The Committee considered the draft Committee Reports on Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and Office of the Chief Justice and Judicial Administration budgets. Members conducted a page by page perusal of the draft reports to check for omissions and corrections.
Debates arose about requests for the inclusion of some observations in the Committee Reports. These were:
- The OCJ’s view was that it did not want to account to the Minister, but should be put in a position where it could directly negotiate its budget with National Treasury – in the Committee Report on the OCJ Budget.
- The debate on making an apology to the Public Protector – in the Committee Report on the Justice and Constitutional Development budget
The Acting Chairperson however ruled against the inclusion of such issues in the report, and instead suggested that the issues be raised at other meeting and with the appropriate bodies or offices.
The two reports were adopted, after votes had been canvassed for them by the represented parties.
There were six votes in favour of the Committee Report on the OCJ Budget, one vote against and one vote abstaining from voting for the report. The Committee Report on the Justice and Constitutional Development budget on the other hand, had five votes in favour and four votes against it.
As the Chairperson was absent due to ill-health, Ms Pilane-Majake was elected as Acting Chairperson.
Apologies for absence from the meeting was received from Mr M Maila (ANC), Mr C Msimang (IFP), Mr J Selfe (DA), Ms G Breytenbach (DA), and Mr J Malema (EFF). Mr Maila and Ms Breytenbach joined the meeting later, while Mr Malema was represented by Ms M Mokause (EFF).
The Acting Chairperson noted that the two draft Committee Reports had been sent to MPs prior to the meeting day so the reports would therefore be considered page by page.
Committee Report on Budget Vote 22: Office of the Chief Justice and Judicial Administration
Some minor technical amendments were made to the report.
Mr W Horn (DA) raised a suggestion to redraft the second sentence under 5.7, page 13 to read ‘pending the finalization of the Traditional Courts Bill, the Committee are of the opinion that the recognition of indigenous African law remains subordinate’.
Mr Horn suggested the inclusion of a ‘5.9’, which would speak to the issues between the Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ) and the Department or the Minister with regard to the judiciary-led court administration model. Both the OCJ and the Minister informed the Committee that negotiations were ongoing on achieving the end goal of this process, but these negotiations were sensitive because of a divide that existed between the two institutions on what the end result of the process would be. It was pointed out that it would be improper to omit the fact that the Committee was considering the finalisation of this issue in the near future.
The Acting Chairperson advised that issues that were not discussed by the Committee should not be included in the Report, as the Report was prepared in the format of minutes, containing the issues on the budget discussed with the OCJ.
Mr B Bongo (ANC) said that the matter raised by Mr Horn did not arise from the budget discussions the Committee had with the Minister and the Department. The matter was not one that could be raised at the current meeting because the matter was not extensively discussed at previous meetings. The last discussions on the matter raised issues of whether or not the system proposed by the OCJ was in line with the system used generally in South Africa or in line with the Constitution itself. The discussions on the issue did not result in concrete proposals being made by either the Minster or the OCJ. For that reason, it was suggested that the matter be excluded from the report under consideration.
Mr L Mpumlwana (ANC) agreed with Mr Bongo, noting that the matter was raised last year, and had not been discussed at all this year.
Mr Horn said that the issue was discussed, and that it would be prudent to make a remark on the Committee’s awareness of the matter in the Report. He disagreed with the Acting Chairperson on the issue not having anything to do with the budget. This was because the OCJ’s view was that it did not want to account to the Minister, but should be put in a position where it could directly negotiate its budget with National Treasury.
Ms C Pilane-Majake (ANC) replied that the issue was connected to the budget. However, it was not part of the issues included in the budget report presented by the OCJ. The matter would still be discussed at a later time, with guidance from the executive on how the matter was being handled. However, it was suggested that a sentence reflecting the matter be included in the report.
Mr Bongo objected to the inclusion of any sentence on the matter in the Report. He reiterated that the matter was not raised by either the OCJ or the Minister in their report before the Committee. There was no clear proposal on the matter from either the Minister or the OCJ after it was raised last year. To include it in the report would therefore be unnecessary. The matter should be brought at the right time for MPs to interact formally and submit proposals.
Ms Pilane-Majake reiterated the need for MPs not to raise issues that were not discussed in the budget report under consideration.
Mr S Swart (ACDP) said that the matter should be reflected in the Report since it was raised by a Member of Parliament, and not necessarily by the OCJ or the Minister.
The debate on whether or not the matter should be included lasted for a while. Mr Mpumlwana and Mr Maila were of the opinion that it should not be included in the Committee Report while Mr Swart and Ms Mokause opined otherwise.
Ms Christine Silkstone, Content Advisor for the Committee, suggested that the matter could be reflected in the ‘Observations’ section of the Report.
