Mkhize petition deferred; Sehume petition: further information to be sought; paternity leave petition: further advice requested

NCOP Petitions and Executive Undertakings

18 March 2015
Chairperson: Mr S Thobejane (ANC, Limpopo)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee Chairperson noted his annoyance that Members were arriving late, and said that consideration would be given to arranging for blocks of time to deal with petitions.

The Committee firstly noted that no further details had been received for the Mkhize petition and it was not considered further. Turning to the Sehume Petition, the Committee noted that Mr Sehume had been dissatisfied with the treatment he had received during a divorce matter, had apparently been represented by someone who was not a qualified attorney, felt that the judicial officer had colluded with his wife, and was dissatisfied by the fees. He had lodged complaints already with the Magistrates Commission, whose ethics committee had decided there was no basis for the complaint. A DA Member gave the view that this Committee could not deal with the matter, but other Members felt that at the least the Committee could ask the Magistrates Commission to explain the reasons why it had come to its decision, and that Mr Sehume should have that explained to him and be informed that there were other options he could still take, including approaches to the Law Society or the Public Protector.

The Committee briefly discussed a petition in relation to paternity leave but it was suggested that relevant stakeholders be consulted, through the Department of Labour and the NEDLAC structures. One Member did not feel that this was a legislative amendment petition.

Meeting report

Chairperson's opening remarks and procedural remarks

The Chairperson opened the meeting and expressed annoyance that Members were late, which affected the agenda as certain items required that there be a quorum.

Mr M Chetty (DA, KwaZulu Natal) apologised for the late arrival of Mr J Julius.

The Chairperson noted that the slot originally allocated for Fridays did not work and had been changed to Wednesday, following the strategic planning, and to allow Members to attend to other commitments in Parliament. It had been suggested that the Committee should concentrate on petitions submitted to it directly, and that there was a need to plan better and set aside at least a week to deal with a petition.

Mkhize petition

Ms T Manalope (ANC, Northern Cape) referred to page 4 of the Mkhize petition and questioned whether the Committee had received any updated or additional information, to allow it to make recommendations.

The Chairperson replied that to the best of his knowledge he had not received any additional information in relation to the Mkhize petition. One of the largest challenges facing this Committee had been the change of administrators.

Sehume petition
Mr Chetty believed that the Committee could not deal with the Sehume petition. There was already a court order for his divorce. There were mechanisms in place to assist clients who were not pleased with services they had received from their attorneys. He should approach the Law Society and if necessary the Bargaining Council. The attorneys formed part of the private sector and Parliament could not intervene. The fees of attorneys and advocates were set in another process, and the Magistrate had already found that the attorney acted appropriately, amounting to a Court ruling. If Mr Sehume wanted this amended, he would need to approach the Court again. He emphasised that since this matter had already been dealt with by the Court it was not appropriate that it should now be before the Select Committee.

The Chairperson then asked for suggestions as to how the Committee could resolve this matter.

Mr Chetty said that it should be clearly stated to Mr Sehume that because of the separation of powers, and the fact that a magistrate had already given a ruling, the matter could not be dealt with by this Select Committee. He should seek further relief from the Court. It had been argued, in court, that the person he hired had not been an attorney. It was beyond the scope of the Select Committee to investigate whether he was in fact an Attorney or not. The Committee simply could not deal with such matters. In addition, the Committee was already faced with a huge backlog of matters. This instance illustrated that the Committee had not clearly defined which types of petitions it would and would not hear, and that was compounding the problem of the backlog.

The Chairperson suggested that if Mr Sehume was not satisfied then in the Recommendations section of it its Report, the Committee should set out the procedure to be followed.

Ms T Manalope (ANC, Northern Cape) referred to points 6.1 to 6.3 and suggested these be taken out.

The Chairperson replied that they should rather be kept in, and it should be stated that the Committee satisfied itself that the relevant procedures were followed, but if the petitioner was still not satisfied then suggestions would be put forward as to procedures he should follow. He pointed out to Members that after the hearings, the Committee section provided a draft to be used in the meeting as the basis for deliberation. There was nothing wrong with the way the matter had been drafted for further consideration by the Committee. He noted that the Committee Secretary was taking notes, and would re-write the necessary sections.

Mr L Nzimande(ANC, KwaZulu Natal) had only just managed to come to the meeting, apologised for being late and asked that the meeting recap the last resolution. After hearing the Chairperson's summary,

he asked whether the Committee has met with the relevant entities.

