KwaZulu-Natal Oversight Report; Possible International Study Tour: deliberations; First Term Committee Programme 2015

NCOP Security and Justice

19 November 2014
Chairperson: Mr D Ximbi (ANC, Western Cape)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee deferred the adoption of its Kwazulu-Natal Oversight Report to its next meeting as the Committee wished changes made to be incorporated before adoption. Some of the incorporations to be included in the Report were recommendations that the Department of Justice should set aside funds for the opening of a new court in Estcourt, KwaZulu-Natal, as well as for a sexual offences court to be opened in the area. There should furthermore be a recommendation regarding the impact that the close proximity of a taxi rank had on the Estcourt Magistrates Court. Members also raised concerns over the format used in compiling the Report.
The Committee engaged in discussion over the possibility of undertaking a study tour abroad and options of countries that could be visited were discussed. Countries under consideration were Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, Vietnam, as well as South American countries ie Brazil, Mexico and Colombia. African countries such as Ghana and Kenya were also considered. Some Members considered the South American countries to be viable options as there were developmental similarities between themselves and SA. Vietnam was a popular choice given its success in dealing with the issue of military veterans that SA was grappling with.  The concern was raised as to whether the need for a study tour existed, and whether the Committee should firstly identify what the challenges of SA were before embarking on a study tour. The Committee in the end decided to conclude this discussion in its next meeting.
The First Term Draft Committee Programme 2015 was placed before the Committee for consideration. Members agreed that there were some issues on the Programme that needed to be relooked at by the Committee Section.
On the tabling of documents members were informed that the information the Committee requested from the Magistrates Court, Estcourt had been received. Letters were also received from the Association of Regional Magistrates of SA and the Judicial Officers Association of Southern Africa requesting a meeting with the Committee to discuss the issue of salaries of the Lower Court Judiciary. The Committee agreed that the letters should be returned to the Associations and that they should refer the matter of salaries to the Magistrates’ Commission.

Meeting report

KwaZulu-Natal Oversight Report dated 19 November 2014
The Chairperson placed the Report before the Committee for consideration. The Committee had visited Estcourt Police Station and the Magistrate’s Court in the area.

Mr S Thobejane (ANC) was of the view that the aim of the oversight visit was not articulated clearly in the Report.

Mr J Julius (DA) felt that the aim of the oversight visit was sufficiently captured in the Report but nevertheless suggested a technical change to make it clearer.

Ms T Wana (ANC, Eastern Cape) (not listed on PMG website) asked whether the Committee had made a submission to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ) requesting that a new court be opened in KwaZulu-Natal.

Mr Gershwyn Dixon, Committee Secretary, responded that the Committee could draft a recommendation to the effect that the DOJ should make funds available for the establishment of a new court. The recommendation could be included in the present Report and no separate report was needed.

Mr Thobejane pointed out that a recommendation to this effect was already captured in the Report.

Mr Julius referred to the Committee visit to the magistrate’s court and said that all the Committee received was a presentation that explained the system to be used. The Committee was supposed to check on the effectiveness of the system. The system had not even been implemented.

Ms G Manolope (ANC. Northern Cape) (not listed on PMG website said that there were documents that the Committee had to receive which had to be taken into consideration. She felt that needed to be reflected in the Report. The Committee had already received a letter over the issue of vacancies of magistrates’ posts.

Ms Wana said that the Report did not reflect what members had found regarding the issue of vacancies of magistrates’ posts in the area. It had been communicated to Members that there was a shortage of magistrates.

Ms Anthea Van Der Burg, Committee Content Adviser, pointed out that a Ms Goosen had stated that there were sufficient magistrates at present even though there were was a vacancy. In other words the courts were coping. She agreed to change the phrasing in the Report to make it clearer.

Mr Julius stated that nowhere in the recommendations in the Report was mention made of sexual offences. He suggested that the Committee make a recommendation that a sexual offences court was needed. In evaluating the Report he noted that in the future the Committee should visit places whilst they were operating during business hours. Visits should not be scheduled when places were closed for business.

Ms Manolope stated that she also did not see a recommendation in relation to the issue of a taxi rank being in close proximity to the magistrate’s court.

Mr Dixon stated that the Report was written in a format used by Parliament. If members wished to change the format then it would be done. He added that a recommendation could be made in the Report regarding the impact that the proximity of the taxi rank had on the magistrate’s court.

Ms Manolope stated that the rules of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) did not speak about a format to be used for Committee Reports; hence the format could be changed.

Mr Thobejane suggested that changes be made to the Report as members had suggested and that the Committee adopt the Report as amended in its next meeting.

The Committee agreed.

International Study Tour
The Chairperson said that the Committee had to consider options of countries overseas to possibly undertake a study tour to.

