Electoral Amendment Bill [PMB2-2013]: further deliberations; Free State and Eastern Cape Provincial Managers on the state of their provinces: briefings
24 July 2013
Chairperson: Ms M Maunye (ANC)
Further deliberations on the Electoral Amendment Bill [PMB2-2-13], a Private Member’s Bill, did not result in consideration of the merits of the bill. The ANC briefly reiterated its concern that the bill would result in a raised threshold for smaller parties, which would not be in line with the political principle of a multi-party democracy. Apart from that, the bulk of deliberations concerned the appropriate next step to be taken in the process. A legal adviser stressed that the Portfolio Committee was not bound to any deadline, but that it had to introduce a motion of desirability or undesirability swiftly, which meant on that very day.
A DA Member asserted that the bill overlapped with issues in the executive bill that the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) was handling. The bill would most probably not be operative in the forthcoming election, and there had to be long-term debate, as the IEC amendments impacted on the bill. He suggested that the bill would probably have to be tabled in the next Parliament. With the exception of COPE, the Committee moved to the conclusion that the process would have to be shelved for the time being. A COPE Member nevertheless introduced a motion of desirability, but no one was prepared to second the motion. The ANC introduced a motion of undesirability, which was seconded and adopted, ending the process for the time being. COPE asked for their objection to be registered.
The briefing on the state of the Free State Province attended to the DHA footprint; births and late birth registrations; ID applications; immigration and deportation statistics; residence permits; queries and complaints; staff development; the business unit monthly report; the payment of invoices within 30 days; the asset register and fleet management. Challenges were a lack of border infrastructure, and Lesothans who frequented the Free State and overstayed.
In discussion, there were questions and remarks about the status of provincial coordinators; case reports; accruals due to a lack of payment of invoices; vetting of officials; the asset register, and challenges related to revenue collection.
The briefing on the state of the Eastern Cape Province dealt with the DHA footprint; targets per the provincial business plan; births and late birth registrations; ID applications and duplicate IDs; queries; immigration services; residence permits; port control and the inspectorate; employment equity; budget and expenditure; the asset register; corruption prevention and prosecution, and labour relations. Challenges were the shortage of officials at ports of entry; mobile unit functionality, and a shortage of IT equipment.
In discussion, there was concern over vacant funded posts, and the vulnerability of ports of entry. It was felt that the country was at risk because of the potential for illegal entry. It was remarked that farmers were exploiting cheap labour for sheep shearing from Lesotho, while local people remained unemployed. There were questions about the late birth registration mop-up, and whether the security cluster was meeting regularly. Dual ID documents caused concern. The Chairperson pointed out that people went to study in Lesotho, and were told on their return that they were not South African citizens. She undertook to raise the matter with the Director General and the Minister.
Further deliberations on the Electoral Amendment Bill [PMB2-2013]
The chairperson said she had asked for briefs by the different parties on their positions at the meeting the previous day. She had also asked for the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to brief the Committee, but for the time being it was better that they remained observers. They would present at the right time. The bill had implications for structural changes, constituency-based elections, and demarcations.
Mr M de Freitas (DA) said that the issues of the bill overlapped with issues which the IEC was handling. IEC amendments impacted on the bill. The constituency system was a more complicated discussion. He did not think that the bill would be ready for the coming election. A longer-term debate had to be considered. He asked if it was at all realistic to look at the issues in the current term. It would quite possibly be tabled only in the new Parliament.
The Chairperson remarked that it was a split bill. The IEC was also dealing with it. It might have to be deferred to the next Parliament. Considering that the bill was similar to what the IEC was dealing with, the DA could make a submission on the bill with the IEC present.
Ms G Bothman (ANC) suggested that different departments should deal with the bill. There had to be engagements outside of the Portfolio Committee. Issues had to be dealt with in detail before the bill was taken to the public.
Ms M Mnisi (ANC) suggested that the IEC be given a chance to brief the Committee when the time was right, and that deliberations be shelved for the time being.
The Chairperson said that the question was whether to deal with the splitting of issues straight away, or whether to wait for the IEC. The Private Member (Mr James Selfe, DA) could present on the bill. The Private Member’s views could be integrated while dealing with the IEC.
Mr A Gaum (ANC) said that there was an obligation to deal with the bill. The meeting had to pass, or not pass, a motion of desirability. He asked the legal adviser present to comment on the matter, as well as on the status of the IEC bill. There was a letter which stated that the bill had been submitted to the Speaker by the Minister.
