Disaster Management Bill; Local Government Laws Amendment Bill: finalisation

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Meeting report

LOCAL GOVERNMENT SELECT COMMITTEE

LOCAL GOVERNMENT SELECT COMMITTEE
6 November 2002
DISASTER MANAGEMENT BILL; LOCAL GOVERNMENT LAWS AMENDMENT BILL: FINALISATION

Chairperson:
Mr B Mkhaliphi (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Disaster Management Bill [B21B-2002]
Negotiating Mandates from Nine Provinces on Disaster Management Bill (e-mail
info@pmg.org.za for documents)
Local Government Laws Amendments Bill [B61B-2002]

SUMMARY
The Committee considered final mandates on the Disaster Management Bill received from the provinces. It thereafter went through the Local Government Laws Amendment Bill.

MINUTES
Disaster Management Bill
The Chairperson requested Members to present final mandates from their respective provinces.

Western Cape
Mr C Ackermann (Western Cape) (NNP) said the Western Cape Provincial Parliament fully supports the Bill as it is.

Gauteng
Ms J Kgoali (Gauteng) (ANC) explained that the Gauteng Provincial Parliament raised concern on the use of "may" instead of "must" in Clause 46(2)(a) of the Bill. The Provincial Parliament felt that the provision of Clause 46(2)(a) should be mandatory since such discretion could lead to some provinces dragging their feet in applying this provision.

Mr P Maloyi (North West) (ANC) thought that the Department had clarified the reason behind the use of "may" instead of "must". It was said that the provinces had the discretion on which structures to establish within their municipalities and therefore they cannot be directed by national Parliament.

Kgoshi L Mokoena (Limpopo) (ANC) commended Gauteng for having done its homework with regard to this Bill. However he noted that this forum should be viewed as a political forum, only established to assist the MEC and therefore not an administrative forum. He further held that some of the issues raised by Gauteng, since they cannot be included in the Bill, then they would be catered in the regulation.

The Chairperson concurred with the above argument. He further held that it should be noted that the discussion on this issue has been flagged for to long with the intention of getting all parties to agree and can no longer be deferred. Therefore Gauteng should accept Clause 46(2)(a) as interpreted by the Department.

Ms Kgoali noted that Gauteng fully support the Bill and would not also appreciate the fact that its concerns would be catered in the Regulation to the Act.

Ms P Majodina (Eastern Cape) (ANC) held that the Eastern Cape Provincial Parliament accept and fully support the Bill without raising any amendments to it. However, her province raised concerned on the use of militaristic concepts in the Bill such as unit commands. The Eastern Cape Provincial Parliament requested that something should be done as soon as the area has been declared a the disaster area since declaration without action is useless.

The Chairperson noted the concerns and requested Mr L Buys: Head of the National Disaster Management Centre, to comment on the issues raised.

Mr Buys noted that the Committee has the power to order the Social Development Committee to act immediately after an area has been declared a disaster area. With regard to the use of militaristic concepts in the Bill, the Department noted the concern raised by Eastern Cape Government.

The Committee concurred that, while it acknowledged the concern raised by the Eastern Cape Government regarding the use of militaristic concept in the Bill, the Eastern Cape Government should modify those militaristic concepts with regard to its community.

North-West
Mr Maloyi held that the North-West Provincial Parliament fully supports the Bill.

Limpopo
Kgoshi Mokoena held that Limpopo Provincial Parliament fully backs the Bill as it is.

Mpumalanga
Mpumalanga fully supported the Bill, without any reservations.

Northern Cape
The Northern Cape Provincial Parliament, whose representative was absent from the meeting, also support the Bill.

Ms Majodina noted that the concerned raised by the Northern Cape relating to the remuneration of volunteers is irrelevant. A volunteer is a volunteer and as such they are not entitled to any remuneration.

Mr Buys noted that the issue of the volunteers would be addressed by the Department. While they would not be remunerated for their services, they would be paid out of pocket for any expenses incurred by them in relation to disaster management.

The Chairperson cautioned Members not to raise issues that the Committee had already dealt with in the consideration of their negotiating mandates. The repetition of issues dealt with in the negotiating mandates reflects Member’s participation in the Committee and also in their governments.

Kwazulu-Natal
Prince B Zulu (KwaZulu-Natal) (ANC) explained that his provincial Parliament also fully supported the Bill as it is.

Free State
The Chairperson noted that since the Committee had not received any formal document from the Free State government, it would be taken that no final mandate had been received from that Province. He then read the Committee’s report on the Bill. The Committee unanimously accepted the report and the Bill.

Local Government Laws Amendment Bill
The Chairperson noted that the outstanding Clause in the finalisation of this Bill is Clause 45, which grants the Councillors’ in arrears with their rates and service charges a three month grace period to rectify that.

Ms Kgoali noted that the contention regarding this Clause is not intended to delay the passing of the Bill. But the Committee feels that it is ridiculous to grant a grace period to the ordinance makers while the general public is not afforded the same.

Mr P Surty (ANC Chief Whip) requested the Committee to understand the provisions of Clause 45 as a means of guarding against unintended acts or unforeseen circumstances which cannot be clearly perceived. This is due to the fact that, in terms of the policies, a Councillor may lose their seat if they failed to pay rates or services charges. The Clause is therefore not intended to grant the Councillors any undue privileges but to protect them against unforeseen circumstances.

Dr P Bouwer: Director of Legal Services, Department of Provincial and Local Government, held that this Clause should not be interpreted as granting the Councillors a grace period or exclusion of liabilities for their outstanding accounts. Councillors are not favoured against the ordinary ratepayers. This provision is a disciplinary measure, in line with the Council code of conduct, determining when a disciplinary action may be taken against a Councillor for defaulting and thus breaching the disciplinary code.

Mr Surty proposed that the meeting be adjourned so that the members can have a time to caucus amongst themselves in order to reach an agreement.

Ms Majodina accepted the proposal of the Chief Whip. But she contended that the Committee had the privilege of having Dr Bouwer to explain the meaning of the Clause. She then expressed her concern about the ordinary citizen who did not have the privilege of being briefed by Dr Bouwer.

The Chairperson acknowledged that concern, but held that the intentions of the lawmaker would always prevail regardless of ones interpretation of the Bill. The Committee adjourned briefly in order to caucus.

After the recess, Ms Kgoali noted that the ANC caucus strongly believed that the three months period given to the Councillors is too long. But for the sake of compromise they have decided to accept the Clause as it is. However, they appealed to the Committee to consider amending this Clause as soon as possible.

Dr Bouwer advised the Committee to put its concern regarding this Clause in its report to Parliament and request Parliament to look at this matter.

The Committee noted that its report to Parliament would include provision to this effect.

The Chairperson read the Committee’s report and the report was accepted as amended. The Bill was unanimously accepted.

The meeting was adjourned.

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