South African Language Practitioners Council Bill [B14B-2013]: Clause by clause deliberations

Arts and Culture

18 September 2013
Chairperson: Ms T Sunduza (ANC), with Ms L Moss (ANC) also as Acting Chairperson
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Meeting Summary

The Parliamentary Legal Advisers and State Law Advisers took the Committee through the South African Language Practitioners Bill, clause by clause, as agreed to by the Committee at the outset of the meeting, highlighting also the document entitled “Proposed Amendments as Discussed”, which was a draft A-list, and noting any changes against the original bill. Several grammatical or technical changes were made. There was a proposal to insert a new clause 3, dealing with the application of the bill which, if accepted, would affect the remainder of the numbering and wording.

The more substantive changes were also highlighted during deliberations. It had been decided that the Title of the Bill should not change. However, the advisers would ensure that there was consistency in the titles for clauses 21 and 31, and consistency in uses of singular or plural. Technical changes were made to the description of the Council for Higher Education. The insertion of ‘or sign form’ would be noted for ‘interpreter’ and the content of the definition for ‘language editor’ was moved to a new definition for ‘text editor’. The paid occupation of language planners would be inserted under the definitions for language practitioner. A new definition for ‘translation’ was noted. In clause 3, the word ‘disadvantaged’  was replaced with ‘indigenous’. Although initially there was a proposal to remove ‘deemed’ from clause 3, this was not pursued, and instead it would be replaced with ‘who are’. The word ‘ethics’ would be replaced consistently with ‘conduct’, with agreement from the majority of the Committee, who felt that conduct comprised ethical considerations also. The word ‘industry’ was replaced with ‘profession’ and the reasons were explained. Members debated, but agreed, that the term ‘professionals’ should be replaced with ‘practitioners’, to avoid unintentionally excluding the more organic practitioners. In relation to the clause on composition of the board, it was noted that the interests of the Department of Basic Education and the Council for Higher Education would be recognised. In the regulations clause, Members proposed that the reference to the Minister would be amplified to set out clearly which minister had a role.

Members agreed to all the other proposed changes on the A-list, and it was agreed that a final A-list would be prepared for deliberation by the Committee at its next meeting.

Meeting report

Acting Chairperson’s opening remarks
Ms L Moss (ANC), Committee Whip, announced that she would preside over the meeting until the Chairperson was able to join the proceedings. She noted that the Chairperson was detained in another meeting and had submitted her apologies. She noted also the apologies from the Minister and Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture, and the Director General of the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC). Mr N van der Berg (DA) had also submitted an apology.

Proposals on procedure
The Acting Chairperson proposed that the Committee go through the Bill page by page, and Members would make their input as they went through the document.

Two Members suggested that the Committee focus on the proposed amendments, as outlined in the document handed out to Members. However, others suggested that the entire Bill needed to be checked, to ensure that everything highlighted in previous meetings had been included, since Adv Anthea Gordon, Parliamentary Legal Advisor, was not at the meeting.

The Acting Chairperson hoped that Ms Sueanne Isaac, Parliamentary Legal Advisor, was briefed by Adv Gordon on the previous deliberations.

Ms Isaac said that she would take the Committee through the Bill as it preferred. She had indeed been fully briefed by the State Law Adviser and Adv Gordon, and all the suggestions by the Committee had been incorporated in the document entitled ‘Proposed Amendments as Discussed’. If something had not been captured in the document, then Members could raise the points still for inclusion.

The Chairperson requested the Parliamentary Legal Adviser to take the Committee through the document page by page.

Ms Isaac explained that she would take the Committee through the Bill as introduced, as well as the document entitled ‘Proposed Amendments as Discussed’. This latter document was effectively the draft A-list and included all the amendments as agreed to by the Committee and the Department.

South African Language Practitioners Council Bill: Original version read with draft A-list
Title of Bill
Ms Isaac said that she had been advised by Adv Gordon that there were issues with the name of the Bill and asked if Members wanted to deliberate on that at this stage, or leave that till the end of the meeting.