Adv Charmaine van Der Merwe said that the IEC bill had been submitted in terms of the JR. It had been introduced on Friday 26 July. There was no deadline when committees worked on a bill, but the rules required that the bill be considered and a motion be made. The question was whether the Portfolio Committee could afford having the bill lying around. With regard to the splitting of the bill, she noted that the IEC bill was an executive bill. The bill was not unconstitutional. She reminded the Committee that when Parliament rose, the bill would lapse.
The Chairperson suggested that the Minister’s bill be awaited, and that a motion be made on the Private Member’s bill.
Mr Gaum insisted that there was a need to deal with the bill. It could be dealt with later again. The matters for consideration were continuous. It could be possible to marry the proposals of Mr Selfe to the IEC bill. The proposed amendments to the electoral system were problematic in terms of the Constitution, as they could compromise the political principle of multi-party democracy. Proposed amendments could be to the detriment of smaller parties, and could lead to a two or three party system. It amounted to an increased threshold by stealth. The principle of proportionality would be rendered more complex. There could be a situation were people did not know what they were voting for. The ANC supported accountability, but the question was whether the proposed list system could achieve that. The system could confuse voters. There would have to be a trade-of. There could be accountability gains, but there would be sacrifices related to the position of small parties and representation in the National Assembly. The ANC would submit that it was not desirable to continue.
Mr G McIntosh (COPE) quipped that it was clear that Mr Gaum had been an attorney, as he had performed an egg dance. The Private Member motion had merit, but things were still theoretical. It was true that the IEC had spent more time on the issue. People had to be resident in a constituency to be representative. He agreed that the proposed amendments would lead to complex changes, but people could become used to that. Northern Ireland had come to like a multiple voting system. He suggested that the bill be placed on hold, while waiting for a longer process.
Mr De Freitas said that he agreed with Mr Gaum that it was not realistic to look at the bill during the current Parliament.
Mr Gaum enquired about the proper procedure, and whether it meant that he could directly introduce a motion of undesirabilty.
The Committee Secretary replied that there was a draft motion of desirability.
Mr Gaum asked if reasons had to be given for introducing a motion of undesirability, and whether he could introduce it.
Mr De Freitas objected to the fact that the draft report on desirability had only then been made available.
Adv Van Der Merwe said that there were no rules about who had to introduce a motion, but she would think that it would have to be an MP. She did not know whether there had to be voting about a motion, and whether a motion of desirability had first to be voted down before a motion of undesirability could be introduced.
Mr McIntosh suggested that the Secretary”s draft report of desirability be accepted.
Mr De Freitas objected that the outcome of the debate was not in the report. There had to be a new report, based on debates.
Ms G Bothman (ANC) said that the report agreed with discussions in principle. The report could be adopted, with the rider that other debates would be included. The motion had to be finalised. The Committee had showcased the matter.
Mr McIntosh proposed a motion of desirability.
The Chairperson asked for a second to that, but there was no response.
Mr Gaum proposed a motion of undesirability, based on arguments advanced during deliberations.
Ms P Petersen-Maduna (ANC) seconded the motion.
The motion was adopted, with Mr McIntosh registering an objection.
Free State Province: Briefing by the Provincial Manager
Mr Bonakile Mayekiso, Provincial Manager, took the Committee through provincial management and demarcation; the current footprint of the DHA in the province; birth registration statistics; late registration of birth statistics; ID applications; the schools identity document campaign; duplicate IDs; passport application statistics; immigration statistics; deportations; residence permit applications; query and complaints management, and the staff profile.
Challenges identified were infrastructure at the borders due to lack of accommodation for staff, and Lesotho citizens that frequented the Free State and overstayed. Deportation of Lesotho citizens was done on a weekly basis. It could not be stopped, because people simply returned.
Mr Mohodi Tsosane, Finance and Support Director, provided details of staff development; staff engagements; employee wellness; the business unit monthly financial report; the payment of invoices within 30 days and accruals that were paid in the current financial year; the asset register, and fleet management.
Mr Mayekiso concluded with information on corruption prevention and prosecution; labour relations cases; security services, and achievements. Achievements included health connectivity and increased capacity at borders.
Ms T Gasebonwe (ANC) asked about the difference between a Provincial Manager and an Acting Provincial Coordinator.
Mr Mayekiso replied that the Acting Provincial Director was a Deputy Director in the Provincial Manager’s office, who was responsible for checking up on contracts signed at Head Office.
Ms Gasebonwe asked about the number of functional vehicles, and the compilation of reports on cases (slide 43).
Ms Bothman asked about accruals related to the requirement that invoices had to be paid within 30 days. She asked about suppliers not being paid due to the unavailability of invoices.
Mr Tsosane replied that the Department could not wait after 26 March, at year end, for invoices. There was a list of accruals. If invoices were not received on time, the Department could not pay.
