as the end of March 2012. At the end of 2009/10 performance was at 52% by the end of 2010/11 performance was at 67% and now it was at 80%. The SAHRC would like to know from the Committees side what has been done to clarify the role of the Office of Institutions Supporting Democracy (OISD) as they have been silent.
The recommendations of the Committee for the 2012/13 financial year resulted in an additional allocation of R1.2 million, R1.3 million in 2012/13 and R1.3 million in 2014/15. Compared to other institutions such as Legal Aid South Africa (LASA) and the Public Protector (PP) the SAHRC had a far smaller budget allocation and it was important to know what additional information could be provided to the Committee in order to also get similar figures given the similarly broad mandate of all three institutions. The majority of funds went to personnel services and the increase was at 18.12% with an increased allocation of 65.79%. Admin was a major cost driver and increased by 0.43%. The total budget allocation for 2012/13 was R100.736 million which was a 12% increase from the previous financial year at R89.773 million. The ideal budget was R123 million, therefore the additional funding that was required was at R23 million. Despite the Commissions consistent improvement in performance, including clean audits, positive quarterly dashboard reports and an overall increase in performance from 52% to over 80% in less than two years the budget was a constant constrainer.
Professor G Ndabandaba (ANC) congratulated the Commission on its work. Has the Commissioner included traditional healers and traditional leaders in its outreach work?
Ms D Schäfer (DA) said that the Committee had also experienced similar difficulties with the OISD as it was asked for an interaction, it was hoped that the SAHRC would elaborate on what it had done to assist the Commission so far it sounds like nothing at all has been done. Has the Commission had any interaction with the OISD and in what form if there has been any? What practical implementations have been implemented by the Commission in the Viljoenskroon toilet saga? There was a request by the SAHRC a while back for the use of parliamentary premises for the hosting of an event. Parliament was for Parliament business the idea of others using it was an uncomforting one. The SAHRC had to use its own budget and facilities. The R23 million additional request was not accompanied by detailed information as to what it was for. The PP has been given more money because the institution had done more work and deserved more money. Which departments were not cooperating with the SAHRC?
Mr J Jeffery (ANC) said that relations between the SAHRC and the Committee could improve. Last time during the Budget Review process the Committee had an issue with the SAHRC in that it had not asked for more money and had simply furnished the same information that it had given to Treasury. The SAHRC displayed a lack of understanding of the process. This time there was a request for more money without detail. Did the Commission know how the Money Bills Amendment Act worked?
Mr Ahmed replied that his understanding of how the Act worked was that entities could make representation to the Committee motivating for more funding which would in turn motivate to the National Assembly (NA) through its own report.
Mr Jeffery said that this was correct and then the recommendation would be adopted by the House, sent to National Treasury and if they did not respond or their response was not satisfactory Parliament could amend the budget. The SAHRC was not empowering the Committee to motivate to the NA for more funding. The Committee had said that the Commission should formerly engage with it on government departments that were not complying or cooperating with the Commission. The SAHRC was a Chapter 9 institution, it could not be compared to any other institution and it should have access to parliamentary precincts. Has the Commission resolved any overlaps on human rights programmes that it may have with those run by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJ&CD)?
Adv P Holomisa (ANC) asked if the international recognition of the SAHRC was as a result of its performance or that it was from South Africa (SA)? There should be no difficulties for the SAHRC to use parliamentary facilities. To what extent was the SAHRC satisfied with the assistance it was receiving from OISD? How effective was the South African Human Rights Commission Act given that it was created under the interim Constitution? More detail was needed on the additional R23 million requests? Which departments were not cooperating with the SAHRC?
Ms D Smuts (DA) said that there was a system in justice where there were brutal cuts which were about to be imposed on the courts and prosecutorial services. Treasury called these cuts efficiency gains and they were not sustainable. The Committee would likely step in here and rescue the situation. The new approach of the SAHRC was a good one where the concentration was for the receipt of complaints. It was good that the advocacy and promotional work was being scaled down. How many legal personnel were hired and placed in the provinces in the 2010/11 financial year?
The Chairperson asked if the complaints forms in isiXhosa, siSwati, Tshivenda and Ndebele had been completed if not was there a time frame. Was the SAHRC able to comment on trends and patterns of human rights violations? Did the SAHRC intend to continue with litigation in cases where there were human rights violations? What was the current vacancy rate?
