The Constitutional Review Committee had to postpone several items on its agenda due to the lack of a quorum. This included the deliberations on the outstanding 2012 public submissions and consideration of the previous committee minutes. It was further agreed that a briefing by the Legal Adviser on the objection to the proposed inclusion of Khelobedu as an additional official language was not going to be addressed as the Committee had just received the legal opinion and had not had the time to study it.
After an indication that none of the party caucuses had discussed the 2012 public submissions, the Chairperson urged the parties to note that it was very important for the discussions on the submissions to be taken seriously. The public submissions were requested from members of the public so it was not a good reflection of Parliament if it was noticed that the submissions were not taken seriously.
Introduction by the Chairperson
The Chairperson welcomed Members and the officials from the Parliamentary Legal Services. He said that it was unfortunate that even when the Committee had agreed to meet late in the afternoon, Members were still not able to fully attend the meeting. However, the Committee was going to try to remain productive.
After the tendering of apologies, the Chairperson presented the agenda to the Members. He said that the second item on the agenda which dealt with a briefing by the Legal Adviser on the Objection to the proposed inclusion of Khelobedu as an additional official language was not going to be addressed as the Committee had just received the legal opinion and had not had time to study it.
The Committee agreed to the amendment to the agenda.
Consideration of Committee Minutes
The Chairperson tabled the minutes from the previous meeting dated 15 February 2013 for consideration.
The Chairperson noted that the Committee would only consider the minutes at this stage as there was no quorum to adopt it. If a quorum was reached before the end of the meeting, the minutes would be adopted. On the other hand, if a quorum was not reached, the minutes were going to be adopted on another day.
The Committee considered the minutes and agreed that they were an accurate reflection of the discussions that took place on 15 February 2013.
Mr M Oriani-Ambrosini (IFP) said that he had not heard any Member request for a verification of the quorum.
The Chairperson replied that a quorum had to be verified only in cases of uncertainty. It was certain that the Committee did not have a quorum. The Committee’s quorum was 12 members but only eight Members were present.
The adoption of the minutes was deferred to when the committee had a quorum.
Report back by Members on the outstanding 2012 Public Submissions
The Chairperson asked the Members if any of their various caucuses had discussed the submissions. The discussions from the various caucuses were important as the deliberations had to be informed by the positions taken by the various party caucuses. The ANC had not yet found time to discuss the submissions.
After an indication that no other party had discussed the submissions, the Chairperson said that it was important for the discussions on the submissions to be taken seriously. The public submissions were requested from members of the public so it was not a good reflection of Parliament if it was noticed that the submissions were not taken seriously.
Deliberations on the 2012 Public Submissions
The Chairperson said that the public submissions for the review of the Constitution were submitted to the Committee by the Parliamentary Legal Advisers. The Committee thought it was important for the Legal Advisers to be present during the deliberations on the submissions. The role of the Committee was to discuss the submissions and take decisions on them. The Committee could accept or reject the proposals contained in the submissions as well as refer them to another Committee in Parliament or the relevant Government Department.
Mr Oriani-Ambrosini said that the Committee’s mandate was to provide a review of the Constitution as a whole at least annually. The Committee had to report to the Assembly not in respect of a single submission or issue but a review of the Constitution on the accord of the Committee.
The Chairperson said that Mr Ambosini was talking about two different issues. The Committee had the mandate to review the Constitution as a whole yet it still had the task of receiving submissions from the public, deliberating on them and taking decisions in that regard. The process of deliberating and taking decisions could not be done when the Committee did not have a quorum. He asked the Members to propose the way forward.
Mr Oriani-Ambrosini said that it was obvious that the meeting could not go forward and it was a difficult situation because Members were always in favour of closing the meeting early but the problem was that the only alternative was to go a sit in the plenary and that was a dreadful option.
The Chairperson asked if there was any other matter which Members wanted to be considered. He asked the Legal Advisers if they had any additions to make.
Mr Ntuthuzelo Vanara, Parliamentary Legal Adviser, replied that they had nothing to add.
Mr Oriani-Ambrosini said that it was unacceptable for legal opinions from the Legal Advisers who were public servants to be classified as confidential. The opinions were documents from a public servant to Members of Parliament who were representatives of the people.
Mr Vanara replied that the legal opinions were considered as privileged information which was being given by an Attorney to their clients. It was not classified information but it was intended to be delivered only to the people who requested the opinion.
The Chairperson replied that before the opinions were brought before the Committee, they had to remain confidential. Once they were presented to the Committee, they could no longer be considered as confidential provided they did not contain any sensitive information. The idea was to prevent sensitive information from getting into the wrong hands.
The meeting was adjourned.
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