Ms Patricia Whittle, Committee Researcher, said she had researched Denmark and Sweden and had also looked at South American countries such as Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. She had chosen Denmark and Sweden because their justice systems were highly rated and their government structures were similar to SA’s. Points of interest were that both countries mentioned had low incarceration rates on correctional services. There were also rehabilitation programmes and long-term prisoners were allowed to visit families at home. The Danish police had also undergone reform. The point was made that turnaround times for the solving of cases were not improved by increasing the numbers of police members. Both countries also had sophisticated Information Technology (IT) systems in place. The question was what made their criminal justice system so effective. Issues that SA had to consider were data protection legislation and whether the age of criminal responsibility should be lowered or remain the same.
The Danish parliament wished to reduce the age of responsibility from 15 years to 12 years of age. Both countries also aimed to reduce the size of their armies and in so doing reduce their budgets. SA has tabled a Defence Review and perhaps SA could learn a thing or two from them.
She had also researched the possibility of a study tour to South America, as there were many developing countries like SA. SA could perhaps learn from them as to how they addressed challenges such as constraints in funding. Brazil had incentives for prisoners. Prisoners contributed to electricity generation by pedalling and there was also a reading programme, which if prisoners participated in could mean a reduction in their prison sentences. Brazil furthermore had specialised drug courts but sentencing was done with the aim of rehabilitating. SA could learn from them what support systems they had put in place. Brazil’s parliament also had a budget office as SA did, which allowed them to amend budgets when the need arose. SA could learn from them on how recommendations were made to amend budgets. Much of what had been said applied to Mexico as well and it was felt that SA could learn a great deal from these countries.

Ms Van Der Burg continued. She had researched the possibilities of the Committee visiting Ghana and Kenya. Children’s’ rights and justice as well as women’s’ rights and justice were a priority in these states. SA could learn from them how they diverted children from their justice systems. There was integration between the police and their child justice systems. She felt it useful to share experiences with Ghana and Kenya.
She had also researched Northern Ireland as a possibility given its violent history. There were similarities with SA. They had even had a Commission of Enquiry as SA had had. Reforms had also taken place in the police force and it was something that SA could look into. Another aspect that SA could take lessons from them was their demilitarising efforts.
Another option was Vietnam given their positive experiences in dealing with the issue of military veterans. Military veterans in SA were a very emotive issue. In SA military veterans were not receiving the honour and benefits that they were supposed to. Vietnam was a good example where things were being done right.

The Chairperson noted that it was up to members to decide which countries they wished to undertake a study tour to.

Mr Thobejane asked whether Sweden and Denmark would be visited separately or combined given their proximity. He also asked whether the South American countries were separate options or a combination. He further asked regarding Ghana, Kenya, Ireland and Vietnam whether they were separate options.

Ms Whittle said that Sweden and Denmark could be a combined study tour given their proximity. If South America was considered as an option Colombia and Brazil could be combined, as they were located on the same continent. Mexico was located a bit further to them. She proposed the Committee spend a week in each country. It also depended on how South African missions could accommodate the Committee. It was up to Members to decide which countries to visit.

Mr Thobejane felt that the South American countries were a good option as they were similar to SA. Sweden and Denmark was good at managing their systems and a visit to them could be considered once SA had stabilised its own system. He felt the South American option was the best option.

Mr Julius disagreed with the way the Committee was looking at things. The Committee should be focusing on the challenges of government and of relevant departments. Once that was done then a study tour could be undertaken. The Committee could not simply go to countries just to see what they were doing. The Committee needed to consider the challenges of SA and the needs of its people. The Committee might not even have to go overseas, as it could be a wasteful exercise. The Committee could simply access documents from the respective countries mentioned to familiarise itself with how things were done.

Ms Wana suggested the Committee visit Vietnam as SA and Vietnam had the issue of military veterans in common.

Ms Manolope did not have a real preference but agreed with Mr Julius that the Committee needed to be informed of what the challenges of the departments were, and that legacy reports identified what the challenges of departments were. Documents setting out the challenges of departments were available to members and could be made available to Mr Julius. Members should make the effort of perusing documents. All the issues raised by the research team were captured in the documents handed out to members. Members should take their work seriously.

Mr Julius on a point of order asked whether Ms Manolope was saying that he was not doing his work. He asked whether she was referring specifically to him. He asked that she withdraw her statements. He explained that what he had said was that the Committee needed to look at what the needs of government were and whether going overseas was necessary.

The Chairperson responded that Ms Manolope had not mentioned any names and had made general comments.

Ms Manolope felt the officials had given the Committee sufficient information for the Committee to make an informed decision on where to go. If Mr Julius did not wish to go on the study tour then he did not need to go.

The Chairperson did not think it a waste of time or money for the Committee to undertake the study tour. The intention was for the Committee to learn from their experiences abroad.

Ms Manolope suggested that the choice of countries by the Committee should not be the same as those visited by the portfolio committees from the National Assembly.

Mr Thobejane reiterated his preference to visit the South American countries. He added that oversight was not a waste of money. Money was budgeted for it and SA could learn from experiences of other countries.

