The Committee met to discuss changes to the Rules of the National Assembly. The meeting began with a report back from the Chairperson of the Subcommittee on the Review of the NA Rules, highlighting the most important proposed changes, as contained in a document that had been circulated and that also set out some options for some of the Rules. He indicated that on many points there had been substantive agreement in the Subcommittee and where options appeared, there had been points that the Subcommittee was unable to agree upon. The Subcommittee had looked at Chapters 1-9, which had not been reviewed since before 1994. The discussion by the Rules Committee on the proposals reached Chapter 6.
Members discussed, but did not take any final decisions as yet on the following issues:
the number of Members needed in the House to effect a change in the Rules, and whether it might be possible to have different requirements for substantive and procedural rules; the procedures around the suspension of a rule; the status of conventions and practices supplementary to the written rules; the question of whether the vote on whether to remove a Speaker should be a secret ballot. They also discussed whether at least one of the House Chairpersons of the National Assembly should come from the opposition, in the interests of multi-party democracy, and whether this needed to be made explicit in the Rules. Members looked at the penalties and sanctions for extended and unauthorised absence from meetings of a committee, and considered the justification for the proposed changes to the order of business in sittings of the National Assembly and whether certain changes diluted the powers of Programme Committee in favour of the Chief Whip of the majority party. They also considered the discretionary powers of the chairpersons of mini-plenaries. Fairly substantial discussion and some divergence of opinion was apparent in relation to the appropriate forms of dress and acknowledgement of presiding officers; the list of unparliamentary or unacceptable language or gestures, and the extent to which Members were protected by Constitutional guarantees of free speech; protocol for cutting off the microphone of a Member; rules concerning suspension from the House and appropriate powers for removing unruly Members. Finally, they debated the time limit for summoning Members to form a quorum; and the number of Members that should be required to call a division of the House.
Draft Rules of the National Assembly: Consideration of draft as developed by the sub-Committee: Briefing by Sub-Committee Chairperson Mr M Mdakane
The Chairperson welcomed Mr M Mdakane, who had chaired the Subcommittee on the Review of the National Assembly Rules, and who would now present the updated draft to this Committee.
Mr M Mdakane (ANC) said that he would present the draft rules as developed by the Subcommittee. He proposed that this Committee go through the draft Rules (the Rules) chapter by chapter, but only deliberate where no consensus had been reached in the Subcommittee. It was the Subcommittee's view that Members had had sufficient time to look at its proposals. The Subcommittee had tried to draft rules that would not only address the problems of the present, but be robust enough to last twenty years. Guided by the principle that Parliament was a multi-party institution, the Subcommittee had tried to circulate electronic copies of the proposals to every member of the National Assembly, to ensure the broadest possible participation. The EFF had made many written submissions, and Mr N Singh (IFP) had made many valuable contributions on behalf of smaller parties. The Subcommittee had looked at Chapters 1-9, which had not been reviewed since before 1994.
Chapter 1: Definitions and Sources of Authority
Mr Mdakane said this Chapter attempted to remove ambiguity. The Subcommittee had considered, but not taken a final decision on, the question of the special majority required to suspend a rule. According to the Constitution, no special majority was required, and the Subcommittee was proposing a minimum of one third (134) of Members. There was no disagreement in the Subcommittee on sources of authority. However, the matter of conventions and accepted practices was raised, and it had been suggested that these be reviewed at least once every five years; that is, at least once per Parliament, although this was not agreed to by the majority of the Subcommittee did not agree. The Subcommittee proposed that directives and guidelines should be the responsibility of the Rules Committee. These matters did not ordinarily need the entire House to consider them, unless there were particularly difficult issues being raised.
Chapter 2: Proceeding in Connection With Commencement of Session
Mr Mdakane said that there were no major issues. The procedures governing the opening of Parliament, State of the Nation Address and the election of the President were all very clear.
Chapter 3: Presiding Officers
Mr Mdakane said here there were no major issues, aside from improving the language. The Subcommittee had discussed rule 17A, concerning the general authority of the Speaker and Chairperson, and 18A, concerning their removal. The view that those who are elected by secret ballot should also be removed by secret ballot had been expressed, but the Subcommittee as a whole had taken the view that it should wait until the matters currently before the courts on related points had been finalised, and was not formally proposing a secret ballot. The Subcommittee had discussed the question of whether parties were responsible for their own policies regarding attendance. The Subcommittee suggested a fine of R1 000 for each day of absence from sitting, after having missed three consecutive meetings.
