The Portfolio Committee on Economic Development met to adopt the Infrastructure Development Bill and its draft Report on the Bill. The opposition parties DA, IFP and COPE indicated that at this stage they would be abstaining from voting as they had to take the matter back to their caucus, or wanted to check the final version carefully, but the majority of Members present adopted the Bill.
There was substantial discussion on grammar, wording and content of the Committee’s report. The DA wanted to reiterate its suggestions that the title of the Bill be amended to “Strategic Infrastructure Bill”. Although the DA noted that not all of the issues it had raised during the discussions were addressed, it was happy with using the blanket term “inter alia” to indicate some of the points, instead of listing each one of them. The Committee wanted to ensure that the importance of the public hearings was emphasised, and the part that the Department of Economic Development played in ensuring that serious consideration was given to all of the issues, and decided that this would be properly located in paragraph 2 of the Report. Paragraph 4 was changed, to refer to a reasonable timeframe and public consultation process. One Member suggested that, in paragraph 7, a definition for public infrastructure was needed. Another Member made proposals in relation to paragraph 9, as to what the Bill provided in recognition of the provisions around designated and implementation of Strategic Integrated Projects. There was substantial discussion over what should be included, and it was agreed that the Report should emphasise the cooperative spirit of the Bill, and avoid encroaching on mandates. The Committee unanimously adopted the Report, as amended.
Infrastructure Development Bill: Final discussions
The Chairperson noted that this would be the last meeting at which Members would be discussing the Infrastructure Development Bill (the Bill) and encouraged full participation.
She asked the legal advisers present to comment on the cover page.
Mr Herman Smuts, Principal State Law Advisor, Office of the Chief State Law Adviser, stated that the front cover appeared in line with the standard formulation but that the year marked in bold would be changed from 2013 to 2014, at the end of the last clause, to indicate when the Bill was completed. It would numbered as a 2014 Act.
Dr Barbara Loots, Parliamentary Legal Adviser, confirmed that her office had no concerns with this page
Mr S Mohai (ANC) raised a minor, technical inquiry
Mr S Motau (DA) asked, and received confirmation, on where the date 2013 appeared.
Mr X Mabasa (ANC) asked for further clarification on the purpose of the question marks throughout the Bill.
Mr Smuts explained that this was a draft Bill and that once it was finalised the years would be inserted and the question marks would be removed.
Dr Loots noted that the Committee ha already dealt with the clause-by-clause adoption when all the necessary changes were made. This meeting should consider minor or technical amendments but could not change the nature of the Bill is not.
Mr Smuts stated that the addition of “notwithstanding”, which Mr A van der Westhuizen (DA) had proposed in a former meeting, had been noted.
Mr A van der Westhuizen noting that at this stage, the DA was abstaining from voting. The Members still had to check back with their party Chairperson and caucus before indicating their final stance.
Mr M Hlengwa (IFP) stated that he too would need to abstain from voting at this stage.
Mr L Ngonyama (COPE) also indicated that he would abstain.
The majority of Members adopted the Bill, noting the abstention of the opposition parties.
Committee draft Report
The Chairperson noted that the draft Committee Report on the Bill (the Report) had been circulated, and noted that the legal advisers had had input into the drafting.
Mr van der Westhuizen wanted the word “addressed” to be changed to “consider” in the second paragraph of the Report, the reason being that not all the issues raised were addressed, although they had been considered. He had to credit the serious way in which the which the Department of Economic Development Department (the Department or EDD) approached the public hearings on this Bill. He also wanted to add into the Report that the DA had objected to aspects of the Bill, but that they did not need to be listed individually, so it felt that the reference to “inter alia” would be sufficient. He reiterated the DA’s desire to rename the Bill to the “Strategic Development Bill”, as he and Mr Motau had proposed in every meeting. He also made a minor proposal for grammatical change.
Mr F Beukman (ANC) proposed changing the word “recognising” to “ensuring” in paragraph three.
The Chairperson quipped that although she had assumed this would be a short meeting, she had to re-think that. She called for comment from other Members on Mr van der Westhuizen’s first concern, to change “addressed” to “considered”.
Mr Mabasa, for the ANC, had no problem with that.
Mr L Ngonyama (COPE) asked for clarification, as he did not see any problem with the use of “addressing”.
The Chairperson asked the legal advisors if “address” meant the same as resolved.
Mr Smuts responded that it did not, rather referred to something that had been dealt with or attended to, and Dr Loots nodded her agreement.
Mr Van der Westhuizen said that, in that case, he would withdraw his proposal.
The Chairperson then asked members if they agreed with noting some praise for the Department in the Report.