Ms Manolope asked whether the Committee had to decide in the present meeting which country it should visit.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee needed to work on the issue.

Ms Manolope noted Mr Thobejane’s preference for South America but felt that other committees of Parliament would be visiting Brazil due to SA’s membership to the Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA (BRICS) bloc. She suggested that the Committee undertake a study tour somewhere else besides South America. She was biased on the military veterans’ issue; it was close to her heart. She suggested that the Committee visit Vietnam.

Ms Wana supported the suggestion to visit Vietnam.

The Chairperson asked whether Vietnam would be visited on its own.

Ms Van Der Burg responded that Korea was not too far from Vietnam and was a possible option. The previous Committee had been invited to visit Korea by a visiting judge.

Mr Julius responded that he had not said that he did not wish to go on the study tour but that money should be spent well. The issue was about what the Committee could learn on the trips. It did not mean if there was a budget for trips that trips should be taken just for the sake of it, the usefulness of the trip should be considered. Would the Committee use the information obtained on trips in the future? He asked that the Committee think about the issue and meet again to discuss it. He reiterated that he was not against a study tour being undertaken.

The Chairperson said there was a proposal that the issue of the study tour be postponed until the Committee’s next meeting.

Ms Manolope said that the Committee was dealing with the issue at present. Mr Julius was contradicting himself.

Mr Julius on a point of order said that he was not understood. He wished the Committee to deliberate on the need to go on the study tour.

Ms Manolope said that the inputs made by the Committee Research Section had spoken to why the Committee should go on study tours to the various countries. The Committee had already deliberated on where and why to go, and asked the Chairperson to close the matter.

Ms Wana said that the Committee could learn a great deal from a trip to Vietnam. SA shared a common history with Vietnam. They had also had a freedom struggle. The issue of military veterans was also an issue that SA had in common with them. Military veterans from SA’s struggle for freedom had suffered under the old Apartheid National Party, the Christian name of which today was the Democratic Alliance (DA).

Mr Julius on a point of order wished Ms Wana to withdraw her statements about the DA; she was being racist.

Mr Thobejane asked that the Committee move on with its agenda.

The Chairperson asked that Committee Staff look into the option of Vietnam as military veterans was an issue that some members had felt strongly about. It should also be checked whether portfolio committees from the National Assembly had already visited Vietnam, as duplication should be avoided. The Committee would conclude the issue in its next meeting.

First Term Committee Programme 2015
The Chairperson placed the Programme before the Committee for consideration and asked Mr Dixon to speak to it.

Mr Dixon said the only change was related to the 28 January 2015. A meeting was scheduled for that date. It was a logistics issue and he would get back to the Committee on it.  

 Mr Thobejane asked why a meeting was scheduled for the 28 January 2014 given that it fell within oversight week. The Committee should be doing oversight.

Mr Dixon responded that the Committee did not have an oversight programme for that day. He asked that the Committee guide him.

The Chairperson suggested that the date be relooked at in terms of the Committee doing oversight.
Mr Julius asked if the Committee had any outstanding reports that were owing to the Committee in the first term of 2015. He asked that information in this regard be provided to the Committee in its next meeting, and that a checklist be compiled of what reports the Committee was expecting.

Mr Dixon agreed to look into the matter of outstanding reports owing to the Committee.

Ms Whittle explained that she checked on the Announcements, Tablings and Committee Reports (ATCs) on what had been tabled. She undertook to check for the next six months what reports the Committee was expecting. Reports were being tracked.

Mr Julius emphasised that the Committee needed to have all reports that it was supposed to have legislatively. A list of reports that were expected annually, quarterly etc would suffice.

Tabling of Documents
Mr Dixon noted that the Committee had received information on Monday 17 November 2014 that had been requested from the Magistrates Court in Estcourt, KwaZulu-Natal. The Committee had also received letters from the Association of Regional Magistrates of Southern Africa (ARMSA) and the Judicial Officers Association of SA (JOASA) requesting a meeting with the Committee regarding the briefing that the Department of Justice had done over salary issues pertaining to the Lower Court Judiciary. He was not too sure whether the Committee should entertain a meeting with ARMSA and JOASA given the issue that they wished to discuss.

Ms Manolope noted that the letters from ARMSA and JOASA were misdirected to the Committee and should go to the Magistrates Commission.

The Chairperson agreed that the letters from ARMSA and JOASA would be referred back to them to be sent to the Magistrates Commission. The Committee dealt with departments.

The Committee agreed that the letters be returned and that the Magistrates Commission should deal with the matter.

Committee Minutes

Mr S Thobejane (ANC, Limpopo) expressed concern about the current format of parliament’s minutes. He felt the previous format to be much better. 

Minutes of Committee meeting dated 4 November 2014 were adopted as amended.
Minutes of Committee meeting dated 5 November 2014 were adopted without amendments.

The meeting was adjourned. 


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