Chapter 4: Sittings of the Assembly
Mr Mdakane drew the Members attention to rule 24A, governing the arrangement of business on Order Paper. The Subcommittee had come up with two options, and the Rules Committee as a whole would have to decide. A proposed change to Rule 29 would mean that the main item of the sitting must be the top of the agenda. For example, if the sitting is convened to deal with a particular Bill, other matters such as motions without notice will be placed at the end of the agenda. The Subcommittee had also accepted the practice of mini-plenaries. Parliament was a platform for debate, and the National Assembly should engage in the way the portfolio committees did. A speaking list would only be required during budget votes.
Chapter 5: Order in Public Meetings and Rules of Debate
Mr Mdakane said the Subcommittee had dealt with the issue of freedom of speech and also dealt with the conduct of Members in the National Assembly. The proposal was made that Members should dress in the manner befitting the dignity and decorum of the House. The option of allowing the Rules Committee to set guidelines was presented. The EFF had expressed a different view on the matter of dress code. Rule 50A, on grossly disorderly conduct, had been reworded to make it more easily understandable. A new rule, 52, was proposed. The EFF had opposed rule 53A in court, and the Subcommittee was proposing the current interim rule should be adopted. Three options for Rule 54, dealing with the consequences of suspension, were proposed. Rule 59, dealing with control of microphones, was clarified. A new rule, 64A, was proposed to govern Members' reflections upon the House and its proceedings and decisions. Rule 70, on points of order, had presented some problems. The Subcommittee had attempted to make it less ambiguous, and the general point was that a point of order was a procedural point, and Members needed to honour this. The Subcommittee suggested an option that would explicitly prohibit the use of points of order to disrupt proceedings.
Chapter 6: Decision of Questions
Mr Mdakane said there were no major issues in this chapter. An option for rule 76B was proposed to allow motions of no confidence to be decided by secret ballot. Some options for refining the rules governing the declaration of votes, as well as an option to raise the minimum number of Members required to demand a division from four to ten, were proposed.
Chapter 7: Motions
Mr Mdakane said that the Subcommittee had tried to clarify the definition of a motion. A new version of rule 97, concerning motions without notice, was proposed to ensure that such motions were used for their proper purpose: congratulations, condolences, and matters of national importance. The new rule listed criteria for matters to be deemed appropriate for a motion without notice.
Chapter 8: Discussion of Urgent Matters of National Public Importance
There were no major differences of opinion in this chapter.
Chapter 9: Members' Statements and Executive Statements
There were no major issues in this chapter.
The Chairperson said she did not want to lead Members into unnecessary discussions. The Rules had been under discussion for over three years, and it was time for them to be agreed upon and taken to the House for adoption. Nevertheless it was very important that there was agreement on the rules governing order in public meetings (51-53). If there was no deviation from the proposals of the Subcommittee, the changes would be adopted as presented.
Mr M Ndlozi (EFF) asked for clarity on how the discussion would be structured. Was the Chairperson opening a discussion? The EFF wanted to raise issues about Chapter 4, as well as put a suggestion to the Committee.
The Chairperson said she was fine with Members raising issues.
Mr M Waters (DA) asked if the Members would go through the Rules Chapter by Chapter.
The Chairperson assented.
Mr J Steenhuisen (DA) did not understand why one third of Members should be sufficient to make a change in the Rules. If the Committee had gone through a thorough process of developing robust rules, surely a simple majority should be required to make changes.
Ms D Dlakude (ANC) thought one third was sufficient, as a change to the Rules was not the same as a change to legislation.
Mr Singh said that if the quorum of the House was 134, then a decision to change the Rules should require a simple majority of the quorum. Was this what was meant?
Mr Masibulele Xaso (Secretary to the National Council of Provinces?) confirmed that, according to Section 53 of the Constitution, for changes to legislation, a simple majority (more than 200) of the Members of the House had to be present, and for any other matters, including changes to the rules, one third was required.
Mr Mdakane confirmed Mr Singh's understanding of the matter.
Mr N Khubisa (NFP) said, while the Constitution obviously superseded any other law, changes to the rules were something that should be treated very seriously.
