Matters before Communications Portfolio Committee; Committee Programme

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Communications

16 August 2016
Chairperson: Mr H Maxegwana (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met to deliberate and adopt its draft third term programme, to consider its outstanding minutes, as well as all matters before it up to August 2016.

In its discussion of the third term committee programme, Members expressed concern about the occurrences at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) since December 2014, particularly the recent developments that had taken place while Parliament was in recess. There was agreement therefore that the Chairperson had to approach the House Chairperson with the Committee’s application for Parliament to institute an investigation into all matters to do with the SABC, such as its editorial policy, all litigation against it and the vacancies on its board of directors.

The Committee emphasised that the support staff had to ensure that at its meeting on 23 August  with the Department of Communication (DoC), the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) Council, and the SABC board, all those entities understood the meeting had to be attended by all the officials until its end, and that there would be no apologies and excuses that officials were rushing for flights back home. Additionally, the Committee would want to engage face-to-face with the board of the SABC on all matters, instead of receiving written responses.

Concern was also raised about the proposed scheduling of more than one meeting a week for the Communication Portfolio Committee, as most of its Members belonged to other committees. This would lead to clashes, and affect quorums.

Members considered matters currently before the Committee, which dealt mainly with statutory appointments.
 
Before Parliament had gone into recess earlier in 2016, the Committee had advertised for nominations for the filling of two outstanding vacancies on the ICASA Council. It had received 35 nominations, and the relevant documents would be provided to Members.

Among the two vacancies for the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) Board,
was one before the Parliamentary Legal Services, as referenced in the presentation. The essence of the issue was that because of the cost incurred by the Committee each time it advertised for vacancies, the support staff had agreed it would be advisable for it to advertise the two vacancies at the same time.
The process to nominate persons for the filling of the three vacancies at the SABC Board had been re-started in 2016, and the Committee had received a total of 58 nominations. The Committee had short-listed nine candidates in February, and the interviews had been scheduled to be held in March. However, the support staff had since stalled on that process, as it was awaiting further direction from the Committee.

The Committee also adopted its minutes of 5 and 19 April, and 3 and 11 May.
 

 

Meeting report

Opening remarks
The Chairperson welcomed Members of the Committee back to parliament, and congratulated political parties on their successes during the local government elections. He political parties had a challenge, which was to rejuvenate active and participatory citizenry, as South Africans seemed to have stayed away from the polls.

He outlined the agenda for the meeting and asked for its adoption.

The agenda was adopted without any amendments.

Third term Committee programme
The chairperson asked the committee’s input on the third term programme

Ms P van Damme (DA) asked whether the process would be for Members to comment on the programme holistically, or if it would be dealt with on an individual item basis.

The Chairperson said that either way was allowed, as the Committee had to engage on the programme eventually.

Ms Van Damme was concerned that the filling of the SABC board of director’s vacancies had again not been included in the Committee’s third term programme. She asked that it be included. She was also concerned that there was only one meeting scheduled for the SABC and the Minister to appear before the Committee. She requested the Committee to conduct a thorough Parliamentary investigation into the occurrences at the SABC.

Mr M Kalako (ANC) supported her proposal regarding the issues at the SABC.

Ms R van Schalkwyk (ANC) was concerned about the scheduling of more meetings per week for the Committee, instead of just the Tuesday, as some Members had other committees to attend. Would it be possible for the support staff to review the scheduling of meetings and ensure that the Committee would have quorum on the proposed days for the meetings?

Ms Van Damme reiterated her proposal regarding the inquiry into the SABC, quoting rule 227 of the National Assembly Rules as the enabler to institute an inquiry into the SABC. She proposed that the Committee could possibly push the public hearings for the Films and Publications Amendment Bill to a later stage, so that it would have time to conduct the SABC inquiry on the dates which would have been set aside for those hearings.

Ms Van Schalkwyk noted that some of the scheduled meetings were scheduled until late, though there probably would be plenary sittings. She wanted to know whether a formal request had been made to the House Chairperson to allow the Committee to have meetings that extended into the time when there would be plenary sessions.

The Chairperson said that the secretary would have to inform the Committee on what the arrangements were regarding meetings that went into plenary session time. The proposed investigative inquiry into the SABC would not be an issue. He would approach the chairperson of House regarding the process to follow in establishing the investigation.

Ms D Tsotetsi (ANC) commented on the arrangements for the engagements with the SABC. There had to be an emphasis on the invitations to those SABC board members that the Committee would want to engage with face-to-face on all matters, instead of receiving written responses.

The Chairperson said that all the comments by Members seemed to imply the Committee was in consensus over the process to be followed, including the following week’s meeting with the Department of Communications (DoC), the SABC and the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA). However; he would still have to engage the House Chairperson on the matter of the inquiry.

Mr Kalako commented that the Committee had in the past dealt with the matter of the former board chairperson of the SABC, and therefore the process of the inquiry would follow possibly a similar route.