Mr Mabasa agreed in principle, but thought it would be a challenge to find the appropriate time and space to do this.
Mr Mohai also agreed. He did not understand Mr van der Westhuizen’s earlier concern.
Mr Ngonyama stated that the Report already showed appreciation for the Department.
The Chairperson agreed that it did but asked for further comment.
Mr van der Westhuizen suggested that the phrase “following the public hearings” be added, to emphasise that it was the Department’s response there that he was emphasising in particular.
Mr Mabasa disagreed, as he thought that this was perhaps affording too much emphasis to the weight that the public hearings process played in the creation of legislation, and might change the nature of the bill-adoption process.
Mr Beukman agreed but said that using “large” to refer to the public hearings could be considered, instead of “several amendments were effected due to the public hearings”.
The Chairperson referred to the last paragraph of the Report, and asked if these issues had not been addressed there.
Mr Ngonyama agreed with Mr van der Westhuizen that whatever was stated should be clear, not ambiguous. He emphasised that this was how democracy works and that the role of public hearings should be explicitly explained.
Mr Motau said he had intended to indicate that the public hearings were appreciated.
The Chairperson asked the legal team to help in getting across the intention without losing the structure.
Dr Loots suggested two possibilities: the first was to state, in the second paragraph, in the line commencing “on the following key issues”, to state that “a number of key issues were addressed by the Committee during its deliberations on the Bill, following the Department of Economic Development’s response to comments received at the public hearings” and the second would be to move this statement to the final paragraph.
The Chairperson thought it should be included at the start.
Mr van der Westhuizen appreciated those suggestions, agreed that the words should appear at the beginning, and withdrew his proposal in favour of adopting Dr Loots’ suggested wording.
Mr Beukman returned to his previous proposal on changing “ensuring” to “recognising”, stating that the latter word implied that issues would be addressed.
Mr Mohai supported that proposal.
Mr Ngonyama disagreed, as he felt that “recognition” was a bit light, and “ensuring” implied more action and seeing also to sustainability.
The Chairperson stated that the Bill had aspects around sustainability aspects, and recognised, but did not actually seek to ensure them.
Ms Chili proposed removing “inadequate” but keeping the reference to the “reasonable timeframe” for public consultations.
Mr Ngonyama asked for clarification on this point.
The Chairperson asked the legal team to comment and, when they indicated that they needed more time, proceeded with other matters.
Later, Dr Loots reported back that in item 4, having only a reference to “public consultations” would be inaccurate, and she agreed that “reasonable timeframe and consultation” would be better wording, rather than naming it specifically.
Mr Smuts stated that “adequate” was a neutral term and that if it were replaced with “broad consultation” that it would change the meaning and cause the statement to be false. He agreed that the phrase “reasonable timeframe and consultations” would be preferable.
The Chairperson noted the acceptance of the Committee on this point.
Mr Mohai stated the he did not understand the meaning of “constricted” under item seven and that he wanted the definition for “public infrastructure” added.
Mr Smuts suggested that he should rather use “formulate”.
The Chairperson asked if that worked.
Mr Mohai answered that “public infrastructure” was a difficult phrase and that a definition was needed. The Committee needed it to be understood that it encompassed and included private and public partnerships and concessions, and the use of “constricted” did not allow that.
Mr Mabasa agreed.
Mr Motau also agreed that the word “constricted” in this context was wrong.
The Chairperson clarified the definition for public infrastructure was further amended and agreed that “constricted” be removed.
Mr Beukman raised a minor point that the Chairperson was able to clarify for him.
Other Members, including Ms D Tsotetsi (ANC), raised minor grammatical enquiries.
Ms Chili proposed a solution to the point raised earlier about “ensuring” and “recognising”, by using the phrase “recognising with regard to the provision on the designation and implementation of Strategic Integrated Projects (SIP)”
Dr Loots asked for some time for the legal advisers to consult on the issue.
Mr Mohai stated that he supported Ms Chili’s proposal because it provided clarity.
Mr Mabasa agreed with Ms Chili and Mr Mohai.
Mr Motau asked to hear from the legal team regarding this issue. When Ms Chili restated her proposal, he asked for comment from the legal advisers.
The Chairperson attempted to explain it again, but Mr Motau said that he was still confused.
The Chairperson again tried to clarify.
Mr Motau emphasised that the Committee needed to include something on how conflicts had been resolved during the process of making this Bill, because the Report would be incomplete if this was not explained.
Mr Mohai said he wanted to raise a point about the alphabetized bullet points, which should help to clarify this issue.
Mr Mabasa agreed that clarification was needed, and proposed that Ms Chili re-read her proposal with Mr Mohai’s bullet points also included.