Dr C Mulder (FF+) was concerned about the implication that only 66 (sic) Members would be able to change the rules for the whole House of 400.
Mr Waters agreed. The quorum of 134 was usually only called upon to adopt reports that did not really have any binding authority, but Rules, like legislation, do have this kind of authority. He urged strongly that the quorum for Rules changes should be 50% + 1, or 201.
Mr Steenhuisen said that Section 57(1) of the Constitution would cover the situation if the NA wished to do this. This section made allowance for the National Assembly to “(a) determine and control its internal arrangements, proceedings and procedures; and (b) make rules and orders concerning its business, with due regard to representative and participatory democracy, accountability, transparency, and public involvement.”
The Chairperson asked if there was any objection to raising the threshold to 201.
Mr Mdakane proposed that a distinction between procedural and substantive rules be made, and that the latter require just one third, in order for the House to operate efficiently.
Mr Ndlozi supported this idea.
Mr Singh also supported it, but noted that rule 74A would also have to be changed to reflect this distinction.
Mr Kasper Hahndiek (former Secretary to the NA, and Consultant to the Subcommittee) said that there would likely be a practical problem in making this distinction.
Mr Steenhuisen asked for clarity on the suspension of rules. He asked for confirmation that a suspension could not be sprung on the House without prior notice.
Mr Mdakane said that the Subcommittee had been of the opinion that this was covered by rule 3(1) and 3(2) of the draft Rules. Rule suspensions were a procedural matter, and could be effected by a decision of the House.
Mr Steenhuisen said that his point was about the notice of suspension of rules. He was concerned that a rule could be changed simply because it became inconvenient for a particular party or individual on the day. He did not see that a protection against this was written into the draft Rules.
Mr Hahndiek said that rule 97 generally required that there be notice for suspensions. He also noted that there would likely be a practical problem in making the distinction between procedural and substantive rules. He suggested that the 50% + 1 quorum requirement be reserved for amendments to the Rules, and the one-third requirement be sufficient for suspensions.
Mr Steenhuisen suggested that a cross-reference to rule 97 should be inserted in rule 3.
The Chairperson noted this.
Mr N Matiase (EFF) gave the EFF's view on conventions and practices. Firstly, the EFF felt that they were an attempt to perpetuate the past in the present and force Members to bow before them. Secondly he said that the conventions had neither moral nor legal authority over Members. Thirdly, Parliament was allowing “the past to rule from the grave”, when it should be trying to break all ties with South Africa’s unjust past. Conventions should be reviewed on at least a five-year basis.
The Chairperson noted that view.
Mr Steenhuisen said that the conventions and practices fleshed out the rules. He said that the conventions guiding Parliament were all created post-1994. He agreed that out-of-date conventions should be discarded, and that conventions should be reviewed from time to time, but he said that they still performed an important function, especially for Chief Whips.
Mr Singh pointed out that the rule on conventions and practices was open-ended and provided for them to be established by agreement.
Mr S Sizani (ANC) agreed that conventions needed to be reviewed every five years to prevent them from becoming naturalised.
Mr L Tsenoli (ANC) said that an awareness of the past was the best antidote to both pessimism and extravagant optimism about great problems faced today.
The Chairperson asked for Members to proceed to Chapter 2. He noted that no Member wished to make any particular input.
He asked Members then to move to Chapter 3.
Mr Sizani asked the Subcommittee Chairperson to clarify the position on the use of “shall,” “may” and “must.”
Mr Mdakane said that Parliament now generally was using “must” in place of “shall,” which was Victorian English, in line with the language of the Constitution.
Mr Waters said, with reference to rule 18A, that the principle of using a secret ballot to elect the Speaker or Deputy Speaker should be extended to their removal from office.
Mr Mdakane said that until the court case on the matter was finalised, it would be improper to put it in the Rules.
Mr Waters did not think the court proceedings necessarily prevented this Committee from changing the Rules. The principle of secret ballot should be consistently implemented.
Mr Xaso reported that the court had since found against the applicant in the matter of the secret ballot for a motion of no confidence in the President.
Mr Ndlozi agreed with Mr Waters that the principle should be consistent.
Mr Sizani disagreed, saying that all Members were in the House as representatives of political parties, not individuals, in line with the Constitution. Voting in the House should therefore be according to party lines.
