Committee Programme: adoption

Ad Hoc Joint Committee on Probing Violence Against Foreign Nationals

25 June 2015
Chairperson: Ms N Bhengu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee adopted the programme on probing violence against foreigners. Because of the serious issues involved, Members were asked to give priority to this Committee, even at the expense of constituency work and oversight visits. The House Chairman would be asked to extend the deadline for the submission of the Committee’s findings, from August 31 to September 30, so that it would have time to deal with all the issues involved.

Discussion focussed on which organisations should be invited to make contributions. These included traditional leaders, the police, labour federations, business chambers, spaza shop organisations, and agencies that were involved in offering relief aid to foreigners. There was also debate on whether King Goodwill Zwelithini, whose remarks were reported to have led to xenophobic attacks, should be invited to make a submission.

The Chairperson said the Committee had to come up with a report that explained the root causes of the problem of violence, not just the symptoms. For example, RDP houses were being occupied by foreigners, and the Committee needed to look at what made it possible for an immigrant to own an RDP house. In certain instances, the root problems had their origins outside of South Africa, and this would inform the South African government in its engagement with other nations.

Meeting report

The Chairperson said there was a need to consult groups in society to get to the heart of the problem so that the recommendations of the Committee would address the root causes. In her view, the violent attacks on foreign nationals were a symptom of the problems existing in South Africa. One of the reports had indicated that the country’s immigration laws were a problem, but the basic cause could be what had influenced a person to leave his or her country to come to South Africa. In another scenario, the problem might be identified as the displacement of nationals by foreigners -- for example, Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) houses occupied by foreigners. RDP houses were for South Africans. The Committee had to look at what made it possible for an immigrant to own an RDP house. It must produce recommendations to deal with the root cause of the problem. There was also a need to look beyond the borders of South Africa. The report had to be presented by end of August, but the amount of work to be done could not be completed in this short space of time. She had consulted the House Chairperson to obtain an extension.

Mr R Chance (DA) asked if the plenaries from 28 July to 04 August would be affected. Which came first – the visit to Gauteng or KwaZulu-Natal?

The Chairperson said that after reading the first draft, she had communicated with the Committee Secretary to seek a change of dates from the House Chairperson to suit the Committee. She had explained that it was the Committee that decided best to how to do its work and the responsibility lay with the Chairperson on how everything was processed. If Members complained that they were being bulldozed, they should not complain to the secretary or content advisor, but to the Chairperson.

Ms S Dubazana-Dlamini (ANC) said the Committee should discuss the issue on a lighter note. The role of the secretariat was not to decide how the Committee should proceed with its business. Given the urgency of this report, she suggested that Members should shift their attention from other Committees to attend to this matter and support the progress of this Committee to meet the deadline mandated by Parliament.

The Chairperson suggested that Members in this Committee should not to participate in oversight visits of other Committees because of the limited time.

Mr D Gumede (ANC) said that because of the nature of the violence and its impact on society as a whole, this Committee should be considered as a priority.

Ms L Zwane (ANC) apologised for not being able to attend the last meeting because of the clash of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) and National Assembly (NA) programmes. The leadership of this Committee should communicate with the Chief Whip of the NCOP the fact that the Committee required Members to commit to this Committee because of its priority. The programme was packed, and she was not sure if the Committee would be able to deal with the all issues on paper.

Mr E Makue (ANC) said it was impossible for him to write to the NCOP to be given time to attend to this Committee, as he was the Chairperson of two NCOP Select Committees. He asked for the indulgence of the Committee, as he would be having oversight visits for two Committees on 4 August, and he would be leading the delegation as Chairperson.

Another Member asked if this meant they could not participate in constituency work.

Ms Dubazana-Dlamini said Members came from different organisations and political parties and it was their party’s decision to deploy them to Parliament. Parliament became a priority if it had an urgent issue, and the ad hoc committee was dealing with an urgent national matter. Members must inform their political principals of the urgency of this matter, and that they had been given only two months to complete the report. Constituency work was an on-going thing and administrators were there to consult and communicate should it require a Member’s presence. The Committee must take a resolution on the code of conduct of Members.

The Chairperson said it had never happened in the history of Parliament to ask Members to commit to this Committee. It would be for their parties to decide. When the violence against foreigners and foreign nationals had taken place, political parties had expressed their views about what was supposed as to happen and how to do it. The President had cancelled an important trip to attend to this matter. Members should not have to ask for permission to commit to this Committee versus constituency work. Members must prioritise this Committee, including the time for the plenaries. She had consulted with the House Chairperson to establish whether this Committee could sit during the plenaries. The Committee room to be chosen should be near to the National Assembly chamber. The decision the Committee needed to take was to sit during the plenaries and to ask for an extension of the deadline.

Mr Gumede moved this proposal by the Chairperson, saying Members must develop discipline amongst themselves and as leaders, had to interact with each other in a good way.

Mr L Ramatlakane (ANC) seconded the proposal, but asked if the Committee should move a resolution for the deadline to be extended to the end September to provide space for the draft report to be tabled and the final report finalised. The extension would be considered favourably.

Mr Motau said the Committee had precedence over other committees because of the short time, as it was about getting the job done.

The Chairperson asked the Committee to adopt the proposal to apply for an extension and to sit during the plenaries. The situation of other members, like the Chairperson of two NCOP committees, would be taken into account. In her view, the Committee should end with a visit to Gauteng, as it was near most Members’ residencies, rather than ending in Kwazulu-Natal and struggling to go home, as they had to go back to Gauteng to connect with their flights home.

