JSC Defence: Committee Programme; Letters from the President; Committee Legacy Report

Defence

26 February 2014
Chairperson: Mr J Maake (ANC); Mr S Montsitsi (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The consideration of the Committee programme was affected by the unavailability of the senior management of the Department of Defence.  This was highlighted as a concern by various Members of the Committee, because issues such as the Defence Review and presentation by the Transformation Office needed to be finalised.   The Department of Defence had also advised that it would also be unavailable on 6 and 13 March. The Chairperson therefore suggested that the Committee deal with the other items on the agenda -- the outstanding minutes, the Legacy Report and letters from the President.    A Member wanted to know when the senior management had been invited to the meeting on 6 March, when they had tendered their apologies and the reasons for their absence.
 
The letters of employment sent by the President to the Committee, were accepted by the Committee, except for the most recent one dated 13 February 2013. Here there was potentially a procedural failure on the part of the President, as the Constitution required the Committee to be informed of employments of the South African National Defence Force within seven days, when Parliament was not in session. It was resolved that this would be followed up on by the Chairperson.

The five sets of minutes were adopted by the Committee, with only minor typographical errors noted, and a request by an Opposition Member to have the content of one of his queries on 12 September 2013 verified by the Committee Secretary.

The template format -- and its impact on the content -- of the Legacy Report caused many members concern, because they felt that it did not accurately reflect what had been done by the Committee during its term in office. The Chairperson therefore decided to allow the Members a week to study the report and present their recommendations to the Chairperson before the Committee adopted the report by 13 March.
 

Meeting report

Consideration of Committee Programme
Mr Maake said the Department of Defence had informed him that it was unavailable to brief the Committee today, and would also be unavailable on 6 and 13 March. He therefore suggested that the Committee deal with the other items on the agenda -- the outstanding minutes, the Legacy Report and letters from the President.

Mr S Esau (DA) said that the Department of Defence would be presenting to the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans, and as the Department had only one presentation to give the Committee, it could do so after that meeting.

Mr Montsitsi said that the programme was tentative and, as the co-Chairperson had explained, the Department had apologised for its absence and had further indicated that it would be unavailable on both 6 and 13 March.  At the last meeting, the Committee had been briefed by the head of the Transformation Office and the report had been unsatisfactory, leading the Committee to decide it would not meet with the Department of Defence, unless the senior management was present.  Mr Maake had therefore resolved to propose to the Committee that it ought to deal with the outstanding minutes, Legacy Report and letters from the President. The problem was that the Joint Rules Committee had refused the Committee a Thursday slot, and had decided to schedule the meetings of the Committee for Fridays. The Legacy Report captured the days on which the Committee met, and the length of these meetings.  Therefore the Committee ought to recommend, following the decision of Parliament that the incoming Committee should meet on Fridays.

Mr Maake reiterated the need for senior management to present to the Committee, because the presentation by the Transformation Office had been unsatisfactory.

Mr D Maynier (DA) wanted to know when the senior management had been invited to the meeting on 6 March, when they had tendered their apologies and the reasons for their absence.  He then proposed that for the slot on 6 March, the Committee invite the National Convention on Arms Control to present their quarterly reports and annual report, because it had presented its annual report only to the United Nations.

Mr Montsitsi said that the minutes reflected that when the Committee had met with the Minister and the Department, the presentation had included snippets of their quarterly reports and had not dealt with their annual report. He recommended that the incoming Committee be left to deal with the backlog of reports because there were several issues, including the Defence Review, which needed to be dealt with. Therefore, instead of dealing with these issues piecemeal, it was better to include this in the Legacy Report and allow the future members of the Committee to deal with them in full. This was also important, to allow Members of Parliament to focus on their legislative function.

Mr Esau said that the Committee ought not to be hampered by the unavailability of senior officials. If a person had received a timeous invitation and the Department of Defence decided that it was unavailable, then the Committee should summon that person, because the Committee could meet only at certain times and there had to be a compromise.

Mr Maake then said that Mr Maynier’s request for an invitation to the Department of Defence, and their response, would be forwarded by the Committee Secretary.

Consideration of letters from the President
Mr Maake read the letter from the President, dated 15 August 2013. This dealt with the employment of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to satisfy its commitments to the United Nations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The Committee could not deal with the issues surrounding this letter now, and the Committee had requested a legal opinion relating to it.

