International Relations Parliamentary Group Report; MP Attendance Policy: Joint Whips' Forum Report; Intelligence Joint Standing Committee Report; Public Participation Task Team Report

Joint Rules

18 February 2014
Chairperson: Mr J Mahlangu (ANC); Co-Chairperson: Mr M Sisulu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee received an update from the Parliamentary Group on International relations which was supposed to table its report to Committee. Some Members complained that they had only received copies of the report on the morning of the meeting so it was agreed by the entire Committee that the report by the Parliamentary Group on International relations be deferred to the next meeting of the Joint Rules Committee.

The Committee did not receive a report by the Joint Whips’ Forum on Attendance Policy for Members of Parliament because the Chief Whip of the majority party said there was a difficulty with the report. The difficulty with report was that the Joint Chief Whips’ Forum had agreed on the final draft but it was meant to be circulated amongst the Chief Whips for a final agreement so that it came to the Joint Rules Committee when everyone had agreed to it. However, some amendments were effected after the final draft had been agreed to so the report was not ready for the Joint Rules Committee as the new amendments had not been considered by the Joint Chief Whips’ Forum. He proposed that the matter should stand over for the next meeting. The Committee agreed to his proposal.

Members also discussed the failure of the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence (JSCI) to submit its report to the Committee. The JSCI had explained that it was currently finalising its last report before submission to Parliament and its reports first had to be sent to the relevant security cluster Ministers before they could be tabled in Parliament. A Member of the DA said it was unacceptable that there were such delays and complaints. He suggested that the Chairperson of the JSCI be reprimanded. The Speaker of the National Assembly also registered disappointment with the JSCI saying Parliament had not received any reports from the JSCI since 2004 although they were required by law to submit these reports annually. It was agreed that the matter be finalised at the next meeting of the joint Rules Committee and the Chairperson of the JSCI be brought in to ensure that the matter was finalised.

The Committee agreed that the issues related to the Task Team on Public Participation be deferred to the fifth Parliament when political parties had constituted their new caucuses.

The next meeting of the Joint Rules Committee was scheduled for the 5 March 2014.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed Members to the meeting. He called on the Acting Secretary to the national Assembly to read the apologies.

Apologies

Mr Masibulele Xaso, UnderSecretary to the National Assembly, said apologies had been tendered by the Chief Whip of the NCOP, Ms N Ntwanambi (ANC), Mr D Bloem (COPE), Ms L Mabija (ANC), Mr R Tau (ANC), Mr S Njikelana (ANC), Mr J Thibedi (ANC) and Ms J Killian (COPE).

Consideration of agenda
The Chairperson tabled the agenda before the meeting and asked if there any proposals for amendment.

There were no amendments. The Committee adopted the agenda.

Adoption of Committee Minutes dated 22 November 2013
The Chairperson tabled the minutes before the Committee. He noted that Members had been given copies well ahead of time and should have already gone through the document. He took the Committee through the seven pages of the report and asked for comments.

There were no comments or suggestions from the Committee.

The Chairperson tabled the minutes for adoption.

Ms M Kubayi (ANC) moved for the adoption of the minutes. This motion was seconded by Mr M Zulu (IFP).

Matters Arising

The Chairperson said the meeting’s agenda covered all issues which could be discussed so any matters arising could be raised as the discussions were done.

Ms Kubayi said it was important for the Joint Rules Committee (JRC) to note that the matter of time of allocation in the Houses had been resolved between the parties.

The Chairperson asked if there were any other matters arising.

Ms J Fubbs (ANC) said in the minutes of the 22 November 2013, the NCOP had not yet considered the report of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence. She asked if the NCOP had considered the report.

Mr Xaso replied that the decision after the discussion was that the report should be referred to the Sub-Committee on the Review of the Rules so the mention of the NCOP was just in the discussion and not actually a need for consideration.

The Chairperson proceeded with the next item on the agenda.

Report by the Parliamentary Group on International Relations (PGIR)
The Chairperson said in terms of the Rules of Parliament, the PGIR was supposed to report to the JRC. He asked if all the members had received the report from the PGIR.

Ms D Schafer (DA) said she had only received the report on the morning of the meeting.

Ms F Hajaig (ANC), House Chairperson in charge of International Relations, apologised that the report got to some members late as it was completed last week. The report was a thick document and she felt the JRC did not have all the time to go through every page of the report. She suggested that she could take out some important excerpts from the report to brief the Committee on.  

The Chairperson asked if Members were in agreement. He also asked if Members would like to go and read the report before it to be discussed at the next meeting of the JRC.

Ms N Mfeketo (ANC), Deputy Speaker, National Assembly, proposed that except where there were very critical issues, Members could be given an opportunity to go and read the report.

The Co-Chairperson said it would be better for Members to be given time to read and understand the report before the Committee could engage on it. He added that it was important for reports to be circulated a week or two before the report was discussed.