Ms L Dlamini (ANC) said what was important was not where to start or end, but for the secretariat to tell Members where to go. In Gauteng, there were places were incidents had occurred. It was critical to invite certain organisations, or communities in the hostels, to get information on what had really transpired -- for example, in Alexandria. Near Eastgate, a car dealer’s 80 new cars had been burnt, but it had been addressed by the media as xenophobia.

Mr Motau said given that the Committee was going to start in KwaZulu-Natal, he would assist the secretariat, as he had been involved in the 2008 interventions with some organisation in Gauteng. The Committee may explore how it could use the local government week organised by NCOP, on 25 to 28 August, to learn about the experiences of local government. The researchers must help the Committee with questions that would guide engagements with local government. It was important to include the SA Police Service (SAPS), as it was the police who had intervened in many of these incidents. Police stations would share their reading of the situation.

The Chairperson said there was an inter-ministerial meeting of SAPS, Home Affairs, Labour and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) on 11 August, and one of the issues was about jobs.

Mr Ramathlakane said given that there was already some relevant information regarding what had happened, this should be shared with the Committee for it to gain insight into the dynamics of the incidents. Executives in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal had done some work to try and cool the situation, so it was important to engage with them.

Mr Motau said a lot of work needed to be done upfront by the secretariat. Labour federations other than COSATU must be invited to make inputs.

The Chairperson said the Committee was open to any structures that could help with information.

A Member said the Committee might also visit some areas where foreigners had displaced nationals in the work place and were being exploited.

Adv K Mpumlwane (ANC) said farms and restaurants employed foreigners and it must be found out why they did so.

When South Africans were saying foreigners were taking their jobs; they were referring to farm workers, restaurants, the hotel industry and shops. The private sector had business chambers, and the Committee had not visited any of these.

Ms Dlamini said it would be important to visit the king in KwaZulu-Natal, as he might have been misinterpreted by the media,

Mr Ramatlakane thought it would be difficult, but the best approach was to suggest to the king that the Committee had been mandated by Parliament to ask if His Majesty was willing to make an input. This could be done in writing, unless he was willing to make inputs in person. Labour unions with head offices in Johannesburg should be invited to make an input.

Adv Mpumlwane said chiefs in border areas should be invited to make an input, especially in places like Musina.

Mr Motau said when the meeting started, it had been noted the Committee would not have enough time to deal with all those it intended dealing with. Strategically, the Committee must consider making people submit written submissions to it. This would ensure people would not be able to say that they had been left out. Organisations in rural areas and borders were important, and political authorities in those areas must engage with the Committee. The Committee must go to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

Mr N Mncwango (IFP) apologised for being late. On the list of people, the structures of traditional leaders must be included. The king, for example, had asked his AmaKhosis and Izindunas to do something to quell the violence. He asked if it was advisable for the Committee to meet the king to speak about the perceptions that he had started.

Mr Chance supported the suggestion of written submissions, including postal and e-mail channels.

Mr Motau agreed with the former suggestion to talk to the king so that he would not say he had been left out, after the report had been finalised, while it included remarks attributed to him.

The Chairperson said no one was against the allegations regarding the remarks made by the king. In the context of African culture, caution advocated by Mr Mpumlwane and Mr Mncwango was based on the status of the king. It was important for Mr Motau to understand that this was Africa. Even in Britain, the Queen was never called to account to Parliament. The Committee must show political maturity. Its agenda was not determined by the media. The inter-ministerial committee had said the violence started in Isipingo, but it was surprised that the media had indicated that the king started the violence. The media could not guide the Committee’s agenda and it had to be sober, as Parliament was the highest decision making body in the country. It was in the constitution, that Parliament had to respect the cultures and traditions of the country. The king must not be subject to the Committee and the king could be taken to court only if he was alleged to have committed a crime.

Mr Motau suggested using local radio to request contributions from the general public.

The Chairperson replied that she and the communications team from Parliament could do that after finishing consultations to solicit views from the public. A situation where the public received party political messages, asking for submissions, should be avoided.

Another Member agreed with the Committee’s approach of inviting labour federations and other relevant stakeholders, and suggested inviting councillors and other Members of Parliament to contribute.

Mr Mncwango said it would be a great omission to omit the Durban metro council and other organisations that were directly involved in mobilising relief aid for affected victims.

The Chairperson said not everybody would be seen in person, but some identified organisations would be allowed to make written submissions. Violence against foreign nationals was a symptom of an underlying problem. The Committees would approach the underlying problems and their root causes, such as a foreigner owning an RDP house designed for poor South African citizens when there was a clear policy that a RDP house was allocated only to a South Africa national. The violence was a symptom. The Committee would also want to know what action was being taken by the relevant authorities to address the problem. In certain instances, the root problem was outside South Africa, which would inform the South African government to engage with other nations. The Committee also needed to engage the SA Chamber of Business, among others, as they employed foreigners. The Committee would apply for an extension from 31 August, to 30 September.

Mr Ramatlakane said the secretariat must provide the Members with the dates so they would know the days and times they were supposed to visit.

Mr Chance said the Committee must meet the spaza organisation in Soweto.

Ms Dlamini said the Committee must be clear whether they would travel on 5 July, to start work on 6 July, ending in KwaZulu Natal by July 8, and start in Gauteng and, if possible, work until the Saturday.

Mr Chance said he would be not available on the first Friday.

The Chairperson said ACCORD had asked to engage the with Committee when it visited Durban. It was an organisation involve in peace and conflict resolution in Africa.

Ms Zwane said the Chairperson must not agree to meet all the other organisations that would be sending sms messages, seeking to engage the Committee.

The Chairperson replied that ACCORD was involved in peace processes, including Burundi. It was also abreast with developments on the continent. Organisations would be prioritised according to their importance.

The meeting was adjourned. 


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