Committee Report on Free State and Northern Cape Oversight; Discussion on the International Study Tour

Arts and Culture

23 May 2012
Chairperson: Ms T Sunduza (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

A meeting with Pan South African Languages Board (PanSALB) was cancelled as next week the Minister and the Director General would be giving a post-investigation report on PanSALB. The issue of study tours was raised with members discussing the reasons the Committee had not been allowed to travel during its Fourth Term. The Committee resolved that the Chairperson and Whip would seek a meeting with the Chair of Chairpersons on the matter. It had been said that the Committee’s request for a study tour had been denied because it had not “adopted minutes”. The Committee found this patently unfair as the Chairperson had been commended on the Arts and Culture Portfolio Committee being one of the top performing parliamentary committees and it was well regarded for holding regular weekly meetings.

Meeting report

The Chairperson said the reason she had used her discretion to cancel the Pan South African Languages Board (PanSALB) meeting was because next week the Minister and the Director General would be coming to report on what was happening to PanSALB.  The report on the body had been released based on the information procured during the investigation.  Part of the report stated that the body was dysfunctional and the Minister sought to dissolve the board. This was what the Committee had been saying should be done. People were to be charged with corruption. She thus thought it wise not to call PanSALB until the Minister and Director General had given the Committee a report on PanSALB.

The Chairperson said that there was a need to adopt outstanding committee reports. She was not happy with how long reports took to proof read and edit in the committee section. She planned to meet with the committee section about that. The delay gave a bad reflection on the Office of the House Chair.

Committee Minutes
The minutes 26 October, 1, 2, 9, 16 November 2011 were adopted. The minutes 25 January, 1, 15, 22, 28 February, 7 March, 18 April 2012 were considered.

Ms L Moss (ANC) said accuracy about apologies was important. The minutes needed to account for Members who had attended.

Ms T Nwamitwa-Shilubana (ANC) stated that she did not feel it was necessary to put the names of members within a report.

Mr N Van den Berg (DA) said it was important to say who said what so that those who looked back to these reports could see. It was important to have a true reflection of what had been said. It was important to write history correctly.

The Chairperson said her understanding of minutes was it was a historical record.

Ms Morutoa agreed minutes were meant to be a true reflection however at times quoting names implicated people. One needed to establish what Parliament was meant to be doing before stating what they thought was correct. If these were meant to be records was it Parliament’s style to record names or was this an argument for the sake of history?

The Chairperson said her understanding of minutes was it reflected who said what when. There were times when members all agreed and this was noted. She understood them as a true reflection of who said what.

Ms Morutoa said that it was easy to state the organisations and parties and it was easy to state what bloc had said what. The Committee system was built on organisations and parties not individuals.

The Chairperson said she would follow up on the procedure and moved the minutes be adopted.

The minutes were adopted.

Study Tours
The Chairperson said that she had to raise a point despite some thinking that she was bashing her own party. She had submitted letters for study tours and all had been met with complaints and had not been approved. The last one she had sent was for the Committee to go to Rome for the historical arts. She had said in previous meetings that when she did a submission for study tours she did not just do it “for a trip”. She wanted to go to another country and study a spectrum of things relating to Arts and Culture and that was how she chose the countries.  She had known of other committees who would go to a country and study only one thing when there was so much to see.  She had submitted another letter after looking at the application format of other committees – but all seemed to be different with different numbers of members and staff going on trips.

The Chairperson stated that the reason the House Chair had not accepted the submission was because the Committee had not adopted minutes.  Thus the trip could not be approved as the Committee had not been “working” as it had not adopted minutes. She was not sure what to do and had asked for a meeting with the House Chair. She felt that she should bring it to the attention of the Members. The Committee had been operating for a year and other committees seemed to write one submission for  trip and it was approved. She was not sure if it was politics or something else.

Ms Nwamitwa-Shilubana said it was politics. The whole of last year the Committee had not gone abroad.  In other committees, there had been equal opportunities to go outside the country. It was minor issue to say “minutes had not been adopted” as the House Chair knew the Arts and Culture Portfolio Committee meetings were being held and attended every week. She asked it be taken to the meeting with House Chair that the Committee was not happy with their treatment by Parliament.