The Chairperson confirmed if the Committee was in agreement for the report to be discussed at the next meeting.

The Committee was in agreement.

Report by Joint Whips’ Forum on Attendance Policy for Members of Parliament

The Chairperson gave a background on the progress which had been made on the issues relating to the attendance and leave policy. He called on the Acting Chief Whip of the NCOP, Ms M Boroto (ANC) to brief the Committee on the Report.

Ms Boroto said she thought that the Secretariat would present the report and members would only engage on specific issues.                                            

Mr S Sizani (ANC), Chief Whip of the majority party, interjected and commented that the difficulty with the report was that the Joint Chief Whips’ Forum had agreed on the final draft but it was meant to be circulated amongst the Chief Whips for a final agreement so that it came to the JRC when everyone had agreed to it. However, some amendments were effected after the final draft had been agreed to so the report was not ready for the JRC as the new amendments had not been considered by the Joint Chief Whips’ Forum. He proposed that the matter should stand over for the next meeting.

The Chairperson put the request by Mr Sizani to the Committee and asked if they were in agreement.

The Committee agreed to the proposal.

The Chairperson said there were already two issues which were going to be discussed during the next meeting so the JRC had to meet before recess. The Committee agreed that the Committee should next meet on 5 March 2014.

Report on the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence (JSCI): Compliance with Statutory Reporting Obligations

The Chairperson called on the House Chairperson, Mr C Frolick, to brief the Committee.

Mr Frolick explained that he had received a letter and met with the Chairperson of the JSCI and the reason why he could not attend this meeting was because the JSCI was actually meeting at the same time to finalise the last report. He informed the Committee that he had interacted with the JSCI Chairperson to respond to the correspondence which was sent by the Speaker of the National Assembly in terms of reporting. The JSCI Chairperson responded that all outstanding reports, except the last one which they were now considering, had been finalised and two reports had been referred to the relevant Ministers in the Security Cluster as they were elements of national security. There was absolutely no confusion that the JSCI had to report to Parliament and not the executive. This was the information available to him and he was going to update the JRC on any further developments.

The Chairperson opened the matter for discussion.

Mr A Watson (DA) said it was unacceptable as the complaint had been that for a long time the reports by the JSCI had not been tabled in Parliament and to now hear that the reports had been delayed because they had been sent to relevant security cluster Ministers. This was totally unacceptable and the Chairperson of the JSCI had to be reprimanded.

The C-Chairperson said that the JSCI was obliged by law to report annually to Parliament. The JSCI had not complied with this requirement since 2004 and the JSCI was a committee of Parliament so it did not report to the President or the executive but to Parliament. He had written to the JSCI Chairperson on 25 January 2013 asking for a rectification of the situation. Up till present, he had not received any acknowledgment of the letter nor had he received any reports from the JSCI. This was clearly unacceptable. It was a committee of Parliament and it could not be a law unto itself. The Chairperson of the JSCI had to be called in for a discussion on the way forward.

Mr L Landers (ANC) said he was a member of the JSCI and had some knowledge on its operations. It was true that the JSCI had to report annually. The process followed in the past was that to ensure that the JSCI did not fall short of national security legislation. As a result, it allowed the President and the relevant Ministers to have sight of the report to ensure that there was nothing in it which compromised national security. In the past, the JSCI had been faced with a dilemma where the Presidency or Ministers delayed the report and in such cases the JSCI gave an ultimatum stating that if they did not reply within a certain time, the report would be submitted to Parliament.

Adv J De Lange (ANC) suggested that the matter be put on the agenda of the meeting on 5 March 2014 so that the JSCI could finalise its report and the matter could be concluded by the JRC at the next meeting. 

The Chairperson agreed with Adv De Lange that the matter be finalised at the next meeting and he and the Speaker of the National Assembly were going to call in the Chairperson of the JSCI to discuss the matter in detail and bring it to finality.

Progress Report by Task Team on Public Participation

The Chairperson called on Mr Frolick to brief the committee.

Mr Frolick explained that he was going to only speak on what was outstanding as far as the finalisation of the public participation model was concerned. The model flowed from the framework which was adopted by the Speakers forum. The first draft of the model was available and comments had been requested from the various political parties with the view of getting inputs from the political party caucuses. Due to insufficient time, this process did not happen but there were indications that it could only happen after the general election in May 2014. The suggestion from the Joint Political Task Team was that the matter be deferred to the fifth Parliament. It was hoped that as soon as political parties had constituted their caucuses after the election, the caucuses could be briefed and a second draft of the model could be presented and finalised.

The Chairperson said there was a clear suggestion that the matter be deferred to fifth parliament for finalisation. He opened the matter for discussion.

The Committee agreed with the suggestion.

The Chairperson asked if there were any other matters. There were no further matters raised by the Members.

The meeting was adjourned.

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