Ms Dlakude added that the Speaker was only elected by secret ballot because there was contestation.
Mr Waters pointed out that if there had not been contestation, there would not have been a vote at all.
Dr Mulder disagreed with Mr Sizani. If the President was elected according to party lines, then the Chief Whip of the ruling party should just inform the judge which candidate their party was voting for, and the Members would be irrelevant. He thought the recently concluded court case was not the correct precedent.
Mr Singh said it was logical that if a person was elected by secret ballot, a secret ballot should also be used to remove them. He also did not think the court case needed to be taken into account.
Ms M Kubayi (ANC) did not think the court case could be ignored. She also thought that practical problems could arise. There could be constant secret ballots every day. There was no need to change the rule.
Mr Waters said that this was not a realistic danger, and that in any case a vote of no confidence could be brought constantly, whether or not there was a secret ballot.
Mr Ndlozi thought Mr Sizani's premises were contradictory. He agreed with Dr Mulder. The Constitution privileged individual conscience, which was the reason that the President was elected using a secret ballot.
Mr Waters also disagreed with Mr Sizani that Members were only in the House to represent their parties. In the vote on the Protection of State Information Bill, for instance, two ANC Members had voted against their party line because of their personal beliefs. Members should be allowed to vote according to their own consciences.
Ms Dlakude said that the Constitution was silent on the matter of the removal of the Speaker.
Mr Ndlozi said that in the Subcommittee, the EFF had put forward the view that, in the interests of multi-party democracy, the principle of “winner takes all” in the election of House Chairpersons should be reviewed, and at least one of the three House Chairpersons should be a member of the opposition. This would also ensure that the positions of the presiding officers were neutral, objective and not caucused.
Dr Mulder said that this had been the convention in previous Parliaments, and this was the first Parliament when none of the House Chairpersons had come from the opposition. He supported the EFF's position.
Mr Sizani did not think this convention needed to be written into the rules.
Mr Steenhuisen said that this was the DA's position too, as its representatives had made clear in the Subcommittee. It could be an important safeguard in times of trouble and lend legitimacy to the institution of presiding officers.
Mr Mdakane said that there had been a long discussion on this matter in the Subcommittee. The matter needed political engagement.
Ms Kubayi agreed. It was a political matter that should not be prescribed by the rules. She posed the question whether the party who won the election should be obliged to appoint Cabinet members from the opposition too? She thought not; it was the prerogative of the ruling party.
Mr M Booi (ANC) did not think the motive of the opposition was genuine. It showed a lack of trust in the ruling party.
Mr Ndlozi disputed this. He also said that his point had not been about conventions, but about the principle of representivity in a multi-party democratic system. The ruling party in such a system did not win absolute power in the House. This was the only principle upon which the EFF's position rested.
Dr Mulder supported this, pointing out that multi-party democracy was enshrined in the Constitution. Parliament did not belong to the party with the most votes.
Ms Dlakude agreed with Mr Mdakane that the matter was political. Conventions should not be appealed to only when this suits someone; they should always be observed. The ANC had won the elections and Members must live with this.
Mr Matiase raised an issue about rule 21C, dealing with penalties and sanctions for extended and unauthorised absence from meetings of a committee. He thought the sanction should not be codified but rather decided by parties for their own Members.
Mr Sizani said that the attendance policy and ethics code were codified already, they were only now being codified in the rules.
Mr Xaso suggested that the rule be altered to allow for possible future increases in the fine.
Mr Waters said that this would have an unintended consequence of allowing different Members to be fined differently for the same absence.
Mr Sizani pointed out that a Member might be moonlighting as a lawyer, earning R35 000 a day. There should be discretion available for such a member to be fined punitively.
Mr Steenhuisen disagreed. All Members were equal; there should not be provision to discriminate against categories of Members.
Dr A Lotriet (DA) suggested a wording change to allow the amount to increase without becoming arbitrary.
An EFF Member expressed the view that there was not a problem with the drafting of rule 21CF.
Mr Ndlozi said that the principle of “no work no pay” should apply to absentee Members. What was the reason for the amount of R1 000? He felt the amount should be agreed upon by the Speaker and the party.
Mr Waters said that everyone seemed to agree with the principle of the fine. The DA just wanted everyone to be fined the same amount per day.
The discussion then moved on to Chapter 4.