Mr D Mavunda (ANC) recalled that the Director General had suggested that this be discussed at a later stage and asked if the Department had made a decision on this matter.

Mr Given Mditshwa, Deputy Director: Legal Services, DAC, replied that there had been some discussion around this matter. The Head of the Language Unit had provided an in depth explanation as to why the title of the bill should be retained. As far as he could recall, Members were of the view that the existing name should remain.

The Acting Chairperson agreed that there had been a long discussion on this, and it had been concluded. She was not sure why the Parliamentary Legal Advisor had not captured that.  

The Committee reiterated that it would prefer to retain the current title.

Long Title and structure
Ms Isaac read out the long title of the Bill.

Thereafter, she explained how the Bill was structured, highlighting all the chapters and the specific clauses under each one.  

New clause 3
Ms Isaac advised that there was a proposed amendment on the A-list, to insert a new clause 3. The new clause would deal with the Application of the Act. If the Committee agreed to the amendment; all the subsequent sections and numbering would be changed. She would expand later when the Committee dealt with the actual content of the clause.

Title for clause 21, consistency of wording in clauses 21, 31 and 8
A Member sought clarity on the title for clause 21 ‘Accreditation Certificates’, asking if these certificates would be accredited by the Council; if so, then the words ‘by Council’ should be added.

Another Member pointed out that this did not need to be changed. The heading of Chapter 6 was ‘Accreditation by Council’. Below that, the Bill spoke to the accreditation certificates.

A Member referred to clause 21 and then clause 31. He noted that singular form ‘certificate’ was used in clause 31, but the plural form was used in clause 21. For the sake of uniformity, he suggested that the Committee use one form throughout the Bill.

The Acting Chairperson agreed and reminded Members that the Committee had already agreed that would maintain uniformity in the use of terminology throughout the Bill.

The Committee agreed to use the singular form.

Mr P Ntshiqela (COPE) asked if the word ‘member’ should be made plural in clause 8.

Ms D Van Schalkwyk (DA) said that there needed to be uniformity in terms of use of the plural or singular.

Ms Isaac advised that the singular form for ‘certificate’ was correct. She further agreed that the word ‘member’ should be made plural in clause 8. The use of the plural or singular were technical amendments, and all consequential changes would have to be looked at when the A-list was finalised.

Ms Van Schalkwyk argued that the Committee was making it unnecessarily difficult as the context would decide whether the use of the singular or the plural was appropriate.

Clause 1: Definitions
Ms Isaac read from the section entitled ‘definitions’. She noted that the ‘education’ portion of the title ‘Council for Higher Education’ was incorrectly spelt, and the title should be capitalised.

The members agreed.

Ms Isaac noted that in the definition of ‘interpreter’, there was a proposal to add ‘or sign form’ to the definition of’ interpreter’ and ‘interpreting’.

Mr Allan Small, State Law Adviser, Office of the Chief State Law Adviser, noted that the definition of ‘language editor’ had been deleted, as it was now included under the definition of ‘text editor’, to be inserted under ‘terminology’.

Ms Isaac said that language planners would be another paid occupation to be inserted under the definition of ‘language practitioner’. 

The current definition of ‘translation’ would be omitted and replaced by ‘translation means the act of transporting a text or other spoken or a target language in a written or spoken or signed form.’ 

The definition of ‘translator’ was to be replaced by ‘translator means the act of transposing a text or other spoken or a target language in written, sign or spoken form.’

Ms Mushwana asked what ‘transposing’ meant.

Dr Joyce Sukumane, Director: Language Planning Department, DAC, replied that it was lifting a particular text from one language to another.

Mr Mavunda and Mr S Ntapane (UDM) noted that a verbal amendment had been made to the definitions of ‘translator’ and ‘translation’, to the effect of  ‘in written, sign or spoken form’. They asked which of the versions was being proposed.

Ms Isaac said that there would be a finalised version of the A-list with all the amendments provided once this process was over.

