The Committee was engaged in a number of issues particularly the administration of the petitions. Members raised serious concerns around the fact that documents were still not being made available to Members on time; getting documents the day before a meeting was unacceptable. However another matter which was raised was that the time allocated to the Committee was not enough and there needed to be a legal person allocated to the Committee on a permanent basis. Members also highlighted that the perception in the public and within Parliament was that Members of the Committee were not doing their work properly, however this was not the case. The Committee needed more administrative support from Parliament.
The Chairperson said the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) has allocated more time towards the Committee; this was a good thing because there would be more time available for Members to review the progress of the Committee among other things. He explained that the reason why he was late for the meeting was due to the Mayibue-Matshaya protesters who needed to be briefed on the work of the Committee and the progress made in addressing their concerns.
Mr G Michalakis (DA) (Free State) asked if the Committee could deal with the issuing of documents before they proceed; he said that he would like to say something on the matter and asked the Chairperson if he could proceed.
Mr M Suka (ANC) (Eastern Cape) said that the matter would be added under the meeting’s agenda under the ‘administration’ topic. Further the Committee has to adopt draft minutes of previous meetings but they have not been included in the agenda, although the minutes were the main agenda of the meeting. He asked the Committee members if the process of adoption of minutes can also be added under the ‘administration’ topic.
Committee Members agreed.
The Chairperson said the other important administration of the Committee was to adopt the petitions. He asked the Committee members to agree with this agenda.
The Committee members agreed.
The Chairperson gave Mr Michalakis the opportunity to address the Committee on the matter of the issuing of the documents.
Mr Michalakis said if he checked his email he would have noticed that documents for the meeting were emailed 25 minutes before the meeting, which was unacceptable. The Committee was supposed to function well, and they could only do this if they were given enough time to prepare for meetings and go through the documents. The Committee Secretary must have known that the documents would be discussed this morning, and that should have indicated that the documents should have been emailed at least three days before. Further, the Committee Secretary emailed the draft minutes but he did no check whether they appear of the agenda or not. It was unacceptable that the Committees work was being handled lightly and the administration of the Committee was not being taken seriously. This was not only unfair towards the Member of Parliament but also towards the public.
Mr D Ximbi (ANC) (Western Cape) said that he would not repeat what Mr Michalakis said because his points were very clear that the administration of the Committee has to be checked up on. He added that much of what was happening outside of Parliament, such as the marches, had an impact not only on the administration of the Committee but also on Parliament as a whole.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Michalakis for raising the point and said the Committee had to work together. He said that Members should receive documents on time and the Committee Secretary should not repeat what had happened. He asked the Committee if they could proceed with the consideration and adoption of pending reports; he suggested that they start with the Mkhize petition. He proposed that the Committee move for the adoption of the report. He explained to Members that when a Member has sent in an apology for their absence it would reflect as such on the report, but when a member was absent without informing the Committee Secretary it would be reflect as the Member being absent without an apology. He said that the Committee should proceed with the Mkhize report.
Mr Michalakis said he is not sure if it would be the right time to raise this issue, but some of the reports were the same ones which the Committee had adopted in previous meetings. Some Committee members had made recommendations to The Paternity Leave Petition Report and it was adopted then a few weeks later the Committee adopted the exact same report, and then again for the third time. Surely, some progress must have been made since the adoption of the report. He asked if the Committee would be getting an updated report on what was recommended or would the Committee be adopting a report which has been adopted for three times already. He concluded saying it seemed like there had not been any progress with the reports.
The Chairperson indicated that he also had the same concerns. He told the Committee that the administrators of the Committee suggested that the Committee adopts the report along with its recommendations. He asked that the Mr Mkhize explains the process to the Committee.
Mr Nkanyiso Mkhize, Committee Secretary, told the Committee that the procedure that was usually followed was that the Committee would firstly adopt the report, after the report has been amend by the NCOP the report would again be adopted in regulation with the amendments.
Mr M Mohapi (ANC) (Free State) explained that the Committee could adopt the report as it stood. It could then be tabled to the National Assembly and a follow up of the recommendations can be made.
