SA Human Rights Commission: Nominee short-listing postponed, Public Protector & NPA miscellaneous issues

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Justice and Correctional Services

01 May 2013
Chairperson: Mr L Landers (ANC) (Acting)
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Meeting Summary

South African Human Rights Commission: Short-listing of candidates for vacancies
Mr J Jeffery (ANC) asked how many commissioner vacancies there were at the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). He had found the Minister's letter a little unclear. Initially, there was one vacancy arising from the death of one commissioner, but it was suggested that another commissioner also be appointed, until the Bill was amended. He asked how many commissioners were provided for.

Other Members confirmed, after discussion, that there were seven commissioners, in terms of the current Act.

Mr Jeffery said that another problem was that he understood that the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ or the Department) had not allocated money specifically and, whilst he was not opposed to an additional person being appointed, particularly in view also of discussions around part-time expertise, the Committee would have to ensure that there was funding available before short-listing. If the Department said that money must come from the National Revenue Fund, then National Treasury must be approached. He reminded the Committee that SAHRC had already said there was insufficient funding for travel within the country. It would be preferable, if there was money available, to shortlist for two candidates.

Mr Jeffery said that he had been through the CVs but was not yet in a position to suggest names, as he wanted to request some more time to do follow-up research.

Ms M Smuts (DA) said that she had drawn her own short list of six. She agreed with Mr Jeffery that the Committee needed to find out about the funding because it would be improper to advertise and interview if there was not sufficient money to appoint candidates. At the moment, there was one clear vacancy, and five sitting Commissioners. She agreed with holding back on the shortlisting.

Ms D Schäfer (DA) questioned whether it was correct to advertise for a position that was not actually legislated for at the moment. She agreed that the SAHRC could not afford what it had already. It was not competent to make recommendations on positions that were not funded.

Mr S Swart (ACDP) was himself ready to short-list, but agreed with the need to get more clarity on the finances and legal position.

The Chairperson confirmed that he had been trying to reach the Deputy Minister, who asked for some time to get clarity. He was pleased to hear the suggestions to postpone the proceedings.

Other Members indicated their concurrence.

Mr Jeffery asked the Content Advisor of the Committee to check how many commissioners were permitted.

Ms Smuts raised some procedural issues, noting that nomination 43 came from Mary de Haas, of a Mr Naidoo but no CV was included in her pack.

The Chairperson said that some CVs seemed to be missing.

Ms Smuts said that if this was a clerical error, it needed to be resolved. She also noted that the candidate must sign the availability form.

Ms Smuts asked if forms 70 and 71 had arrived by the deadline.

Mr Vhonani Ramaano, Committee Secretary, said that there were received before the deadline; only one application was received after the deadline.

Mr Swart asked whether all applicants had to be South African citizens, as some were not.

Adv L Adams (COPE) enquired if any of the applications were excluded for failing to meet requirements. Some did not include acceptance or nomination letters.

Mr Ramaano confirmed that some applicants had not signed confirmation letters, and some had nominated themselves.

Ms Schäfer asked for a note of what was constitutionally required, and what the qualifications were.

Mr Jeffery asked Mr Ramaano, in the case where the nominations had not been accepted, to check with the nominator whether the nominee would accept, and ask the nominator to obtain the necessary confirmation.

Mr Jeffery noted that the forms numbered 66, 67 and 69 were for the same person, and these should be re-numbered 66A, B and C.

Adv Adams pointed out that none of those were accompanied by acceptance letters. She thought that if the Committee was prepared to follow up on the letters, perhaps it should also be following up on matters such as original certificates also.

Ms C Pilane-Majake (ANC) felt that the Committee should confirm the requirements first, and only thereafter contact any nominees.

Members agreed that a number of the nominees could be excluded, as they lacked the proper qualifications.

Other business
Mr Jeffery noted that the Committee had met with the Public Protector that morning. One issue which perhaps the Committee should have raised, but did not, was the inquiry into the Adv Shaai complaints. The Committee had originally suggested that the Public Protector respond during the budget hearings, but since this was not raised, another time had to be scheduled for this.

Mr Ramaano noted that he had written to the Office of the Public Protector, who had requested the specifics on which the Committee wanted a response.

Ms Smuts questioned this, saying that it was the Public Protector who requested the Speaker to investigate a number of matters.

Ms Schäfer made the point that the Committee had, at the previous meeting, decided that some of the matters related to “housekeeping” so this was not unreasonable and the Committee should state which were still outstanding.

The Chairperson reminded Members that the last letter to the National Commissioner of Police about the status of the one complaint evoked the response that the prosecutor to whom the matter was referred must decide on the prosecution. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had said that it would revert to the Committee.

Ms Pilane-Majake noted that there had been internal reports commissioned by the Office of the Public Protector and that, and the ethics committee matters, should form the basis of engagement.

The Chairperson agreed with Members that this would be conveyed back to the Public Protector, and a date arranged. He noted that he had been asked by the media what was the current status.

Members suggested that the Public Protector also be requested to send through the delegated terms of office for the Deputy Public Protector. They noted that the salaries of the Deputy Public Protector (and the South African Human Rights Commission) also needed discussion, with a view to revision, by the Committee.

National Prosecuting Authority cases on rhino poaching
Ms Schäfer raised her serious concern about the state of rhino poaching in the country, and noted that The Star had recently carried a report about two Vietnamese nationals who were arrested in 2010, had been held on charges of poaching, but the case was reputedly struck from the roll because the Department was unable to get interpreters. The case was quite clear-cut as they had been caught, in a road-block, with several rhino-horns in their vehicle. They had apparently now been released to the Department of Home Affairs, and were likely to simply be deported without ever being brought to justice. She questioned if this Committee could do anything about the matter and stressed that Court Services at the Department of Justice was responsible for finding interpreters.

Mr Jeffery suggested that the Minister of Home Affairs be asked about the whereabouts of the two individuals, and then the Director General of the Department of Justice be asked for an explanation on the interpretation problems; he found it strange that no interpreter could apparently be found.

Members discussed the growing problem and suggested that it may be useful to obtain statistics from the National Prosecuting Authority on these cases over the last year or so, and for an indication of whether bail was being granted or opposed.

Ms Pilane-Majake wondered if a five years trend would not be more useful.

Other Members thought, firstly, that it would be quicker to obtain a shorter time-frame of statistics, and pointed out that the huge increase in poaching was quite a recent phenomenon.

Mr Jeffery thought that perhaps the legislature's response could be to move the offence of dealing in rhino horn to another schedule, to try to address the issue that fines were so low as to be no deterrent, and this could also address the appropriateness of bail. A similar change had been made to try to decrease the abalone poaching incidents.

The meeting was adjourned.

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