Unemployed Employable South African National Database Proposal; Workshop report

Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

18 September 2002

Acting Chairperson: Mr A Ainslie (ANC)

Relevant document
Report on Workshop on Private Members Legislative Proposals & Petitions (see Appendix)
Powerpoint presentation on Hlengwa legislative proposal
Previous meetings on Hlengwa proposal:
18 September 2001, 14 November 2001

Dr Christina Murray summarised the main issues of the April workshop on Private Members Legislative Proposals & Petitions. The Committee believed that all members of parliament and provincial legislatures would benefit from the workshop.

Mr Hlengwa's legislative proposal on the Unemployed Employable South African National Database was rejected as the Department of Labour stated that most of these points had already been attended to by the department.

Mr A Ainslie (ANC) tendered an apology on behalf of Mr P Hendrikse (ANC) who was unable to attend the meeting. The Committee proposed that Mr Ainslie chair the meeting, which proposal was accepted.

Consideration of report by Dr Christina Murray
Dr Murray spoke to her report of the workshop held on 24 April 2002. The workshop was divided into three sections:- the representative role of politicians, petitions, and private member's legislative proposals.

She noted that concerns were raised on how the processes should be revitalised in order to serve the public more effectively.

She referred to general and special petitions and stated that special petitions in South Africa were filtered out while general petitions were commonly used.

Dr Murray said that private member's legislative proposals are much more technical. This process could be used more actively and referred to the Westminster system that passes on average twenty private member's bills per annum. This was compared with South Africa where much fewer of these bills were passed.

Dr Murray noted the key questions: what processes would be followed when a private member wished to introduce a legislative proposal, the relationship between this standing committee and the relevant portfolio committee and the actual role of this committee.

Mr S Mshudulu (ANC) noted that the purpose of the workshop was to empower the committee and expose it to international experience. He believed that workshops on private member's legislative proposals should also be presented to the Rules Committee and, in fact, all members of parliament should be exposed to such workshops. He asked how one would interpret the provincial example of the Gauteng Legislature's active petition process as opposed to national legislature?

Dr Murray stated that the situation would be different when it comes to national legislature.

Mr Mshudulu felt that petitions should be referred to the relevant portfolio committees.

The Chair noted that South Africa has a strong caucus system. He asked whether a private member proposal should first go through caucus and then to the committee.

Dr Murray replied that she did not know what the modus operandi would be. She referred to the Westminster system and stated that it protected their private member time very effectively. She stated that by using the private member route smaller issues could be dealt with more speedily and it would also help alleviate parliament's burden.

Dr Murray stated that the questions around the relationship between the standing and the portfolio committee could only be answered by reference to what kind of criteria the standing committee would use and what it's basic role will be.

Mr J Niemann (NNP) stated that it takes time to get a petition through and that they must consider mechanisms to speed up the process. He stated that bigger parties have many legal experts in their caucuses whereas the smaller parties are not so fortunate. He asked whether it would not be better if a desk could be set up where the member could take his proposal to be put into legalese and from there to be presented to the committee?

Dr Murray stated that a private member proposal did not have to be drafted by an expert before it is presented to the committee. A simplified procedure should be presented setting out how the legislative proposal must look and what essentials it must contain. The process can also be facilitated with a manual or a checklist of questions that must be answered before one can say that the proposal is ready for the committee.

Dr Murray made reference to Germany's experience from which South Africa could draw. It would be a good idea to start looking at what criteria Germany is using and work from there.

Mr Mshudulu stated that it is crucial that the workshop be extended and that more members of parliament be exposed to it. The Chair agreed.

Mr Niemann proposed that the workshops be extended to all the provinces as well.

Unemployed Employable South African National Database Proposal
The proposal was presented to the committee by Mr Nkosi Hlengwa.

The Chair referred to a letter received from the labour department pertaining to issues raised by Mr Hlengwa in his proposal. The department stated that almost all of the proposals were already met and others were being properly catered for.

Mr Mshudulu stated that the proposal had been fully discussed by his party. He referred to labour centres and aspects on skills development being already decentralised to a large extent.

Mr D Maimane (ANC) agreed with Mr Mshudulu and stated that the proposal must be rejected.

Mr L Kgwele (ANC) stated that his main concern is the employability of the unemployed in South Africa. He stated that there are no grounds to proceed with the bill.