Mr Ndlozi asked for the justification for the change to rule 29. He did not think it needed any amendment.
Mr Mdakane said there had been a long discussion on the matter in the Subcommittee. The view of the Subcommittee was that in any sitting of the House, discussion of matters on the agenda should take priority, so that the House could function efficiently. He stressed that the changes were only to the order of proceedings, and did not think there was any need to have another long discussion on the matter.
Mr Steenhuisen said that it may seem like a trivial matter on the surface, but there was a fundamental issue that went to the heart of what Parliament is. The job of Members was to ensure that the voices of the people were heard in the National Assembly, which was reflected in the priority hitherto given to Members' business over the business of the executive. Parliament was not just a rubber stamp for the executive. While he understood concerns about filibustering, this had happened only once in 22 years.
Dr Mulder agreed. The main issue was whether Parliament was to be an instrument of the ruling party or as a forum for the views of all South Africans to be heard. He acknowledged that the current sequence had on some occasions in the past year been used to prevent the Orders of the Day from being discussed, but this could be prevented by introducing a time limit for Members' business. The proposed changes unfairly prioritised ruling party matters.
Mr Ndlozi said that having multiple voices putting issues on the table at the beginning of the sitting was a matter of principle. He objected to the dishonest dismissal of the media, saying that it was an indispensable part of a functioning democracy. He strongly opposed the proposed changes, and also did not think a time limit was healthy. Filibustering was part of the dynamic life of Parliament.
Mr Booi argued that the proposed ordering prioritised substance. The executive should not be treated separately, it was also voted in by the people. He did not think the proposal threatened the dynamism of Parliament.
Mr Dlakude agreed with Mr Booi and saw no problem with putting Members' business at the end.
Mr V Smith (ANC) said that Members should disabuse themselves of the idea that the ANC and the executive were completely separate. He also questioned the idea that motions were the people’s business and laws were the executive's business. Laws were everyone's business. He also said that it had been a response to a drop in the productivity of the House resulting from filibustering. He supported Dr Mulder's suggestion.
Ms C Dudley (ACDP) said that her party supported the proposal and agreed with Mr Smith about the public importance of laws. The National Assembly could not allowed to be monopolised by the voice of a single party, the EFF.
Mr Steenhuisen explained that the DA was not trying to de-prioritise deliberations on legislation, but Chapter 4 of the Constitution clearly suggests the order of priorities of the National Assembly: first choosing the President, second providing a forum for public consideration of issues, third passing legislation and overseeing the executive. Changes like this sent out a clear and worrying message to the people of South Africa. He added that there was already a provision for re-ordering the business of a particular day if it was deemed necessary.
Mr Ndlozi said that the amendment itself suggested that there was a hierarchy of importance of parliamentary business. As things stood, everything was accorded equal importance, as there was a provision for re-ordering business if necessary.
Mr Waters asked what the motivation for the changes to rule 24A were, regarding the arrangement of business on the Order Paper. It appeared that the changes diluted the importance of the Programme Committee in favour of the Chief Whip of the majority party.
Mr Mdakane explained that this would be dealt with in the chapter on committees. The intention was to create a deadlock-breaking mechanism. He assured Mr Waters that the Programme Committee was considered very important.
Dr Mulder thought that the attempt to reach consensus within the Programme Committee was only implied by the proposed changes, which meant that the supposed deadlock-breaking mechanism was the only rule. The practical implication of this was that the Programme Committee would be irrelevant.
Mr Ndlozi agreed that the amendment was unnecessary.
Mr Singh did not see any reason for the change. The rule had generally worked well in the past.
Mr Mdakane felt that the Members were missing the point. Rule 24A applied only if the Programme Committee was unable to reach consensus.
Dr Mulder said that in that case, the heading of the rule was incorrect, and “...if the Programme Committee cannot reach consensus” should be added.
Mr Khubisa did not see any reason to change the rule and agreed that it diminished the power of the Programme Committee.
Mr Sizani drew attention to rule 190B, and agreed with Dr Mulder's suggestion to change the title of rule 24A.
Mr Steenhuisen suggested that the content of rule 24A be moved to rule 190B.
Mr Sizani thought a change in the title was sufficient.
Mr Ndlozi said the change should not be in the heading, it should be in the rule itself.
Ms T Didiza (ANC) suggested a change to the heading and to the rule itself.