The Chairperson said that had Parliament dealt with issues of the SABC at the beginning, there would not have been many other issues compounding matters.

Ms Van Damme asked what the next step would be in terms of the filling of vacancies on the SABC board of directors.

The Chairperson asked Ms Tsotetsi to assist the Committee in that regard.

Ms Tsotetsi replied that because some time had lapsed since engaging on those vacancies, a better solution would be to get the minutes of the sub-committee which had been charged with that work, and possibly to get a new report on that entire process.

Mr Kalako proposed that before going ahead with the interviews, the Committee should invite the SABC board to ascertain that it still met and had a quorum. That would avoid the Committee filling vacancies that had people still occupying positions said to be vacant.

The Chairperson replied that the following week’s meeting with the DoC, the SABC and ICASA would cover the proposal by Mr Kalako, as the invitations had specified that the boards of SABC and ICASA were invited. He seconded Ms Tsotetsi’s proposal of reviewing the minutes and getting a report of the sub-committee on communications which had been responsible for short-listing the SABC board candidates.

Ms W Newhoudt-Druchen (ANC) requested the secretary to e-mail her any updates on the SABC editorial programme and any updated documentation pertaining to the meeting for the following week.

The Chairperson agreed that this was in order for all the new members of the Committee. He then asked for a proposer for the adoption of the third term draft Committee programme.

Ms Tsotetsi moved the adoption, with amendments and additions.

Ms Van Damme said she was uncertain about the adoption of the programme if there was still no consensus about what the amendments and additions were, as the Committee would be waiting on the House Chairperson’s approval for the inquiry. She was agreeing to the meeting of next week, but was reluctant to adopt the draft programme because of the reasons she had stated, and the fact that the programme could change.

Ms Tsotetsi said that her proposal regarding adoption with the amendments, took into account what Mr Kalako had alluded to in terms of the earlier parliamentary inquiry into the former SABC board chairperson. With those considered, the Committee could therefore adopt the programme in principle.

The Chairperson agreed that the Committee could adopt the programme in principle, pending the approval by the House chairperson. He added that because of that application to the House Chairperson, the programme would be subject to changes.  

Mr Kalako agreed with the sentiments of the Chairperson and Ms Tsotetsi, but said that the application to the House Chairperson for the inquiry could not be a draft proposal. The Committee would have needed to have adopted the programme. It was procedural for the Committee to adopt the programme, as that would give the Chairperson the mandate for the application.

The third term programme was adopted with amendments.

Adoption of outstanding minutes
Ms Van Schalkwyk moved the adoption of the minutes of 5 April.
 
Ms N Ndongeni (ANC) seconded the adoption.

Ms Van Schalkwyk said that Ms Ndongeni’s name did not appear as an attendee of that meeting, either through an omission by support staff, or being present or having submitted an apology.

The Chairperson reminded Members that they could not adopt minutes of a meeting which they had not attended.

Ms Tsotetsi seconded the adoption.

The minutes of 5 April were adopted without amendments.
 
Ms Newhoudt-Druchen pointed out that her surname had been misspelt, and requested that it be corrected for future reference.

Ms Tsotetsi moved the adoption of the minutes of 19 April.

Ms Van Schalkwyk pointed out a grammatical error in terms of Ms Matshoba’s title and seconded the motion to adopt the minutes of the 19 April 2016.

The minutes of the 19 April 2016 were adopted with technical amendments.

Ms Van Schalkwyk moved the adoption of the minutes of 3 May.

Ms Ndongeni seconded, and they were adopted without amendments.

The minutes of 11 May were also adopted without amendments.

Briefing by Committee Support Staff on matters before the Committee as at August 2016
Mr Mbombo Maleka, Committee Content Advisor, took the Committee through the presentation.

Statutory appointments
 
ICASA Council 

Mr Thembinkosi Ngoma, Committee Secretary, said that before Parliament had gone into recess earlier in 2016, the Committee had advertised the call for nominations for the filling of the two outstanding vacancies on the ICASA Council. The Committee had received 35 nominations, and the support staff would call the administrative assistants of all the Members of the Committee to collect those documents from the secretariat after the meeting.

Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) Board
Mr Ngoma said that among the two vacancies for the MDDA board, was one before the Parliamentary Legal Services, as referenced in the presentation.

Mr Maleka said that the essence of the input in the MDDA’s regard was that because of the cost incurred by the Committee each time it advertised for vacancies, the support staff had agreed it would be advisable for the Committee to advertise those two vacancies at the same time.

Ms Van Damme asked whether the two vacancies in the MDDA were those where the Committee had to recommend to the President of the Republic, or whether they were part of the three appointments that the President made on his own.

Mr Ngoma replied that the vacancies were those the Committee had to recommend to the President.

SABC Board    
Mr Ngoma said that the process to nominate persons for the filling of the three vacancies at the SABC Board had been re-started in 2016, and the Committee had received a total of 58 nominations. On 16 February 2016, the Committee had short-listed nine candidates and the interviews had then been scheduled to be held in March 2016. The support staff had since stalled on that process, as it was awaiting further direction from the Committee.

