Revised Draft Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament: Progress report

Ethics and Members' Interest

20 June 2012
Chairperson: Mr B Mashile (ANC; Mpumalanga), Mr B Turok (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

There was no quorum at the meeting, but the Chairpersons suggested that all parties should report back on whether they had yet compiled a report on the draft Code of Conduct. The ANC did not provide any comment, and the DA, ACDP, IFP and ID all responded that their reports were not yet ready, but would be prepared by the time of the next meeting. Co-Chairperson Mr Turok noted that there were still some controversial and uncertain aspects of the Code, which he cited as included the question of spouses, and conflicts of interest. He felt that they warranted a seminar, at which Members could be addressed on the points by judges or senior legal experts. The IFP proposed that, rather than arranging a seminar, it may be more useful at this stage to obtain an opinion from Senior Counsel, on these points as well as others, which should be isolated as well, and the suggestion was made that one of these was under what circumstances a Member should declare an interest in a matter before the Committee.

The remainder of the meeting was closed to the public, as Members were to consider a complaint against a Member of the House.

Meeting report

Revised Draft Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament

Co-Chairperson Mr B Mashile (ANC; Mpumalanga) observed that there was no quorum, and suggested that the Committee should therefore consider issues which did not need any decision. It was suggested that Members should deal with item 4 of the agenda.

Mrs M Mangena (ANC) asked if it was in order for the Committee to continue with the meeting, in view of the lack of quorum.

Co-Chairperson Mr B Turok (ANC) replied that the draft code of ethics had been circulated to all the parties that were represented in the Committee, and all Members had been asked to provide their opinion. The revision of the standard of ethics and code of conduct had dragged on for too long already, and for this reason he urged that there ought to be a short discussion on the Code.

Mr Mashile agreed that the Members present should continue with the meeting.

Mr J Van der Merwe (IFP) commented that he was in agreement that the Committee should continue with the meeting, but observed that a quorum would be needed to agree upon the Code.

Mr Turok replied that the Committee would proceed with the meeting, but no final decision could be taken at this meeting on the Code, and instead the parties would hear what progress had been made. For this reason, he requested the parties to present their reports or comments on the Code.

Mr Turok observed, having requested that the ANC comment, that there was no response from any of the members of the ANC.  He then requested Members from the DA to give their report.

Ms D Kohler-Barnard (DA) replied that she was the only member of DA present at the meeting, and that she did not have a report on the Code on behalf of the DA.

Mr Turok asked that the DA, as well as the ANC, should ensure that their report was ready at the next meeting.

Mr Turok asked if the ACDP had any report on the Code.

Rev K Meshoe (ACDP) replied that there was presently no report, but that it would be ready by the next meeting.

Mr Turok asked if the IFP had its report.

Mr van der Merwe replied that he was not aware that this matter would be discussed at this meeting, as he had earlier been informed that the Committee would be dealing with confidential matters, and so the IFP’s report on the Code was also not ready.

Mr Mashile stated that all parties should note the need to consider the report, ready to give feedback. He then asked the ID representative if this party’s report was ready.

Mr J Gunda (ID; Northern Cape) replied that the report would be ready at the next meeting.

Mr Mashile then stated that he had, on the previous day, had a meeting with the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces who requested a copy of the draft Code. He had directed that a copy be prepared, but had also asked that a signature be obtained that the document had been received, because this was now the third time that the document had been sent to the House Chairperson’s office.

Mr Turok noted that there were some controversial issues, and some uncertainties in relation to spouses and conflict of interest, which he thought would remain of concern. He wondered if seminars should not be arranged with some leading authorities, in respect of these areas, particularly where there were conflicting views. He asked Members if they would be in favour of holding seminars, to hear the views of, for instance, leading lawyers or judges on such issues, perhaps during August or September.

Rev Meshoe stated that he was in support of the proposition and agreed that a legal opinion would indeed be in order. He asked that all Members be contacted before a date was arranged, to ensure that they would be available.

Mr Gunda also expressed his support for the convening of a seminar.

Mr Van der Merwe wondered if, rather than organising a seminar at this stage, a legal opinion should be sought from Senior Counsel, in relation to the spouse, before embarking on organising a seminar. He added that there were other issues on which more clarity was needed, and those should also be listed. One that he suggested was when it would be necessary for any Member of the Committee to declare that he/she had an interest in any matter tabled before the Committee. He suggested that all issues on which clarity was needed should be identified, reiterated that he thought Counsel’s opinion was needed first, and that a seminar could be held after that, if still necessary.

Ms Kohler-Barnard supported Mr van der Merwe’s suggestion.

Mr Mashile asked that an attendance register should be passed around.

At this point, the meeting was closed to the public as the Committee wished to consider a complaint made against a Member of the House.

The open  portion of the meeting was adjourned.


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