The Chairperson commented that this was the problem with people arriving late to meetings. He repeated that the Committee had noted the issues raised by Mr Sehume, amongst others that he suspected  that the magistrate had colluded with his wife.  The Committee was of the opinion that the procedures he followed were sufficient, but if he still felt dissatisfied the Committee could recommend to him what he could still do. The Committee also discussed his concern about the legal fees but noted it could not determine how much a lawyer should charge.

Mr Nzimande believed that the petitioner should be assisted now by the Committee referring him to the relevant entity. The Committee should receive progress reports on the recommendations of the Committee and even seek the Magistrates Commission’s comments.

The Chairperson replied that the Committee had suggested that the petitioner be referred to the Law Society, Magistrates Commission or even Public Protector.

Mr D Ximbi(ANC, Western Cape) agreed with Mr Nzimande’s suggestions. It was Parliament that ought to give hope to aggrieved persons seeking assistance.

Mr Chetty repeated his view that it was not for Parliament to interfere in Court matters. The Court had made a verdict. He believed that the petition should be advised to approach the Public Protector. If possible, perhaps the Committee could interact with the Magistrates Commission, but could not interfere there in light of the need to observe the separation of powers.

The Chairperson noted this and stressed that the Committee was not trying to interfere with Court duties but rather to assist the member of the public who had approached the Committee, and advise him on what procedures he could follow.

Mr Chetty noted, with no disrespect to Mr Nzimande, that he had earlier asked the Chairperson to wait for latecomers to arrive to avoid the situation where the Committee had to repeat what it had already discussed, to give late-comers the opportunity to get up to speed on the matters.

Mr Nzimande said he took exception to the suggestion that he had delayed the meeting. He had not received any documentation. It was therefore his right to ask what had been discussed.

Mr Chetty said he had not intended any offence to Mr Nzimande. This issue would not have been necessary if the Chairperson had accepted his suggestion to wait awhile before starting the meeting.

Mr Chetty noted that on page 4, second paragraph, it was stated that “The Petitioner also indicated he had lodged complaints with both the Commissioner for Gender Equality and the South African Human Rights Commission in relation to the manner in which the divorce was handled and the two Chapter Nine institutions had not given him reasonable assistance. The Petitioner also revealed that he had lodged a complaint with the Magistrates Commission against the Magistrate that presided over his matter but the Commission found that the Magistrate had acted appropriately”. Since the Magistrates Commission had already deliberated and decided on the matter, he wondered what now was expected of the Committee in this regard, although he agreed with the other suggestions.

The Chairperson replied that it was important that the Committee did not take contradictory decisions.

Mr Ximbi asserted that the fact that Mr Nzimande had arrived late did not take the Committee backwards. The petitioner was not satisfied with the Magistrates Commission's findings. He was within his rights to approach Parliament, as a last resort. He noted that the Magistrates Commission could be asked to submit more detail on its findings, since the Petitioner is appealing to Parliament.

Mr Nzimande referred to the Magistrate Commission's report and suggested that the Committee ask the subcommittee Ethics Committee of that body to re-investigate the matter and provide the Committee with some information how they came to that conclusion. He further suggested that this Committee sit down with Mr Sehume and explain to him personally the findings.

The Chairperson felt it would do not harm to get that information from the Magistrate's Commission.

Members agreed.

Paternity leave matter: Consideration of Committee's draft report
Ms Manalope suggested that the Committee deal with the recommendations.

The Chairperson then went through the content of the document and queried whether there were any areas on which the Committee wanted to comment.

Mr J Julius (DA, Gauteng) was concerned with recommendation 7.3, on page 4. He suggested that the time period be changed to "ten days".

The Chairperson noted this change.

Mr M Mhlanga (ANC, Mpumalanga) asked whether it was possible, in the Recommendations section, to mention the stakeholder’s names, and to consult the employer.

Ms  Manalope replied that the idea was to have a lot more input whether or not to introduce this, and to and look at NEDLAC and its representatives and employers as well. The feeling was that there were not enough stakeholders present to make an informed determination. In addition, the Economic Impact assessment from the Department of Labour with regard to the actual cost was awaited.

Mr Chetty asked who would bring an application for paternity leave in same sex marriages.

The Chairperson replied that it would be necessary to first  consult the stakeholders such as NEDLAC, the Department of Labour and employers, then conclude on that point.

Mr Julius stated that all the possible stakeholders should firstly be identified.

Mr Nzimande was of the view that it was not a legislative amendment petition. He made the suggestion that the Committee should consult with the Labour Committees or the Department of Labour to make a presentation. The findings should be presented to NEDLAC.

The Committee noted that there was no further time to deal with more matters.

The meeting was adjourned. 



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