The Chairperson asked what guidance the support staff needed from the Committee.

Mr Ngoma replied that the former Acting Chairperson could respond better to this question, as they as support staff had been told to remove the scheduled interviews off the Committee’s programme and await further direction from the former Acting Chairperson.

Ms Tsotetsi said that there had been a number of challenges, as parties were preparing for the local government election campaigns and therefore she had told the staff to halt matters regarding interviews until Parliament had settled. The Committee had also not been satisfied with the calibre of applicants nominated.

Ms Van Damme disputed the response by Ms Tsotetsi, maintaining that there were two different processes, the last of which was in February 2016, when the nine candidates for the vacancies had been shortlisted. There had been deliberations about the candidates, and though not everyone had been satisfied, there had been agreement that the nine candidates would be interviewed. There had been several delays since then, and issues had surfaced about why the Committee could not interview the short-listed candidates. It was definitely not because the Committee was unhappy about these candidates, but because of other dynamics of which she was not aware. However, she supported Mr Kalako’s proposal regarding having a Parliamentary inquiry. 

The Chairperson said the Committee would rely on the Members who had been part of the Committee, as some of the Members, including himself, were new.

Ms Tsotetsi recalled that part of the dynamics that Ms Van Damme was referring to was that Ms Van Damme had been the one who had proposed the restarting of the whole process of nominations. Indeed, there had been quite a few challenges at that time, and if the Committee had done things just for expediency and then had to redo the entire process, it would have been a costly exercise.

Ms Van Schalkwyk also supported Mr Kalako’s proposal about the procedure to be followed in instituting a Parliamentary inquiry.

The Chairperson said he felt that the disagreement between the Members was acceptable, but that it seemed there was agreement about the way forward regarding the SABC Board.

Bills
Mr Maleka continued to take the Committee through this section of the presentation. 

Broadcasting Amendment Bill
Ms Van Damme recalled that the Committee had decided to put out a call for submissions on the Broadcasting Amendment Bill, as it had done with the Films and Publications Amendment Bill.

Mr Ngoma replied that the last engagement the Committee had had on that Amendment had been a presentation from the Legal Services of Parliament, the DoC and the State Law Adviser (SLA). The Committee had also requested the presence of an independent legal adviser, but the DoC had consolidated its opinion with that of the SLA. Therefore there had been no resolution the Committee had taken on the Amendment Bill.

Mr Maleka said that the staff was therefore awaiting guidance from the Committee regarding that Amendment Bill, as there were several issues pertaining to the SABC.

Ms Van Damme reiterated that the inquiry would possibly be the best vehicle to see what issues there were regarding the SABC, as she felt the Committee Members needed to familiarise themselves completely with what was happening at the SABC before proceeding with the Amendment Bill.

The Chairperson directed Members to note the dates for public hearings in the Committee’s third term programme. The secretariat had proposals for those dates that the Chairperson would allow to be presented to the Committee.

Mr Ngoma said that the dates set aside for public hearings on the Films and Publication Amendment Bill were from the 30 August to 1 September 2016. Taking into account the request to the House Chairperson about the Parliamentary enquiry into the SABC, he wanted to highlight the fact that those dates for hearings could be affected by the outcome of that application. 

Ms Van Schalkwyk said that the constituency period would be starting on 26 September, and based on past experience, the week before that would be Committee week. The Committee had not been updated on what could happen then. Possibly it could squeeze in its oversight period during that week.  Could the secretariat give guidance in that regard?

Mr Ngoma replied that that week had been reserved for deliberations on the Films and Publications Amendment Bill. Those dates could also be affected by the outcome of the application to the House Chairperson, as they were scheduled from the 20-23 September, which would be in the week reserved for oversight or committees.

The Chairperson requested that at the meeting on 23 August, the Committee should engage with the DoC first, and then deal with outstanding minutes at the end. He also asked whether there was an agenda for that meeting, apart from what was on the programme. He emphasized also that he relied on the support staff to have communicated with the DoC, the SABC Board and ICASA on what the Committee would be engaging on. He wanted to know whether all of those bodies had confirmed receipt of the brief, as outlined in the programme.

Mr Ngoma replied that he had sent invitations to all those bodies on 27 July, with the brief included. He had kept some contact with a particular office of the DoC, but there had been no acknowledgement of receipt of the invitations from all those bodies.

Ms Van Schalkwyk recommended that the secretariat do a further follow up to ensure that all those bodies had received the invitation and were coming to Parliament.

Ms Tsotetsi supported Ms Van Schalkwyk’s recommendation, to ensure the Committee would not incur fruitless expenditure.

The Chairperson urged all Members to attend the 23 August meeting, though he was also concerned that one meeting would not be enough to unpack all the issues at the DoC, as well as its entities.   

The meeting was adjourned


 
 

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