He then read the letters dated 5 November 2013 and 9 December 2013. These related to deployments of the SANDF for the maintenance of law and order during voter registration and at the memorial services for the late president, Mr Nelson Mandela.

Mr Maake then read the letter dated 13 February 2014, dealing the deployment of members of the SANDF to evacuate South African nationals, diplomats and their families from South Sudan.

Mr Maynier said that in the minutes, it was recorded that the Committee had resolved that these letters ought to be sent directly to Members of the Committee when Parliament was not in session, and that this had not happened. He therefore wanted to place his concerns in this regard on record. Regarding the letter dated 13 February 2014, he said that the actual deployment had taken place between 21 and 22 December 2013.  With Parliament not in session, the President was required by the Constitution to inform the Committee within seven days. The evidence suggested that this did not happen and as a result, the President may have failed to comply with his constitutional obligations. He therefore recommended that the Committee ask the parliamentary legal advisor to draft a legal opinion on this deployment. This was necessary, because the Committee could not allow a situation where Parliament was not advised of deployments of the SANDF, or where the stipulated timeframes for informing Parliament were not complied with.

Ms P Daniels (ANC) said the Minister had previously said that the Ministry was presently working to try and ensure the requirements surrounding letters of deployment were adhered to, and had been advising the presidency on this issue. She therefore felt that it would be better to first establish when the original letters were received, and where they went after being received, in order to establish the potential procedural failure raised by Mr Maynier.

Mr Maake replied that the co-Chairperson had previously been asked to follow up on issues relating to the reception of letters of deployment and that he had personally phoned the Office of the Presidency. He therefore ruled the matter closed, on condition that the Chairpersons conduct another follow up on this issue after first establishing a possible procedural failure, as suggested by Ms Daniels.

Mr Maynier wanted to ensure that the follow-up was for Parliament to check the date on which the letter had been received by the Speaker and when it had been received by the Committee, because if the date of the letter was a true reflection of the time it was authored, he would propose immediately a request for legal opinion.

Consideration of outstanding minutes
Mr Maake went through the minutes of 28 February 2013, and these were accepted by the Committee without issue.

He went through the minutes of 13 June 2013, and pages one and three were accepted by the Committee.  Mr Esau said that on page two, paragraph 2.1 first line, “resolve” ought to be “resolved”, and at 2.3 second line, it should read “voluminousness” and the third line should read “if they needed copies.”

Mr Maynier then said that in the third paragraph of 2.2, it stated that the Committee had resolved to seek legal advice.   He would like to know where that legal advice was.

Mr Maake replied that the Committee was not dealing with the substantive matters of the minutes at the moment.

He then read the minutes of 22 August 2013, and pages one, three, four, five and six were accepted.
Mr Esau said that the heading on page two required a capital “T” in “Fourth term.”

Mr Maake read the minutes of 12 September 2013 and pages one, two and four were accepted as correct.  Mr Esau said that the first line of the third page with respect to the United Nations, and the third line of the fourth paragraph, ought to read “tabled.”

Mr Maynier then raised concern over paragraph three of page three, where he had questioned why the agenda had been limited to consideration of the National Conventional Arms Committee’s (NCAC’s) annual report to the United Nations, and why not the rest of the annual report and the quarterly report.

Mr Maake then asked what the Committee or Chairpersons could do procedurally in this situation.

Mr Esau replied that where a Member disputed his input, as recorded in the minutes, the issue must be referred to the Committee Secretary to listen to the tapes and amend the minutes accordingly.

Mr Maake went through the minutes of 7 November 2013 and these were accepted by the Committee without issue.

The minutes of 14 November 2013 were read, and page one was accepted.

Mr Maake raised a concern that the last paragraph of the second page was wordy and did not read easily.

Mr A Maziya (ANC) suggested that if the second comma were removed, then the paragraph would be more continuous.

Mr Maynier said he was concerned that the minute did not accurately capture what the legal opinion was saying, based on his reading of the opinion and discussion with the Parliamentary Legal Advisor.

Mr Maake interjected, saying that the comment by Mr Maynier was not appropriate to the present discussion.

Mr Esau said that the R350 000 contained in bullet point one did not correlate with the R3 500 which was stated in the indigent policy. Secondly, the second bullet point should read ‘cleaned up’. On page four, bullet point three ought to say “welcomed and acknowledged.”