Mr Mdakane said the Members could agree to combine rule 24A with 190B. He explained that position.
Mr Waters was concerned that rule 35(2) gave too much power to presiding officers to determine who was heard in mini-plenaries. There should be a fixed amount of time given to each party, or some such arrangement that would create that effect.
The Chairperson thought that this would make things unnecessarily complicated. The concerns indicated an issue of trust.
Mr Singh drew attention to the option provided by the Subcommittee, which would replace the words “in a balanced manner” with the words “fairly and impartially.” He thought this option was better.
Ms Kubayi welcomed this suggestion.
Mr Matiase was concerned that this still left the amount of time granted to different speakers to the discretion of the presiding officer.
Mr Xaso said that a similar arrangement existed for first-reading debates on Bills, where Members were given three minutes each.
Mr Steenhuisen thought this was a promising idea. Members needed to have recourse to some rule in cases of discrimination. He was worried that leaving this to the discretion of the presiding officer could be a source of conflict.
Ms Didiza supported Mr Xaso's suggestion.
Mr Booi agreed, but said that the purpose of the mini-plenaries, to get Members to speak with each other, should not be lost.
Mr Ndlozi did not support the idea of time limits. He asked what was their purpose if they were subject to the same rules as the House?
Mr Waters asked for some more clarity on rule 24A. He also asked what would constitute a “detailed” programme?
Mr Steenhuisen agreed. There needed to be some provision to ensure that matters were not sprung on the House without giving everyone the opportunity to prepare.
Mr Singh pointed out that this had never really happened.
Mr Hahndiek thought that the Programme Committee needed to be allowed a certain level of flexibility.
Mr Ndlozi wanted to speak to rule 45. He did not think that Members should have to bow on entering or leaving the Chamber. The rule was completely unnecessary and could be abused. He also felt that the changes to the rules governing acceptable attire were unnecessary. Members should be trusted to dress in a manner befitting the decorum of the House.
He added that the EFF was also opposed to the new rule 50A on grossly disorderly conduct. This should not be decided by the presiding officer unilaterally. Even the worst of criminals was entitled to a fair trial. The rules on the control of microphones were also unnecessary and would contribute to disorder in the House. The requirement of addressing Members as “Honourable Member” was also pedantic and unnecessary.
Ms N Mazzone (DA) said that Members did not actually bow, strictly speaking, they simply acknowledged the presiding officer. She suggested altering the wording. She agreed that while it did show respect, it should not be compulsory to refer to a Member as “Honourable”; “Mr” or “Ms” should be adequate, but there should be some title.
Ms C Dudley (ACDP) said she would prefer the gender-neutral title “MP” as an alternative to “Honourable”.
Mr Singh suggested “Member” as another appropriate title. He agreed that the gesture of acknowledgement need not be a bow. He also thought that the dress code should not be overly prescriptive. He had no problem with the presiding officer having control of the microphones.
Mr V Smith (ANC) also defended the presiding officer's power to switch off a Member's microphone.
Ms Didiza agreed that the gesture of acknowledgement need not be a bow. With regard to titles, while she had no problem with ordinary titles like “Mr” or “Ms”, she thought Parliament should also be mindful of global norms.
Mr Steenhuisen said that threatening gestures should be added to the list of unparliamentary or unacceptable language or gestures, in rule 63. He felt that the formulation of rule 64A was clandestine and archaic, and could infringe on Members rights of freedom of speech unless “disrespectful” was clearly defined.
Mr Matiase agreed that the constitutional right to free speech should not be compromised in the name of maintaining decorum. He was concerned that rule 45 conflated the issue of Members' conduct with others, such as dress code. These should be separated. He also felt that the Rules should not prescribe specifically what Members should be allowed to wear.
Ms Dlakude had no problem with bowing, as she understood it to be a sign of respect addressed to the House itself, not an individual. She supported the presiding officer's control of the microphones, and pointed out that the Subcommittee had consulted the Chief State Law Advisor on the matter. She supported the new rule 63 on unparliamentary or unacceptable language or gestures.
Mr Waters worried about the absence of a time frame for actions taken against Members who were suspended from the House. The DA suggested 24 hours. He also felt that there needed to be due process and the possibility of appeal when setting the length of suspensions.
Mr Singh agreed that there needed to be a time frame.