Clauses 2 to 4: South African Language Practitioners Council
Ms Isaacs read through clauses 2 to 4 in the Bill. She highlighted the proposed amendments as they were outlined in the A-list (see attached document).

She noted, in particular, the replacement of the word ‘disadvantaged’ in clause 3, with ‘indigenous’.

Mr Ntapane wanted the legal advisers, when reading the clauses, to say why some cases were being changed; similar to the explanation given for changing the case for the National Public Entity to capitals.

Ms Isaac noted another proposed amendment, to delete the word ‘deemed’ in (d) and (c) in the current clause (3).

Mr Small interjected that, on further consideration, the sentence did not read well without the word ‘deemed’ and subsequently the Office of the Chief State Law Adviser (OCSLA) proposed replacement with the wording ‘who are’. The clause was then read in its amended form.

Ms Isaac continued that the suggested amendment in (e) was to replace ‘ethics’ with ‘conduct’, to ensure consistency throughout the whole Act. This would be changed wherever it appeared.

Ms Isaac highlighted that in (i) the word ‘disadvantaged’ would be replaced with the word ‘indigenous’.

The word  ‘industry’ was to be omitted, and replaced with ‘profession.’

Ms Isaac pointed out a number of grammatical changes in these clauses.

In clause 4(1)(a), the ‘by Parliament’ should be changed to ‘by an Act of Parliament’ to provide further clarification.

Clause 4(1)(b) was changed to provide consistency.

On page five, it was suggested that a new subparagraph (v) be added to Clause 4(1) regarding organised language professional bodies.

Mr Ntapane asked why ‘and regulate’ had been omitted from subclause 4(d) on page 6.

Mr Mditshwa replied that the submissions had said that being a liaison person was a voluntary position and thus should not be regulated.

Mr Ntapane then asked if the word ‘practitioners’ had been replaced with ‘professionals’ as was previously raised.

Mr Mditshwa replied that it was also previously argued that the term ‘professionals’ would possibly exclude those who possessed what could be seen as ‘organic knowledge.’

Ms Isaac read out subclause (d), which read:  ‘promote and regulate professional liaison among registered professionals’

Mr Ntapane and the Acting Chairperson asked if the word ‘practitioners’ had been replaced with ‘professionals’, as this had been a matter raised before. It had been questioned where people who were more ‘organic’ in their understanding of a language would fit in, the use of ‘professional’ seemed to imply a certain level of qualification. The Acting Chairperson summarised that in the last week it had been decided that there should be the use of ‘practitioners’ and not ‘professionals’.

Mr Small replied that the Bills Adviser had stated that the language should be left as ‘practitioners’ and the amendment that sought to change ‘industry’ to ‘profession’ was in place. It was not correct to call practitioners an industry.

Ms Isaac clarified that practitioner referred to the person and profession to the work they did.

Ms Van Schalkwyk saw there was confusion and agreed with Ms Isaac. She further clarified that teaching, for instance, was a profession, but farming was an industry.

Ms Isaac continued to read the changes. On page 6, in line 27, the word ‘ethics’ would be substituted by ‘conduct’ as it better fitted the frameworks laid out by the definitions.

Ms Mushwana wanted further clarification on that point. She felt that outlining ethics was far more important than outlining conduct.

Ms Newton said the code of conduct was built on ethics, which was how the role of ethics came into play. Ethics were at the heart of what people should do, but the law had only been able to regulate their conduct.

Ms Isaacs replied that ‘conduct’ was a far broader term and would encapsulate the idea of ‘ethics’.

The Chairperson said that this wording was important. A person would take it amiss if told that his or her ‘conduct’ was poor, but would not react so strongly if told that ‘ethics’ were poor. She felt that people placed more importance and emphasis on conduct rather than ethics, and that conduct, as a concept, was more tangible.  

Ms Van Schalkwyk said a person’s ethics informed their conduct.