Ms C Chaana-Majeke (ANC) said that little money was allocated for programmes and it would be good to have more understanding on the programmes. The report stated that the SAHRC was impact driven however there was no detail on this. The question was what was the SAHRC doing to foster a culture of human rights and transforming SA society? Was the SAHRC working with other Chapter 9 institutions where mandates were overlapping? Have there been improvements on the work of the Commission where children’s rights were concerned?
Mr J Sibanyoni (ANC) asked what were the SAHRC’s views on the use of cellphones for the recording of explicit sexual acts by children and the social media platforms that served the purpose of disseminating such material. There was currently a wave of rape cases where minors were involved, has there been any complaints received by the SAHRC?
Ms Smuts said that in the report of the SAHRC there was reference of participation in a DoJ&CD cluster meeting with other Chapter 9 institutions on the issue of corrective rape, has the SAHRC been part of a task team meeting on the issue of gay rights? Has the SAHRC been conducting any work on the subject of gay rights and sexual orientation especially given the comments made by Adv Holomisa recently? The SARC was independent, and accountable to the Committee, making use of the parliamentary precincts would blur the lines. Making use of the parliamentary precincts was fundamentally wrong.
Adv Holomisa followed up by asking if the SAHRC had conducted an investigation on the availability of sanitation in the villages and rural areas. Ms Smuts as a Member of the Constitutional Review Committee knew full well that the National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL) made a submission to the Committee on what they felt had to be changed in the Constitution. The comments made were not a personal opinion but an elaboration on the submission made by the NHTL which they had a right to submit.
The Chairperson said that the right to freedom of expression may be pushed to the limit in SA, particularly with the advent of social media. What were the views of the SAHRC on how best to handle this as a society given the recent developments on comments racist made on social media.
Adv Lawrence Mushwana, Chairperson of the SAHRC admitted that the outreach of the Commission in rural areas and villages was not as impressive as what would have been ideal however as the Mr Kayum had said it has been scaled down due to restructuring. The SAHRC was not able to reach the OISD; all the other Chapter 9 institutions had put the matter of the OISD and whether it was functioning as it was meant to on the agenda. It was only yesterday that it was known that the Director of the OISD had been ill since February 2012.Perhaps the Office of Speaker would be engaged. The SAHRC would submit a list of the departments not cooperating however things had not reached breaking point. The issue of using parliamentary precincts was also debated amongst commissioners. The purpose of coming to parliament was to hear government’s response on the toilet saga of Makhaza and Viljoenskroon. The purpose was also for government and civil society to interact. The amendment to the South African Human Rights Act was on its way as observed on the Parliamentary Monitoring Group’s website. The legislation was old and not practical. A task team was appointed last year for looking at specific areas where there was an overlap in the work of Chapter 9 institutions. This has been complemented and would be discussed tomorrow when the institutions meet. The terms of reference of the document produced by the task team would be made available to the Committee once adopted. There was a report on the work and impact of the equality courts, the report has not been published as yet. The question in terms of litigation was should a right not be enforced via the courts because there was no money, this was the budget related challenge facing the SAHRC.
The Chairperson continued to say that at times some of advocates charged less and assisted the SAHRC where legal costs were concerned. A lot of work was being done on the issue of addressing children’s rights and needs. Socio-economic rights were prioritised by the Constitution and were thus an imperative. Socio economic rights were the cornerstone of the mandate of the SAHRC. The SAHRC has been actively participating in some of the programmes hosted by the DoJ&CD. However the primary focus was to participate less and monitor more.
Mr Ahmed said that it may be correct to say that the Commission and the Committee were not seeing eye to eye on the process. The idea today was to focus on the strategic and annual performance plans as well as the budget. The idea was to provide more detail during the budget process. The R23 million was for litigation expenses as well as training for the staff. The information could be provided after the meeting. The miscommunication was regretted. The list for non-cooperating departments would be made available annually.
Mr Jeffery raised an additional point and said that it was true that the motivation for additional funding was dealt with during the second half of the year it was just that in the context of not motivating last year the Committee was once again asking for more detail. Why should the list of non-cooperating departments be made available only at the end of the year? If departments were not cooperating then this had to be dealt with.
Mr Ahmed said that the departments that were not cooperating in terms of the obligations imposed on the Commission by S184 (3) of the Constitution were the Department of Basic Education (DBE); Department of Rural Development and Land Reform; the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; the Department of Water Affairs and the Department of Health.
The Chairperson said that with regards to S184 (3) the information should form part of the annual report so that it was tabled and the Committee would know how best to proceed. The Commission had agreed with the DoJ&CD amongst other departments to meet biannually and to discuss issues including the overlap of activities.
