Report of the Constitutional Review Committee on its activities during the Fourth Parliament (May 2009 – March 2014)

Constitutional Review Committee

26 February 2014
Chairperson: Mr S Holomisa (ANC) and Mr B Mnguni (Free State, ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met to consider the report of the Constitutional Review Committee on the activities it had undertaken during the Fourth Parliament, from May 2009 to March 2014.
Members made some corrections and amendments to the report, before adopting it with amendments.

Discussion focussed on the fact that a number of submissions from members of the public and interest groups had not yet been fully considered and finalised.  Some dated back to 2006.  A Member said that members of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) were most unhappy with Fridays for Joint Committee meetings. Whenever they had tried to fit them in before caucuses and Thursday afternoons, they had had a plenary. She asked why the plenary could not be moved to Friday mornings, which would force all Members to be present on Fridays, and keep the Thursdays afternoons for Joint Committee meetings. It would be a solution probably for both the National Assembly (NA) and the NCOP.   The Chairperson agreed that it was difficult for Members to attend all of their meetings, and this was part of the reason they had not completed the submissions.
 

Meeting report

Opening Remarks
Chairperson Mnguni welcomed all present. He requested that they go through the report page by page.

Mr S Swart (ACDP) noted on page 2 of the report that “Venice” was indicated as one of the places they had visited, but “Strasbourg” -- which was also one of the places to which they undertaken a study tour, and which was one of the Committee’s highlights of 2010 – had been omitted.

Mr Swart corrected the use of “In section 25”, which was supposed to be “On section 25”, on the first sentence of page 3 of the report.  In the second sentence, it should also be “On section 211”, not “In section 211.”  The same would apply in the third sentence, with “In section 86” to be replaced by “On section 86”.

Mr Swart noted that 19 submissions were received from members of the public and interest groups, and the Committee had started considering them but had not finalised them, and therefore this should be noted in the report.

Chairperson Mnguni interjected that 2013 submissions had not yet been considered by the Committee. They had only been referred to the legal advisers, but had not yet been considered by them.

Mr Swart said that it should then be stated in the report that the submissions had been referred to the legal advisers but had not yet been finalised, which would make better sense for the next Parliament.

Ms M Smuts (DA) said she understood that this was a report on the activities of the Committee, but in the second paragraph on page 3 of the report on the activities of 2012, it was stated that “In addition, the Committee issued a press statement in which it recorded its position around a proposal to weaken or amend rights relating to sexual orientation.”  That statement was very vague and did not describe the actual position the Committee had taken. If that document were read by someone else, they would not know what the actual position was.

Chairperson Mnguni said the report should mention what the actual position of the Committee had been in that regard.

Ms E van Lingen (Eastern Cape, DA) asked if the press statement indicated whether the Committee was in favour or against.

Mr R Ainslie (ANC) said that the press statement was in support of the existing rights, in terms of the Constitution.

Ms Van Lingen said that between 2012 and 2013, there were 19 outstanding submissions that did not require a review of the Constitution. Therefore, the report should state that they had been referred to the appropriate Committees.  They had had 19 submissions referred, and dealt with ten.  Nine submissions had been referred to appropriate Committees.

Chairperson Mnguni said that all of the submissions were still “at their door” within the Committee, because those nine outstanding submissions were those the Committee still needed to consider, and some of dated back to 2006.  They needed to consider them, whether in terms of changing the Constitution, or not.

Mr Swart said that bullet point 2.1 on page 4 of the report was a very long running issue, and something the Public Protector was complaining about. The last sentence of that paragraph did not make sense.   It read as follows: “A few submissions in that regard have been received, and the necessary follow-ups are made to expedite this matter”. He asked whether they should say “need to be made to expedite this matter”, and the next Parliament could finalise it.

Chairperson Mnguni said that it should read “were made to expedite this matter”.

Mr Swart agreed with the Chairperson.

Ms Van Lingen it should be noted in the report that the next Committee should finalise that issue.

Chairperson Mnguni said that by merely reading the report, the next Committee would know which issues were outstanding.