The Acting Chairperson objected to the suggestion made by the Content Advisor, on the ground that it was not procedurally correct to include the issue in the observation section of the Committee Report when it was not raised as part of the issues reflected in the body of the Committee Report. She ruled that the matter would not be done away with by the Committee. Instead, the Minister would be invited to address the Committee on it.
Back to the Observations in the Report, Mr Swart raised the issue of ‘land’ being a cause of unemployment, poverty and inequality, as reflected in 5.5, on page 12. He noted that there were many other factors responsible for unemployment, poverty and inequality, and there may be need to amend the sentence.
The Acting Chairperson agreed that there may be other issues causing unemployment, poverty and inequality; and these issues may be handled by other Portfolio Committees.
Mr Mpumlwana moved for the adoption of the Report; and was seconded by Ms M Mothapo (ANC).
Mr Horn said the DA reserved its right in terms of the OCJ budget but voted against the Committee Report.
Ms Mokause said the EFF was in support of the budget of the OCJ. However, it noted that the budget was too little, and called on Treasury to review the budget allocation of the OCJ.
Mr Swart said that the ACDP would like to consider its position, and would therefore abstain at this stage.
The Acting Chairperson put the Report to vote. There were six votes in favour, one vote not in favour, and one vote abstaining from adoption of the Committee Report.
The Report was adopted by the Committee.
Committee Report on Budget Vote 21: Justice and Constitutional Development
Some minor technical amendments were made to the report.
Mr Mpumlwana said that bullet 3 under 4.11 did not reflect ‘Prevention of Racism’, as discussed by the Committee. Instead, it reflected the ‘Prevention of Hate Speech Bill’.
Ms Silkstone replied that bullet 3 reflected the department’s report to the Committee. Racism was mentioned in the Observations, which would be seen later in the Report.
The Acting Chairperson suggested that as a form of policy development, it should be noted in the Report that the Hate Speech Bill was under consideration to address racism.
Mr Mpumlwana replied that the discussion by MPs was to the effect that the Hate Speech Bill would not be needed. Instead, a Bill that would address racism was needed.
The Committee Secretary clarified that the part being reviewed at the moment only dealt with the report from the department. The concerns raised by members were reflected in other parts of the Report.
Mr Horn said that the phrase ‘leave fiscus analysis to Treasury’ on page 18, should not be included.
The Acting Chairperson said that the phrase might connote the implication to the fiscus in terms of leave. Fiscus referred to a sentence in page 18 on leaving fiscus analysis to Treasury.
Ms Silkstone replied that there was a previous paragraph that focused on the budget cuts for Legal Aid South Africa. The paragraph was however removed because it only spoke to what was reflected by Legal Aid.
The Acting Chairperson said that the second paragraph under 11.11 should also reflect the discussions around the adjustments recommended for the OCJ in terms of utilizing the Mpumalanga High Court. This was needed because the OCJ report had stated that the Mpumalanga High Court would not be utilized due to lack of funds.
Mr Swart noted that the issue of making an apology to the Public Protector was not included in the Committee’s Observations on page 45. A debate on this issue ensued at that meeting.
Mr Bongo said that the issue had been canvassed at a previous meeting, without a conclusion being reached. It was therefore not necessary to include it in the Report under consideration.
Ms Mokause said that since the matter was raised in the Committee, it should be reflected in the Report. The Office of the Public Protector deserved an apology from the Committee and its Chairperson.
Ms Mothapo said that the same principles that applied under the consideration of the first Report, should also apply for the issue at hand.
Mr Swart said that it was important to reflect on this issue because the Speaker expressed regret on the way the Public Protector was handled by the Committee. It therefore constituted a matter that affected the National Assembly and the judgement, which was an ongoing issue. It was not important to reflect that an apology was not given. Nonetheless, it should reflected in the Committee Report that the matter was raised, to avoid it being regarded as a serious oversight on the part of the Committee.
Ms Breytenbach noted that the MPs objecting to the apology were responsible for the way the Public Protector was treated.
Mr Mpumlwana clarified the fact the Acting Chairperson had ruled on how to treat a similar matter earlier raised in the meeting, and that the same ruling should apply in this case.
Mr Maila noted that the matter was raised but could not prevail. The effect of this was that the matter did not arise for consideration in the Committee Report.
The Chairperson agreed with Mr Maila’s opinion, and ruled that the matter would not be included in the Report.
The Report was adopted by Mr Maila and seconded by Ms Mathopa.
Votes were canvassed for the Committee Report. There were five votes in favour of the Committee Report, and four votes against the Committee Report.
The meeting was adjourned.