Ms Mushwana said conduct was just behaviour but ethics went to the heart of matters. She felt that at some point ethics needed to be discussed, and feared that if ethics was not mentioned, the dignity of this document may be compromised. 

Mr Ntapane summarised that, despite some strong objections, the majority of Members agreed that word ‘conduct’ should be used.  

Ms T Nwamithwa-Shilubana (ANC) added that there was an Ethics Committee within Parliament, which operated according to a Code of Conduct, and thus supported the use of the word ‘conduct’.

Ms Mushwana attempted to intervene again, but the Chairperson said that, whilst she clearly felt passionate about the matter, there was a need to move on. The majority supported ‘conduct’.

New clause 3
Mr Small reminded Members that there was also a proposal to insert a new clause 3, which would result in all the numberings after that being changed.

The new clause would read: ‘(3) The Bill applies to all language practitioners within the Republic of South Africa’, which would make for a clearer reading.

Clauses 5-14: Board of the Council
Ms Isaacs read through the entirety of the clauses 5-14 as appeared in the Bill. She emphasised the proposed amendments in terms of composition of the Board. She said that the interests of the Department of Basic Education would be represented as would those of the Council of Higher Education.

Ms Mushwana asked why the Department of Basic Education was not represented to the same extent as the Department of Higher Education.

Ms Newton replied that in regard to the composition of the Council, the Department had thought that Higher Education was more responsible for the production of language practitioners.

Dr Sukumane added that during the deliberations there was acceptance of a role for Department of Basic Education.

Clauses15-18: Chief Executive Officer and staff of Council
Ms Isaacs read through clauses 15-18 as they appeared in the Bill. She outlined the proposed amendments as outlined in the A-list.

Urgency of the Bill and deliberations on the way forward
The Acting Chairperson noted that the Bill needed to be finished soon and this may require some work during the parliamentary recess.

Ms van Schalkwyk stated that this needed to be done today.

The Acting Chairperson said that there was a possibility of working this coming Friday.

The Committee deliberated on the best way to complete the work being done on the Bill, and it was decided to continue until the Chairperson was able to give input.

Ms Mushwana suggested at this point that those who had already gone through the A-List should just accept the amendments, thus minimising the work that still needed to be done today. She had come in early, and had managed to check the document. All the amendments being presented by the Parliamentary Legal Adviser were exactly as presented in the document, and going through the entire document was very time-consuming.

The Acting Chairperson said she could not accept this proposal, as the Committee had taken the decision, when starting the meeting, to go through the Bill clause by clause. This process should not be rushed. The Bill affected all the people in South Africa and thus it was no great sacrifice for the Committee to use a day of the constituency period, if necessary.

Ms Van Schalkwyk suggested that since everyone was here today the work could be finished now.

Clause 19: Code of conduct for language practitioners and policy directives
Ms Isaacs read through clauses 19 as it appeared in the Bill. She highlighted the proposed amendments as they were outlined in the A-list whilst reading through the clauses.

Clauses 20-21: Accreditation by Council
Ms Isaacs read through clauses 20 and 21, again highlighting the proposed amendments as outlined in the A-list.

Clause 22-24: Funding and Financial management of Council
Ms Isaacs read through clauses 22 to 24 and highlighted the proposed changes.

Mr Mavunda stated it would be best to address the issue of naming the Minister of Finance in the clause dealing with regulations; he questioned whether the Minister of Finance, as well as Treasury would not be involved.

Ms Mushwana agreed, saying that it was important to ensure that there was a specific reference to a specific minister.

Mr Mditshwa replied that the provisions ensured that there was financial compliance.

Clause 25- 33: Keeping of registers, removal and restoration to register and ancillary matters
Ms Isaacs read through clauses 25-33, highlighting the changes.

Clauses 34-42: General provisions
Ms Isaacs read through these clauses.

Members agreed to accept the changes proposed earlier, as well as those highlighted on the A-list, unless otherwise disputed.

It was decided that a final A-list could now be prepared.

The meeting was adjourned.


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