Mr Michalakis said that he understands the procedure, but the Committee had adopted the reports and they should have been tabled in the National Assembly. Also, why have the reports not been tabled to the NCOP; the reports should not be appearing before the Committee for a fourth time. The reports should have been tabled two months ago, in the meantime the petitioners were waiting on the Committee and nothing was being done. If the Committee Secretary had done his job and tabled the reports after the Committee had adopted them this would not have been an issue. He said the Committee will have to make a resolution that the reports which have already been adopted must be tabled and sent to the National Assembly, whether the Minister will be present or not. The default from the Committee Secretary should be dealt with by his superiors.
The Chairperson asked whether Members agreed that the Mkhize, Paternity Leave and Sehume Reports could be tabled to the National Assembly.
Mr J Julius (DA) (Gauteng) said he agreed with the suggestion being made by Mr Michalakis. Any progress made should be tabled.
The Chairperson told the Committee they need to ensure which reports the Committee would be sending to the National Assembly. The Committee has agreed on three reports already; Mkhize, Paternity leave and Sehume. The Transnet-Mayibuye report still needed to be discussed before it could be sent to the National Assembly.
Mr Michalakis asked for some clarity on the Mkhize report. He said that he would like some legal advice on the petition report because he suspected that the petition did not fall under the jurisdiction of the Committee.
The Chairperson asked Mr Michalakis if he has gone through the report.
Mr Mohapi said the previous phases of the reports should be taken into consideration. The structure of the phases in which the reports have gone through should be clearly stated, and the phases which the Committee was still going to go through should also be added. This would prevent a repeat of the same incident.
Mr Michalakis said he does not have a problem with the contents of the report and he did not want to amend it. His problem was that he does not think that the report fell under the Committee’s jurisdiction; if the report did fall under the Committee’s jurisdiction then he would not oppose the report being tabled to the National Assembly. The legal advisor was not at the previous meeting and since he was currently present at the meeting he would like the advisor to clarify the matter.
The Chairperson said as he understood Mr Michalakis’s concerns and that he was not objecting to the structure of the report but rather to whether the Committee had legal jurisdiction over the report or not. He said that the legal advisor would explain if the report fell under the Committee’s jurisdiction or not. He suggested that in the recommendations section the Committee ask the NCOP to perform an investigation into the matter
Ms Manopole raised a concern about the order of the content of the report and about the general condition of the documents handed to Members, which were not a good standard.
The Chairperson said a legal person should be assigned to the Committee on a permanent basis.
Mr Mohapi asked, referring to the concern raised by Mr Michalakis, whether the legal advisor would clarify the matter or whether the matter would be added in the report as part of the Committee’s concerns. He further asked Mr Michalakis to clarify as to what his exact problem with the report was.
Mr Michalakis replied saying his specific problems with the Mkhize petition was the re-opening of the inquest. The Inquest Act indicate that “an inquest can only be re-opened by the Minister of Justice on recommendation by the Public Prosecutor”. Therefore, in other words, the person who should have been approached for the inquest was the Public Prosecutor, who then made the recommendation to the Minster. The Committee could not tell the Public Prosecutor what he or she should and should not do; therefore in terms of the Inquest Act, the Committee had no authority over the recommendation. With this said, he asked if it was within the Committees powers to make the recommendation to the Minister, or should the Committee have referred the petition to the right person from the start?
The legal advisor said that he agreed with Mr Michalakis. He added that the Committee or the NCOP had the right to write to the Public Prosecutor and make recommendations after the Committee has reviewed the petition.
The Chairperson said the next agenda was the Committees Progress Report.
Some of the Committee members indicated that they do not have the Progress Report to which the Chairperson is referring to.
The Chairperson asked the Mr Mkhize why the report has not been included in the documents which were scheduled for the meeting.
Ms Manopole proposed that the Committee proceed with items number three, four and five while the Committee Secretary made copies of the document that Members did not have.
The Chairperson replied saying that items three, four and five formed part of the Progress Report.
Ms Manopole said the Committee could discuss item number three while the Committee Secretary made copies of the rest of the documents which were outstanding.
The Chairperson apologised and asked that the Committee proceeds with item number three.