Mr Mdakane suggested two days, but felt that for grossly disorderly conduct the wording should be left as is.
The EFF representative wanted to record the EFF’s view that the portion of the Rules on joint committees was unjust and unconstitutional. The EFF also objected to the use of bouncers to remove Members from the House.
Dr Lotriet said that with regard to rule 54, the judgement of Judge Davis, which ruled that salaries may not be docked during suspensions because this could impact on their constituency work, should be kept in mind.
Mr Sizani addressed a number of points made earlier. He argued that throughout the world, parties set their own dress codes. He pointed out that what was considered “traditional dress” was subjective in South Africa. There was no need for an overly prescriptive dress code. He did not agree with arguments that turning off a Member's microphone infringed their freedom of speech. He thought that standing up to acknowledge the entry of the presiding officer was better than bowing. He thought that Mr Ndlozi's disrespectful gesture toward the Deputy President when he was removed from the House ought to have been punished. He pointed out that criminals only enjoyed due process after having been arrested. He called attention to rule 70(7), which stated that one point of order must be ruled on before another one could be raised, and pointed out that no-one seemed to adhere to this rule.
Mr F Shivambu (EFF) did not think it was necessary for a dress code to be prescribed, nor that it should be compulsory for Members to use the title “Honourable.” He pointed out that this was not compulsory in the Pan-African Parliament. He thought the presiding officer's powers to suspend Members were too extensive, and infringed on Members' rights to due process. He said that a process needed to be followed before a Member's microphone was switched off.
Mr Steenhuisen said that there was no legislature in the world that did not have powers to remove unruly or disruptive Members. He said that the title “honourable” had originally been a way of treating all Members equally, in a time when many people had other honorific titles like “Sir” or “Lord.” With reference to the rules on microphones, he pointed out that no right was absolute, and that the exercise of a right was always limited when it began to infringe on the rights of another.
Mr Sizani made some comments that were inaudible.
Mr Mdakane was concerned that Members were now repeating the discussion that had taken place in the Subcommittee. The point had been made that South Africa was a country of multiple identities. Whilst Parliament needed to allow for this in the setting of dress codes, he maintained that the Rules Committee needed to be able to set guidelines. He suggested combining options 1 and 2 of this rule. He was concerned that allowing any other sign of respect on entering the House could cause confusion; if a Member raised his or her hand, for example, the presiding officer might mistake this for a request to contribute. He accepted the points made about the use of the title “Honourable.”
The discussion moved to Chapter 6.
Mr Waters said that the presiding officer should be limited to five minutes to summon Members to form a quorum, rather than the open-ended situation that was currently in place. With reference to rule 77, he said that the electronic voting system in the National Assembly should follow the precedent of the National Council of Provinces.
Mr Mdakane agreed that there should be a limit, but thought five minutes was too short.
Ms Dudley suggested a ceiling of fifteen minutes.
Mr Mdakane drew attention to the options offered for rule 81.
Mr Steenhuisen did not think that a Minister should necessarily be given the opportunity to speak about a committee report, as he or she was not necessarily a member of that committee and was in fact accountable to the committee.
Ms M Kubayi (ANC) responded but her reply was inaudible.
Mr Mdakane drew attention to the option offered for rule 82, to raise the limit on the number of Members required to call a division from four to ten, in line with changes to rule 84.
There was general support for this option from the ANC, although Ms M Boroto (ANC) pointed out that it could disempower parties with fewer Members.
Mr Singh agreed, saying that the option had not been informed by any particular experience.
Mr Shivambu also thought the limit should stay at four.
Mr Waters agreed. He said that South Africa was one of the few countries in the world in which representation in the National Assembly was truly proportional, and that the principle of inclusivity should be adhered to.
Ms Dudley said that no good reasons had been given for raising the limit, so it should remain as it is.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Draft Rules 102B - 102K Removal from office of President in terms of Sec 89 of the Constitution
- List of options Draft 8 of the NA Rules Subcommittee proposals dated 01 November 2015
- Draft revised National Assembly Rules: Draft 8, dated 1 November 2015
- NA Rules Subcommittee Proposals: Chapters 1-15 Draft 8 01 November 2015
- Guidelines to be developed: NA Rules Subcommittee proposals
- Additional option for Composition (Rule 159), Quorum (Rule 163A) and Decisions (Rule 164)
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