Constitutional Literacy Campaign: briefing by GCIS

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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report


18 June 2002

Chairperson: Mr Nkosi Holomisa

Documents Handed Out
A Framework For Strategising For Communication: Constitutional Literacy Campaign: Draft 2 (document not open to media)

The meeting was poorly attended - a pattern for this particular committee. It was suggested that party whips and presiding officers be informed of this problem and a suitable time slot be arranged for future meetings.

As the GCIS delegation had travelled from Pretoria, it went ahead with a brief presentation on its draft document regarding a Constitutional Literacy Campaign. The presentation looked at objectives, messages, messengers for the campaign

After the presentation it was suggested that the document should not be circulated to the public attending the meeting, as it needs to be reconsidered or even rewritten. Most committee members voiced their concern about the document, particularly its unrealistic costs. It was concluded that members should take the document and digest its contents for the next meeting.

In attendance were the following persons:

Ms I Mackay-Langa: Deputy CEO: Corporate Services: GCIS, accompanied by Ms P van Niekerk: Assistant Director: Information Resource Centre, GCIS; and Mr T D Rudman: Managing Director: Legislation Research: Department of Justice and Constitutional Development; accompanied by Mr B P Mkhize: Deputy Chief State Law Adviser: Constitutional Development and Chapter 9 Institutions: Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.

The Chairperson welcomed everyone to the meeting. He added that there had been very few apologies for this meeting, and yet attendance was particularly poor. The Constitutional Literacy Campaign, one of the Agenda items, was a very important aspect of the Committee's work. Submissions received last year were way off the mark due to the public's lack of understanding of what the Constitution entailed, which was indicative of the necessity of this campaign.

Prof Asmal agreed that the Constitutional Literacy Campaign was very important. However, he wanted to have received the Minutes of the previous meeting beforehand, as well as the discussion document pertaining to the planning of the Constitutional Literacy Campaign, as Parliamentarians' time should not be wasted. He said that he had not received any documentation for this meeting. He also wanted a list of the submissions received this year. There were only two years left to the next election in 2004. His own department was considering including knowledge of the Constitution in the new education curriculum. He added, however, that the costing mentioned in the discussion document was unrealistically high. He said this meeting should adjourn to allow Members to study the document, as well as the submissions, and a follow-up meeting should be called as soon as possible. He added that members of the Committee should have a list of all the Committee members to enable them to discuss issues.

Ms Botha suggested the Committee should meet at 08:00 on Tuesdays.

Ms Pandor agreed that the meeting should not proceed. However, she reminded the Committee that Whips' Fora and Programming Committees met early on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. She suggested the Chair should write to the Presiding Officers about the problems of attendance of this Committee, and that the Whips' Fora should ensure proper attendance. She agreed with Prof Asmal that the budget suggested in the discussion document was unacceptably high. She suggested that the Committee should meet during the Committee Week next session.

The Chairperson informed the members that he had already written to the Speaker about the problem of Committee meeting attendance, adding that he would write to the Presiding Officers of the NCOP as well. He also pointed out that a GCIS representative had been invited to brief the Committee on the discussion document, and suggested that that briefing should go ahead, especially as the GCIS representative had flown to Cape Town just for this purpose.

Prof Asmal suggested that the Committee should meet on Thursdays after caucus.


Mr Eglin said that the Committee needed a proper meeting slot, adding that a one-hour meeting over lunch for such an important Committee was just not good enough.

Ms Pandor added that the Committee met so seldom that she would suggest that it should meet for two hours. She was sure such an arrangement would be approved by the scheduling committees.

Mr Surty pointed out that the NCOP component was not always available to meet when the NA members were at Parliament. He suggested that the Committee should meet on Fridays, as had been agreed to by the Whips to be a good day to allocate to joint committee meetings. The members should agree to meet once a month, with study group meting on Thursdays. The Whips and the Presiding Officers could meet to solve the attendance problems. He said that the briefing by the GCIS representative should go ahead, however.

The Chairperson introduced Ms Ilva Mackay-Langa from the GCIS, and requested her to brief the Committee on the document she had prepared.

Ms Mackay-Langa apologised for the Constitutional Literacy Campaign document not reaching the members beforehand, as it had been ready three weeks previously.