Ms Manopole said the document should have had file dividers so that each section can be identifiable. She added that it is difficult to allocate the different sections of the document - where they start and end.
Mr Michalakis said if the administration of the Committee was on the right track then the Members would not be complaining about the order of the documents. The documents should have been placed in the order that they would be discussed in. Mr Mkhize should not have to be told how documents were filed, he should already know.
The Chairperson said the introduction of the report was about the Committee; the Members and its responsibilities. Number two in the report was about the current status of the Committee, number three was about the outcomes of exercises performed by the Committee, number five was about the consultations and the last page was about the recommendations. Attached to the document was also a table which reflected the statuses which had to be looked into.
Mr Michalakis said procedurally when legislation has issues they follow the same procedures as the Committee specifically looking at whether a petition constituted a petition of parliament or not. He added that, it was within the jurisdiction of the Committee to grant the petition, but if parliament could not grant what was being asked then it did not constitute a petition of parliament in the first place, and that decision was with the office of the Chairperson of the NCOP, and their job was to go through the petition if the Committee did not have the jurisdiction instead of sending it to the Committee on set because that prolonged the period of granting the petition. Petitioners need to be informed from the onset on which doors to knock instead of the Committee deliberating on the petition and after a certain period of time the petitioner was informed that they knocked at the wrong door from the beginning.
Mr Ximbi agreed with Mr Michalakis.
Mr M Mohapi (ANC)(Free State) said the time allocated to the Committee was not enough to deal with all that the Committee had to deal with. The Committee cannot be dealt with like any other Committee in Parliament; there were still a number of petitions which needed to be resolved.
Mr Michalakis asked how many of the petitioners have used all other routes before coming to parliament with the petition. He said normally what happened was that the petition went through the Magistrate’s commission, he asked the petitioners if they have gone through the Magistrate’s Commission first because the whole process would now have to be stopped and the petition would be referred back to the Magistrate’s Commission. He asked if the petitioners have exhausted all the other options available to them.
The chairperson proceeded to add that the emphasis was to ensure that once the Committee has received a petition, even if it’s already been submitted to the Chairperson of the NCOP see what can be done without delaying the process.
Mr Michalakis said the Committee needed to highlight the recommendations to the council particularly the undertaking guidelines of the petitions in order to enhance the Committees institutional support. He added that the issue has been tabled before the House as a matter of urgency, and half of the House already thinks that the Committee was ineffective.
Mr Mohapi said the perception was that Members of the Committee were not committed to the work of the Committee. This was not true.
Mr Michalakis said the Committee needed to have an effective quorum system in place because the issue of none attendance was a concern.
Ms Malopule said Members were seeing the recommendations of the Committee Report but the Committee has not discussed the matters which have led up to these recommendations in detail. Members were not discussing the agenda. She said she had some reservations with the report.
The Chairperson said that the report hasn’t been adopted. The report was presented to the Committee to introduce it and for Members to prepare themselves to adopt it. If that was not the case, Members needed to agree on which procedures to follow. It was the Committee’s long standing procedure to table reports first then come back to discuss them in greater detail.
Mr Mohapi said he was not undermining the approach of the Committee. He suggested that when documents were being circulated the reports be included in those documents as a matter of consideration to preserve time.
The Chairperson responded and said the Committee needed to be consistent.
Mr Michalakis said that regarding the progress report nothing has been said about the petitions’ roll, he asked if it was going to be dealt with separately or within the space of the report. Secondly, he said that it was recommended in the report that the Committee must ask for a dedicated or a permanent legal representative in order to advise the Committee. He said the Committee has not heard much about the Petitions Bill; was this a matter which was going to be dealt with separately or was it simply omitted from the report?
The Chairperson explained that tabling was just to formally introduce a report before Members to allow them to do their research prior to deliberations. Were Members deciding to do away with this procedure?
Ms Manolope proposed that in the next meeting the Committee adopt the petition guidelines.
Mr Michalakis responded and said he did not have a problem with the way the Committee was handling reports currently. The Chairperson should be decisive.
The Chairperson agreed.
The meeting was adjourned.
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