Ms Bothman remarked that there had to be identification of assets. Oversight was not possible if there were only numbers.
Mr Tsosane replied that there was a detailed asset record, but only figures had been presented in the current report.
The Chairperson asked if the 76 officials that had been appointed, had been vetted.
Mr Mayekiso replied that the 76 officials were still being trained and vetted.
The Chairperson asked about the learner academy.
The Chairperson asked how the area could be covered, when there were six dysfunctional mobile offices.
Mr Tsosane replied that the mobile trucks would be servicable immediately.
Ms Bothman remarked that invoice processing led to problems of collecting money when a third party was involved. The Department had to wait for others before they could process their own invoices. She suggested that the service provider should render an invoice within seven days, or else forfeit.
Eastern Cape Province: Briefing by Provincial Manager
Mr Gcinile Mabulu, Provinicial Manager, took the Committee through a socio-economic overview; provincial management and demarcation; the Eastern Cape DHA footprint; targets as per the provincial business plan; birth registrations and late birth registrations; ID applications; duplicate ID cases; passport applications; queries; the status of stakeholder forums; traditional affairs, social development; immigration services; temporary residence visas; permanent residence permits; port control and inspectorate activities, and fraudulent marriage cases.
Dr Thurladene Johannes, Finance and Support Director, attended to filled and vacant funded posts; the staff profile; employment equity; people and performance management; budget and expenditure; payment of invoices; asset registers and asset management; revenue management; the provincial fleet; corruption prevention and prosecution; labour relations cases, and cash in transit security services.
Mr Mabulu concluded with staff interaction, and achievements. Progress had been made with clearing the late birth registration backlog. Challenges were the shortage of immigration officers at ports of entry; mobile unit functionality, and the shortage of IT equipment.
Ms Bothman noted that the North West and Northern Cape Provinces had been told at the meeting the day before, that the Committee would refuse to listen to accounts of posts not filled. There were funded posts.
Ms Bothman remarked that the Committee was also no longer disposed to hear about the failure of the Department of Public Works to provide suitable accommodation. There were a lot of offices to deal with. She had expected a report on progress with accommodation.
Ms Bothman said that there had to be zero tolerance when people were charged with non-compliance.
Ms Bothman remarked that there was a focus on the numbers of people who arrived and departed at harbours and ports of entry, but the question was what measures were in place to disallow illegal entry. Security features had to receive more attention. There were ports of entry where the gates stood wide open. If a vehicle passed through at high speed it would be in another country and it would not be possible to track it down. There was not enough staff to screen goods passing through border posts. The country was at risk.
The Chairperson remarked that cheap labour from Lesotho was being exploited by farmers for sheep shearing. There had to be a meeting with the Department of Agriculture. South Africans were unemployed.
The Chairperson asked what clearing the backlog of late birth registrations entailed.
Mr Mabulu answered that the objective was to take care of every citizen whose birth had not been registered. It was a difficult undertaking.
The Chairperson said that late birth registrations would take time. Many South Africans still had no ID documents. Lesotho had no national population register, yet people were being told that they were not South Africans. The Committee would raise the matter with the Director General and the Minister.
The Chairperson asked if the District Manager Operations (DMO) was appointed by Head Office. Most offices had DMO vacancies. It had to be raised with the Director General, or the human resources department.
Mr Mabulu replied that the DMO at Matatiele had to manage 20 offices. Though he was a man of exceptional quality and energy, it was too much work. Everything revolved around that area. There was an active stakeholder forum.
DMO vacancies would be taken up with Head Office.
Ms Bothman asked if security clusters in the provinces held regular meetings. Issues were being farmed out to the Departments of Health and Public Works, but there was no synergy.
Mr Mabulu replied that all security agencies in the area had been approached. The social cluster worked with the security cluster. There were places where people would go to wait for fraudulent ID documents. People from Lesotho used health services with impunity, while local people suffered. The whole security cluster had to address the situation. People had to be charged. Traditional leaders situated near the border were making fraudulent awards of plots to Lesothans. There were few inspectors. The Department had asked the security and social cluster to establish terms of reference.
Ms Bothman said that a mandate had to be given to managers to deal with dual IDs. The previous President had pointed out that people who worked in South Africa were given an ID document, but did not give up their old ID. The Department would be blamed about the matter. When arrests were made, people went into hiding. It would be better to open up the matter and tell people how to be South African citizens.
The Chairperson asked Provincial Managers to help. People went to Lesotho to study, and when they came back, they were told that they were not South African citizens.
Mr Mabulu replied that a pilot study had been done in Mpumalanga to establish who were still undocumented. The results had not yet been disclosed to the Committee. When there was mention of arrests, traditional leaders cried foul.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.
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