Ms Van Lingen noted that on the submission by the Deaf Federation of South Africa, the fourth sentence of that paragraph read: “The Committee decided, among other things, that it would need to get the report of the Task Team, consisting of the Presidency and the Ministries of Arts and Culture, as well as the then Education, that would be convened to look at the matter”.  That sentence looked clumsy, because “then Education” was not correct -- it should be replaced by “then Ministry of Education”.

Mr Ainslie said that the poor slot – meetings on Fridays -- was being blamed for that report, because Friday was a working day and the problem was that Members were not attending, and there were no consequences for non-attendance.

Mr M Dikgacwi (ANC) corrected the last sentence on page 4 of the report regarding the date of the adoption of the strategic plan. It stated “9 October 2014,” which was supposed to be              
“9 October 2013”.

Ms Van Lingen said that as Members of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), they were most unhappy with Fridays for Joint Committee meetings. Whenever they had tried to fit them in before caucuses and Thursday afternoons, they had had a plenary. She asked why the plenary could not be moved to Friday mornings, which would force all Members to be present on Fridays, and keep the Thursdays afternoons for Joint Committee meetings. It would be a solution probably for both the National Assembly (NA) and the NCOP.

Chairperson Mnguni said that that proposal was probably too late, because Ms Van Lingen sat on the Programme Committee and should have raised those issues there.

Chairperson Mnguni said that Mr Ainslie should draft his proposal about the slot on Fridays, and give it to the Committee Secretary.

Ms Smuts said that there was no problem with the proposal of Mr Ainslie, because it was the opposition Members who were always present on Fridays, but now they were painted with the same brush, which was not correct.

Ms Van Lingen noted that on bullet point 5.1 on page 5 of the report, there was a need to relook at the attendance of Members of the Committee in order to improve the schedule, and not to blame the slot.

Chairperson Mnguni said that Ms Van Lingen should draft her proposal and give it to the Committee Secretary.

Chairperson Mnguni said that from page 6 up to the last page of the report, there was a format that all Committees were going to follow.

Mr Swart noted that there was an omission of a full stop between the words “mandate” and “Adoption” on page 12 of the report in the third sentence on the meeting of 24 February 2012.

Chairperson Holomisa corrected the words “Submissions that proposes” which was supposed to be “Submission that propose”, in the first paragraph of page 15 of the report.

Mr C de Beer (Northern Cape, ANC) noted that there was an omission of full stops at the end of paragraphs 1, 3 and 4 on page 15 of the report.

Chairperson Holomisa also corrected the words “on this matter,” which should be replaced by “on these matters”, in paragraphs 4 and 6 of page 15 of the report.

Chairperson Holomisa also corrected the words “does not warrant an amendment”, which should be replaced by “do not warrant amendments”, in paragraphs 3 of page 15 of the report.

Ms Van Lingen asked whether the position was going to be left open in terms of the Committee soliciting guidance from political parties represented in the Committee, to inform it of their respective positions on the matter of proposed amendments to Chapter 12 of the Constitution, section 47(1), section 25 of the Constitution, and others mentioned in the submissions.

Chairperson Mnguni said that it would be left open, and it would be up to the next Committee to continue with the matter or start afresh. because the political parties might have different positions on the issues.

Chairperson Holomisa commented that by the time they finalised the report, they might not have a party position on that matter.

Mr Swart said that it should be stated in the report that places they had visited were Venice and Strasbourg, and lessons had been learnt through constructive engagement with the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights.

Chairperson Holomisa said that the objective of the report was to reposition the workings of the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) in order to look beyond the mandatory public submissions process, and to learn from international best practices in that regard.

Mr Swart moved the adoption of the report.

Mr H Gaum (ANC) seconded the proposal.

The Committee adopted the report, with amendments.

Chairperson Holomisa expressed his gratitude to all the Members for committing themselves to the work of the Committee and to the work of other Committees, because it was difficult to attend all of their meetings.  This was part of the reason they had not completed the submissions. He wished every Member of the Committee well in the coming elections.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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