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ARTS, CULTURE, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
4 March 2003
NATURAL SCIENTIFIC PROFESSIONS BILL: DELIBERATIONS
Chairperson: Ms M Njobe (ANC); Acting Chairperson: Mr S Dithebe (ANC)
Documents handed out:
ARTS, CULTURE, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
Natural Scientific Professions Bill [B56-2002]
Members proposed and agreed to certain changes to the Natural Scientific Professions Bill. They requested that the Minister appoint an advisory panel to assist with the process of recommending people to the Council, otherwise the process is completely state run. There was some concern over whether the Council would be sufficiently representative of the natural sciences profession. The Bill will also provide that people will receive notice of the nomination process by email as well as in the standard manner: through the Gazette and newspapers.
Ms Marjorie Pyoos, Chief Director: Research and Technology Development, Department of Science and Technology, highlighted the concerns of the Members, which they had expressed in the meeting in November 2002.
Members proposed that this clause be amended so as to read 'nominations to called for by the minister rather than by the council.'
Terms of Office of Members of Council
Members asked that 'all' be replaced by 'any'.
Disqualification from Membership of Council and vacation of office
This provision only relates to persons who had been found guilty of an criminal offence under the new laws (post-Constitution laws).
Clause 11 and 12
Administrative powers of Council; Powers of Council with regard to registration
The word 'may' to be replaced by 'shall'.
Clause by clause discussion
The Department then took Members through the Bill clause-by-clause.
Mr V Gore (DP) asked where else in the Bill, besides the definition section, it referred to 'rules'.
The Department responded to this by stating that the Minister makes regulations and that the council therefore makes 'rules'.
Establishment of South African for Natural Scientific Professions
Members had no objections to this Clause.
Composition of the Council
Mr N Ngcobo (ANC) asked that Clause (3)(3) be revised because the persons who would be eligible are not knowledgeable about the disadvantages of the country's people.
Mr Gore suggested that guidelines from the Constitution be taken with regard to representivity.
Prof I Mohamed (ANC) asked whether twelve or eighteen councillors would be enough if they also have to set examinations.
Ms Pyoos pointed out that the council does not set examinations but appoints a committee to set examinations.
Mr Gore pointed out that the wording of this clause could result in there not being a fair representation of natural scientists on the council.
Ms Pyoot stated that the new Bill allows for governmental representation.
Ms Njobe asked what the effect of raising the numbers would have on the proportional representation within the council.
Mr S Opperman (DP) asked whether there would be any guidelines in respect of appointments. The Department responded that once the Council was formulated and certain rules were accepted, these would be Gazetted.
"registered persons" to be removed.
It was clarified that it is not the Council that calls for nominations but rather the Minister.
The 60 days notice in Clause (4)(1) would be reduced to 30 days.
The Department suggested that Clause 4(3), which states that the Council must make its recommendations to the Council within 30 days of the expiry notice, be left out.
Ms Van Wyk (NNP) stated that if 4(3) is left out, the appointment procedure would become totally state controlled. A panel is therefore needed to advise the Minister.
Ms Pyoos stated that it would be possible to ask the Minister to appoint an advisory panel.
Ms S Motubatse-Hounkpatin (ANC) stated that it is important for the Minister to have a panel that deals with the recommendation process.
Ms Pyoos pointed out that in no other legislation is the Minister told how to run processes; the Minister has to be trusted to follow due process. However, it was more than likely that the Minister would appoint an advisory panel.
Ms Motubatse responded that things need to be put in place in order to safeguard against possible abuse and not because of distrust and that for this reason Clause 4(3) needs to be replaced with something else. The State Law Advisor suggested that it is possible to include a clause which is not too prescriptive.
The Committee discussed this clause, which stated that the Minister must, within 60 days from the date of receipt of the recommendations, appoint new members of the Council
Members agreed that the 60 day notice period could be reduced to 30 days.
Ms Pyoos noted that there is nothing which prohibits the Committee from inserting that the Minister only appoints the council after consultation with Cabinet.
Minister's powers to appoint additional members
Ms Van Wyk noted that if the Minister is going to call for nominations and also receive nominations. Ms Pyoos indicated that the Minister would be consulting with the exiting council.
Mr Dithebe was of the view that including the Cabinet will complicate the process as this will have the effect that the Cabinet will become responsible for the process.
The Committee agreed not to include the Cabinet.
Mr M Cassiem (IFP) proposed that, in addition to the Gazette, notice also be sent via electronic mail. His motivation for this was that where there is a database, the target market is already known and they can be reached via e-mail.
Mr Gore concurred and the Department accepted that by e-mailing people directly a better response can be anticipated.
Ms S Boloyi asked whether it was going to be a standard procedure, in all Bills, to always notify people via e-mail in addition to notification through the Gazette.
Ms Motubatse pointed out that it is normal procedure to use the Gazette and a leading newspaper and that the Committee would be setting a new precedent by introducing notification via e-mail.
Mr Gore agreed with Mr Cassiem but was concerned that only 7% of the SA population has access to the internet and a very large number of people would therefore be excluded. He stressed that the Committee needs to be very careful in how it phrases this sub clause.
It was agreed that in this clause, which provides that the Minister may by notice terminate the period of office of members of the council, the word 'all' will be replaced by 'any'.
Ms Van Wyk was of the view that this sub clause, which prohibits the appointment of non-South Africans to the council, is not needed in that it excludes very important non South-African citizens. Mr Cassiem indicated that scientists generally move between countries. Clause 6(1)(a) should instead read 'someone who is normally not resident in South Africa'.
Mr Dithebe agreed with Ms Motubatse that we need local scientists to interact with scientists abroad.
Ms Pyoos said that it is standard practice to exclude "non South African" in legislation.
Mr Cassiem proposed that in this clause dealing with persons unfit for membership of the council, 'improper conduct' be replaced with 'not a fit and proper person'.
Mr Dithebe asked how one would determine whether a person is 'fit and proper'.
A Department legal advisor stated that Clause 6(1)(d) makes provision for people who had been removed from a position of trust due to their improper conduct.
Mr Cassiem proposed that Clause 2 (h) be inserted to allow members of the council to resign voluntarily.
The Department clarified that this clause relates to a voluntary act of resignation.
The Department explained that this clause relates to instances where people appear in the High Court with respect to criminal charges.
The Department suggested a change to this clause, which provides that the appointment must be made within 60 days from the date on which the vacancy occurs; that the 60 days be reduced to 30 days.
The meeting was adjourned.
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