The Chair stated that it is apparent that the general feeling of the committee is that the bill should be rejected as the department of labour had already dealt with all the issues raised in the bill. He asked whether Mr Hlengwa wanted to comment on what had been decided.

Mr Hlengwa stated that he had a concern with regard to the representivity of the committee seeing that almost all of the members were from the ANC. Part of the reason why the bill was proposed was to deal with a situation for example when a person is asked to forward the names of 50 electrical engineers and 50 qualified mathematics teachers as soon as possible. He stated that the situation as it stands would not make it an easy task and this is where the database would be utilised.

The Chair stated that notices of this meeting had gone out to all the parties and that the meeting constituted a quorum. He thanked Mr Hlengwa for his efforts and reiterated that the committee would not proceed with the bill. The meeting was adjourned.

Appendix 1:
Report on Workshop on Private Members Legislative Proposals & Petitions: 24 April 2002

Facilitators: Christina Murray and Lia Nijzink

Present: Members of the Standing Committee on Private Members' Legislative Proposals and Petitions; staff; members of the Gauteng Legislature; members of the NCOP; and departmental representatives.

Enabling members of the Standing Committee on Private Members' Legislative Proposals and Petitions to understand their role in considering and reaching decisions on legislative proposals and petitions
Studying and considering international as well as provincial experience in this field
Extending democratic obligations of Parliament in terms of the Constitution

Private members' legislative proposals and petitions are two issues with which all South Africa's new legislatures have battled.

The Constitution anticipates that private members (all members not being members of the executive) will be able to introduce legislation in all South African legislatures. Thus far, however, this process has hardly been used. One reason for its low use is that in a parliamentary system like ours, in which parties dominate and the executive drives the legislative programme, proposals introduced by private members have a minor role. However, it is also clear that for Parliament to be a truly deliberative and responsive body members need real opportunities for legislative proposals to be discussed.

Petitions raise slightly different problems. Parliament needs processes for ensuring that they receive adequate attention both so that it fulfils its constitutional obligation to be a responsive body and to enable people to realise their constitutional right to present petitions (section 17). However, petitions confront many difficulties, both procedural and political.

In preparation for the workshop the facilitators had interviews with the Chairperson of the Standing Committee (Peter Hendrikse), the staff member responsible for servicing the committee (Vynette van Huyssteen), the acting legal adviser to Parliament (Ishaam Palmer), the Chairperson of the equivalent NCOP Committee (Piet Mathee), and an MP who has had some success with both petitions and private members legislative proposals (James Selfe). Through these interviews the process that is usually followed in the National Assembly was established and difficult or controversial areas in the process identified.

In addition, processes for petitions and private members' legislative proposals in other countries and in other South African legislatures were reviewed.

The workshop started with a short introductory discussion on the representative role of politicians so that the following discussion about the work of politicians as private members would be placed in a broader and appropriate context. The rest of the workshop was divided into two parts. In the morning the focus was on petitions and in the afternoon discussion centred on private members' legislative proposals.

The most important issues discussed in relation to petitions were:
The distinction between general and special petitions
The constitutional obligations to receive petitions
The National Assembly rules relating to petitions
Whether or not the parliamentary process should be a process of last resort
What action the committee could take in relation to petitions and the problems that are involved when the appropriate response is to make an appropriation
The relationship between the standing committee and portfolio committees
The danger that a petition might benefit an individual person who is using the process while leaving many other individuals in the same category unaided.
The way the petition process can be linked to other parliamentary and political processes
In addition, members of the Gauteng Legislature described their very active petition process.

In connection with private member's legislative proposals the most important issues to arise were -
The process that is followed when a private member wishes to introduce a legislative proposal
The role of the committee - is it a clearing house, facilitating the use of the process by members or should it screen proposals on political grounds?
What input should be sought from the relevant department when a proposal is made? And at what stage?
What is the relationship between the standing committee and the relevant portfolio committee?
Can the committee establish criteria by which it should decide whether or not to recommend that a proposal is introduced as a bill?
How are members' legislative proposals linked to other parliamentary and political processes?

The workshop gave members of the committee an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the Rules and National Assembly processes. In addition, we hope that the discussion of the more controversial issues (particularly the questions about the more or less partisan approach of the committee and whether the committee should review legislative proposals on formal grounds only or also on political grounds) brought these matters into the open and gave members a better understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of each approach.

Christina Murray
Lia Nijzink
11 June 2002


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