The Chairperson noted that the Members would also need to clarify why these amendments were being proposed.
Ms Chili read out her proposal, as follow:
“recognising with regard to the provision on the designation and implementation of Strategic Integrated Projects, the Bill provides for:
a) the Commission to designate a SIP through the Commission Council, on which all three spheres of government are represented;
b) providing the Commission, through the designated Minister, with authority to request relevant authorities to call for tenders for projects in order to ensure coordination, and coordinate and align infrastructure development.”
The Chairperson indicated that these proposals effected a complete change to point nine.
Mr Ngonyama suggested the Committee break down the issues. He agreed that “ensuring” should remain. He disagreed with Ms Chili’s proposal and suggested that in the bullet points, (a) should deal with infrastructure planning conflicts; (b) deal with the Commission, as Ms Chili had suggested, but that a paragraph (c) should refer to tenders; and (d) to coordinating infrastructure. He reiterated and agreed with Mr Motau’s concerns.
Mr Hlengwa supported the use of “ensuring”, saying that otherwise the paragraph became very jargon-heavy. He supported the addition of “conflicts”
The Chairperson asked Ms Chili if she agreed with these latest proposals.
Ms Chili, with Mr Mabasa concurring, said that she would support them.
Dr Loots said that the Report was trying to emphasise the cooperative spirit adopted in the discussions and the Bill, and wanted to ensure that there was no encroachment on the other parties involved. She wanted to avoid verbiage such as “you will do this” or “you will do that”. Placing too much emphasis on clarification could cause encroachment on the empowerment aspects.
Mr Mohai said that bullet (a), in regard to the Minister, was negative, and wanted to know why all spheres of government were included, but took the points raised by Dr Loots not to try to be too specific.
The Chairperson said that reading this in isolation was a little confusing. She asked Mr Smuts to explain what Minister was being referred to, and whether, in relation to conflict management, it would be the Minister of Economic Development, the Minister of the Commission, or the Minister of the respective project.
Dr Loots said that clause 8 clarified this issue. She said that if the full Committee discussion was reflected there would need to be more emphasis on what the Commission would provide for, in these instances, rather than merely stating that there would be coordination.
The Chairperson said that item 9 was not explicit enough as it did not address the designation of the SIPs. The portion on functions section was too ambiguous.
Ms Chili proposed another option for this particular point. She thought that the subparagraph (a) needed to refer to all three spheres of government, and the designation of SIPs by the Commission. Paragraph (b) stressed the importance of coordination, saying that it provided the Commission, through a designated minister, with authority given to relevant authorities to call for tenders for projects in order to ensure coordination. Paragraph (c) said that there must be coordination and alignment of infrastructure development.
The Chairperson re-read Ms Chili’s proposals for the bullet points.
Mr Mabasa seconded the amendments now made by Ms Chili.
Mr Motau stated that he was confused and that he did not support the inclusion of Ms Chili’s amendment, feeling that the Report should not be changed. He thought that the proposals dealt with the Bill, and not the Report.
The Chairperson agreed that there seemed to be confusion on whether this issue pertained to the Bill or the Report.
Mr Mohai stated that he had no issue with Ms Chili’s proposal. He stated that the new (b) essentially reflected what (a) had originally reflected, and that (a) would ensure that there was no suggestion that one sphere of government should be pushing others.
The Chairperson asked the Committee to focus on this issue, but before doing so, asked if Members had any other issues to raise.
Mr van der Westhuizen wanted to make sure his proposals were not forgotten.
The Chairperson reminded Members that the DA’s proposals related to renaming the Bill to “Strategic Development Bill” and including the phrase “inter alia”.
Mr Mohai said he had no other concerns.
Mr Beukman had a minor comment.
Mr Smuts confirmed that the legal advisers did not need any more time; they were happy with what had been proposed.
The Chairperson wondered if it was appropriate to record the thanks for the community and the Committee on their work on the Bill.
Dr Loots confirmed that thanks could be recorded to communities, but did not think it appropriate for the Committee to thank itself for doing the job it was tasked with doing.
Mr van der Westhuizen quipped that it should be noted that Members had worked through the recess.
The Chairperson thought the public should be thanked for their submissions.
Mr Mohai agreed there would be nothing wrong with stating that the Committee had valued the inputs of all the stakeholders.
At the request of the Chairperson, Ms Tsotetsi then proposed adoption of the Report, seconded by Mr van der Westhuizen proposed adopting the Report.
The Chairperson noted the Committee’s unanimous adoption of the Committee Report, as amended. She thanked the cooperation and dedication of both the EDD and Members on this exercise and thanked the media for its coverage.
The meeting was adjourned.
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