Ms Moss asked that she accompany the Chairperson to the meeting. She suggested that she did not attend the meeting alone. They would, as a pair, be able to find out why they could not go and what the outstanding matters were. It seemed there was always an issue.  The excuse currently was the minutes and the next excuse was going to be oversight report not adopted in the House. She therefore was going to find out from the Office of the Programme Whip when the Committee could be put on the adoption of oversight reports on the roll for the National Assembly. This was to ensure there were no longer any excuses.

The Chairperson said that this was not an issue as there were many committees who had not done anything and who were far worse.  What was ironic was she had been called in and told that her committee and two others were the best performing committees.  Suddenly another story had emerged.

Ms Morutoa said it was good that this had been brought to the Committee’s attention. The Chairperson should expect such things sometimes as the Chair of Chairs could be very shrewd. There was no logic in what was being said about the Committee because there was always a signed register of meeting attendance. She argued that people were merely using their powers. She also thought it was a gender thing as it was done mostly to chairladies. This was done to exercise powers over them. The Whip was correct to say that she must accompany the Chairperson so that the facts were given properly. If this continued then there was the option of appealing to the Speaker.

Mr Van den Berg said it was strong assault from the Chairperson of Chairs to say that they were not doing their work. Reasons needed to be given as to why this had been said as one could not assault the dignity of the Members of the Committee by saying they were not doing their work. The Chairperson should ask the Chair of Chairs to come and give the Committee guidance if they were not doing their work. He could not just say that the work was not being done. It was an insult to him personally, to his party and he was sure it was also an insult to other Members of the Committee and their political parities.  One could not just say these things, one had to prove what they said.

The Chairperson said she would try and set up a meeting with the Chair of Chairs. She would sit down with the whip and draft a document asking what it was the Committee needed to do.  She could proudly say that this was one committee that had met almost every week, to the extent sometimes she was even abusing Members with work. There were committees that had not met for months. If these problems continued, then the Committee could just do oversight in KwaZulu Natal and Northern Cape. However they would not stay here and not do anything. One of the issues she did not understand in this Parliament was there were committees where all the members travelled. Other committees had been allowed two trips in one year, and others told only two trips in five years. No one knew what was what in the Parliament. She was not sure if it was a power thing or something else. The Committee would take up the matter. If it came to a push then the there was the option of taking it to the Chief Whips.

Ms Moss said it was important to look to previous years to see what countries the Committee had been to in the past. If one looked at the report on agreements South Africa had signed with various countries, was it not the Committee’s function to conduct oversight in the countries that South Africa had been working in partnership with in the sector of Arts and Culture? She had mentioned it before that the Committee and even the Department of Arts and Culture stood at the back of the line when it came to budget allocation.  The Department’s budget was lower than other departments but they were expected to play a leading role in nation-building for unity and cohesion. She wanted to raise the issue with the Chair of Chairs that the Committee and Department were the whips on the issue of nation-building but the Committee was being accused of not working. The Committee was working. There had been entities which had come to present to the Committee who were not on the agenda but had been accommodated.  The Committee reached out to those who were vulnerable.  Her thoughts were there were people who were talking but did not have their facts right. They did not sit in the Committee, yet they pointed fingers. This was an issue that needed to be finalised by the Members, as politicians who had been deployed by their constituencies to Parliament.

Ms Morutoa asked if the Minister or Deputy Minister could come and give a briefing on the countries that needed that needed to be visited by Parliament. The Committee should not bash themselves and think they were not working. Some people had been put in positions without understanding those positions. It was also a matter of ignorance. The Committee should remember that they were dealing with characters that needed to be dealt with in a certain manner. Some did not understand the workings of the Committee. Thus there was a need to have the Minister and Deputy Minister attend a meeting. The Minister was travelling on behalf of the  country and making agreements for South Africa and the Committee needed to check on these agreements.

The Chairperson said that countries had been chosen according to these agreements.

Ms H Van Schalkwyk (DA) said that the Minister travelled overseas quite regularly and he set the standard. She could not believe that his Committee had not been allowed to travel once.

Ms Moss said that the Committee was not turning back. It wanted this study tour. If the Chair of Chairpersons gave trouble, the Committee would go to the Office of the Speaker.

Ms Nwamitwa-Shilubana said that the Committee should have been given a budget for local and overseas trips and perhaps that was why other committees were travelling the world. They were using the budget.

The meeting was adjourned.


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