Mr Maake then said that Mr Maynier should communicate with the Committee Secretary. He then proposed moving on to the Legacy Report.

Mr M Mlambo (ANC) called for a point of order, saying that having dealt with the minutes, the Committee must then adopt the minutes with amendments, and that the communication by the Committee Secretary should concern only what Mr Maynier felt was incorrectly captured in the minutes.

Mr Maake then called for a proposer for the adoption of the minutes, subject to amendment, with the Committee Secretary to verify the relevant statement by Mr Maynier.  Mr Mlambo proposed the adoption of the minutes, with amendment, and was seconded by Ms Daniels.

Consideration of the Committee’s Legacy Report
Mr Montsitsi said that there was a template provided for the writing of the legacy reports of all Committees and despite it not being user friendly, it had been agreed upon. Starting with the “Key Highlights” on page one of the report, this reflected the problems the Committee had had convening meetings, and what had been achieved.

Mr Maake commented that he had a problem with the template, because the introduction was found on the fourth page and it ought to be on the first page, to introduce the contents of the report. He would therefore have his recommendation that the introduction appear on the first page recorded.

Mr Montsitsi replied that Members ought to feel free to make comments about the format of the report, which the Committee Secretary would record.

Ms Daniels agreed with what had been said, adding that what was presented on the first page of the report was misleading and gave an incorrect impression of what the Committee was doing. She therefore recommended the introduction coming first.

Mr Maynier then asked for clarification on Ms Daniels’ point, specifically if she said that the impression given in the report was that the Joint Standing Committee on Defence was not working.

Mr Montsitsi declined to allow the consideration of the Legacy Report to involve direct debate between Members.

Mr Maziya reiterated the point made by Ms Daniels. He spoke to the report, stating that the Committee had spent seven meetings dealing with the Special Pensions Act and the NCAC’s annual report. He was therefore not sure if what was recorded was an accurate reflection of what had been done. A further example was what had been recorded for 2012/2013, where it was stated that the Committee had had 16 meetings focusing on internal matters, such as the Committee Programme and quorum.

Mr Maynier interjected that this was true, and that this was the most dysfunctional Committee in all of parliament.   This was reflected in the minutes and the Legacy Report.

Ms N Mabedla then asked why Mr Maake had allowed Mr Maynier to interject without calling a point of order, because Mr Maziya had the floor.

Mr Montsitsi then reminded Mr Maynier that the Chairperson controlled the meeting and asked him to cooperate.

Mr Maziya continued by saying that only five sets of minutes had been presented to the Committee, and these did not support the statement that there were 16 meetings where the Committee debated internal matters. He believed there was something wrong with the report, because it indicated that the Members of the Committee were not clear about their mandate.

Mr Maake said that his first issue was over the use of ‘focused on’ and ‘various issues were discussed’, describing the subjects of the meetings, and the inaccuracy of saying that ‘around seven meetings were held’. This being a public document, it must accurately reflect what happened in the meetings. This needed to be the case, regardless of the template.

Ms Daniels asked where the report came from. Secondly, this being the Legacy Report, it needed to capture everything that had occurred during the meetings and fully reflect the happenings of the Committee. She therefore asked for the report to be re-done and forwarded to the Members so that they could ensure it was an accurate reflection.

Mr Esau said that the Committee had until 13 of March to adopt the report, and the Members had received the report only that morning. He therefore asked Mr Maake to give the Members a week to study the report and come back to his office with their recommendations, so that justice could be done to the report.

Mr Maake said that he was happy with Mr Esau’s suggestion, because the Committee was dealing with the structure and not the content of the report. Further, his understanding of the purpose of a Legacy Report was that it should ensure that future members of the Committee were appraised of exactly what had happened during the previous term of office.  He therefore supported Mr Esau’s suggestion, as this allowed Members to ensure this was a true reflection of what had happened.

Mr Montsitsi then ruled that the Members were to have seven days to study the report and by Friday 7 March, the recommendations they had must be sent to the offices of Mr Maakes, allowing time for the adoption in the week of 13 March.

Mr Esau put in a request for the full set of minutes being made available to him by the Committee Secretary, because he had not served a full term in the Committee and required these to properly scrutinise the report.

Mr Montsitsi agreed with this request, and adjourned the meeting.
 

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