She went through the document page by page, highlighting the fact that several bodies would be involved, and that various parties would contribute to the budget for the campaign.

She said that the Constitutional Review Committee had felt that the South African public does not have an understanding of the Constitution. This campaign would be particularly targeted at the youth, women, the elderly and persons with disabilities. Two basic objectives of the campaign are:
- To ensure that the ordinary South Africans are informed about the Constitution and its content;
- To ensure that there is a wider and intensified public participation in the Constitution review process, even during the post-submission phase.

She noted the Constitution had been popularised after its ratification in October 1996 and that had resulted in the production of educational booklets in all eleven official languages of the country. Since then, the new local government structure had been introduced. In terms of communication challenges, the message should vary for different target audiences. Full participation by government departments such as the Departments of Justice and Constitutional Development and Education would need to be ensured.

There are several messages and themes for the campaign:
- For a better life, know your Constitution: The Constitution lays a basis for "a better life for all" irrespective of gender, creed, race and colour.
-The Constitution is supreme: The Constitution is premised on respect for human rights. People should know, exercise and fight for their rights and obligations for their own development and upliftment.
- Our Constitution, a living document: Human rights consciousness is essential for the consolidation of democracy in South Africa.
- Be an agent of change, know your Constitution: The Constitution puts in place the basis for the transformation of society. We must all understand its contents so that we each can individually and collectively be "an agent of change" for the betterment of our own lives.

Ms Langa said the messengers for this campaign would include outreach programmes through NGOs/ CBOs, key government and political structures and key personalities. They will look to what the youth see as role models. She mentioned two phases of their campaign:
- the planning phase which entails presenting the communication strategy to the CRC, putting translated versions of the Constitution on Government's website and approaching funders (June to July 2002 ) and
- the announcement phase.
She said the campaign is long-term and that one full time person would be appointed to manage it.

Ms Camerer wanted to know exactly who would pay for this very costly project, and who would drive the campaign.

Ms Mackay-Langa said that the ministries and departments, as well as other bodies participating in the project, should be requested to contribute to this campaign. She suggested that the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and GCIS should drive the project.

The Chairperson said that the Committee would debate the matter and make the decision on that at a later stage.

Mr Eglin thought it was a useful discussion document, but it did not reflect the Committee viewpoints. He added that the Constitution was in constant review, and every five years a big job was done to amend the Constitution as was needed. He thought it was the Committee's viewpoint that the purpose of the campaign was to tell the public about their rights, etc.

Mr Seremane asked what the role of the GCIS in this would be.

The Chairperson replied that they would play their role in facilitating at a workshop on the project, invite roleplayers to share ideas, etc.

Prof Asmal suggested that the document be withdrawn, to ensure that the media did not popularise it in its present form. He thought such a project was the responsibility of Parliament. He wanted to take the document to the Department of Education for consideration, as it would play a role in educating certain members of the public about the Constitution.

Ms Pandor reminded the Committee of the responsibility of the Human Rights Commission to popularise the Constitution. She said that all Members of Parliament should be involved in this campaign. She stated that it was unacceptable to keep raising funds for work that parliamentarians should be doing. She also suggested that the Chairperson should contact the Human Rights Commission to ascertain what it was doing in this regard.

Ms S Botha agreed that Members of Parliament and political parties should play their role in informing the public of their constitutional rights.

The Chairperson instructed that the discussion document should not be distributed to the public.

Mr T D Rudman of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development introduced himself and his colleague, Mr BP Mkhize, who served in the Constitutional Development component of the Department. He said he would write to the Chairperson to explain to him the role of the Department in this matter, as the Department saw it.

The Committee adjourned.


Mr S P Holomisa (Chairperson)


African National Congress (ANC)

Prof K Asmal

Ms N G W Botha

Mr S P Holomisa

Mr J H Jeffery

Mr E G Pahad

Democratic Party (DP)

Mr C Eglin

Mr W J Seremane

New National Party (NNP)

Ms S M Camerer

Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP)

Ink M W Hlengwa

African Christian Democratic Party

Mr S Swart


Free State

Ms C S Botha

Western Cape

Ms N M G Pandor (ANC)

North West

Mr M E Surty (ANC)


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