Mr Jeffery said that the point has been missed entirely, the SAHRC had as a mandate the requirement to educate and promote human rights, the DoJ&CD had a similar activity and this was an overlap, the Committee was not referring to agreements made between the two entities. Was the SAHRC aware of what the DoJ&CD was doing?
Mr Ahmed said that he was not familiar with all of the department’s activities. On the sanitation issue approximately 11% of households had to be provided with sanitation across SA. A further 26% does have sanitation however it did not meet minimum standards of use due to deteriorating equipment. So 37% of households in SA had limited or no access to sanitation. This was the focus of the SAHRC for the 20102/13 financial period, this was added in the report on the Viljoenskroon matter. The forms in isiXhosa, siSwati, Tshivenda and Ndebele would be available by mid June. There was a meeting with the DoJ&CD, civil society, stakeholders and other departments around the issue of corrective rape and Commissioner Danny Titus was present. The meeting that Ms Smuts had referred to was attended by Human Rights watch as they had been invited but not the Commission subsequently the meeting was cancelled and still outstanding. There was information available for trends and patterns it was just not included in the report. The overwhelming number of complaints was from arrested, detained and accused persons at 16%, police brutality complaints were also on the rise. The Commission was working with the Judicial Inspectorate of Prisoners closely on this matter. The second major category was equality at 13%. Overall race was at 55% of complaints received.
Mr Jeffery said that he did not understand why this information was not made available especially of the Committee was going to be used by the Commission. There was the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) that was there to investigate complaints relating to police brutality. Was the SAHRC receiving complaints with children that were awaiting trial? There may be a need for informal engagements with the Commissioners.
Adv Mushwana said that the Commission would engage more with the Committee, at some stage the Committee had said too many documents were provided by the Commission so it was not clear which information had to be provided. The Commission was engaged with IPID on the developing trend of police brutality.
Dr M Oriani-Ambrosini (IFP) thanked the Commission on its working to address the corrective rape issue. The right of association was not realised fully in this country as one had to get police approval for up to 15 days in advance, the Commission should look at this.
Prof Ndabandaba asked about the view of the SAHRC on the statement ‘shoot to kill’.
Adv Mushwana said that ‘shoot to kill’ was a problem as the bullets were aimed at where they were meant to kill. The statement had a lot of unintended consequences however well meant it was.
Adv Holomisa asked if it was Commissioner Cele had said shoot to kill.
Adv Mushwana said that he did not remember.
The Chairperson said that he had been approached by the Deputy Chairperson of the Commission on the use of the Parliament’s precincts, the matter was brought to the Committee and they said no. If the Committee felt strongly that the parliamentary precincts should be used by the Commission then they should do so very clearly. The Office of the Speaker and the Chairperson had a policy that outside groups shall not make use of Parliaments precinct. Members should think about this matter further.
Commissioner Pregs Govender, Deputy Commissioner of the SAHRC addressed the Committee and said that there were two open toilet complaints in the Western Cape (WC) and the Free State (FS) where the Commission found against both the DA and ANC municipalities. Both were ordered to close the toilets as the right to dignity had been violated; this was linked with the right to sanitation. There were site inspections in Makhaza and Viljoenskroon after the finding and there were meetings with officials and councillors. In both instances most toilets were closed. The complainants, communities and the officials from the municipalities were present at the site inspections and this was positive. A report from the Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation Department was obtained which was on all the municipalities including the two that had complained to begin with. There was a report now that indicated that 16 million people in SA did not have sanitation, the challenge now was to ensure that there were follow ups and to ensure that toilets were enclosed in a functional manner. The SAHRC was planning on having provincial hearings so as to ensure that there was accountability.
Commissioner Baayi, Commissioner from the SAHRC said that there was compelling research that indicated that people in the country were weak. This made one wonder whether there was a political will to improve the lives of South Africans. There may be a need to have a mobilised social movement to bring about an envisaged change in SA. There was dysfunctionality between the legislature and planning at the provincial and local government level. There should be a national dialogue on the tight to access to food. This was going to be done in conjunction with the Southern African Food Lab (SAFL).
Mr Ahmed said that at the end of March 2012 the vacancy rate was at 22%. The remainder of the posts had been advertised; most senior management posts would be filled on 1st of June and the reminder by end of the second term. A lot of complaints had been received on comments made via social media.
The Chairperson thanked the Commission as well as Members of the Committee and adjourned the meeting.
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