Composition of National Assembly Programming Committee and Confirmation of Guidelines and Determinations

Rules of the National Assembly

16 August 2016
Chairperson: Ms B Mbete (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee considered the draft minutes of 24 May 2016. Ms N Mazzone (DA) said her treatment by the Chairperson of the Subcommittee on the Review of the Rules of the National Assembly, in his speech to Parliament was unfounded and derogatory. She stated that he had made allegations which were baseless and in fact contrary to her cordial and active contributions to meetings in the Subcommittee. It was accepted that the matter would be resolved between the relevant chief whips.

The meeting then proceeded to a consideration of the composition of the National Assembly Programming Committee, which was proportionally split between the parties represented in Parliament. This composition was accepted by the Committee.

Then the Committee considered the guidelines and determinations by the Rules Committee necessary for the functioning of the upcoming sitting of the House. These included guidelines on motions without notice, motions of condolence, Members’ statements and Executive Statements. 

As the meeting had not been quorate up to that point a Member was co-opted and the decisions of the meeting were adopted.

Meeting report

Draft Committee Minutes of 24 May 2016.
Mr Masibulele Xaso, Secretary of the National Assembly, said the minutes before the Committee related to the meeting where the new Rules of the National Assembly (the Rules) were adopted. They were self-explanatory and the relevant reports of the Subcommittee were attached. The Minutes dealt with the Rules, which had since been adopted by the House.

Mr M Waters (DA) spoke to page 4 of the Minutes, saying the third last paragraph indicated that both Ms M Kubayi (ANC) and Ms D Dlakude (ANC) pointed out that there were disagreements on this matter. It then read that Mr Waters indicated that the DA caucus would decide whether to support the Rules or not and the DA Members walked out of the meeting at that time. These Minutes had been sanitised to the point where they gave no indication of why the DA walked, which needed to be reflected that this was after insults from the other Members mentioned in the paragraph.

The Chairperson said the record should be considered and the Minutes should be left as is until a proper determination was made.  She asked if there were any matters arising.

Ms N Mazzone (DA) said there was a very serious matter related to what happened in Parliament when the Rules were discussed.  She had prepared a speech in which she was going to thank the Chief Whip of the ANC and Deputy Chief Whip for constructive and useful 300 hours of meetings. To have been insulted the way she was by the Chairperson of the Subcommittee, Mr R Mdakane (ANC) was unacceptable to the point where she tore up her prepared speech and had to stand up to defend against what were nothing more than pure lies against her character and what she had done in the Subcommittee. She was told that she had misbehaved, had not been constructive and, had amongst others, “brought across revolutionary tendencies”. That was specifically why she had to defend what she felt was a good process. She was pleased that many colleagues from the ANC were equally shocked, because they had sat with her in the Subcommittee. Knowing what a good and cordial relationship existed in the Subcommittee, to have been insulted like that, at the very last minute, was unacceptable. She apologised to Mr Mdakane for mispronouncing his name, but that showed the kind of shock she was in. When later approached by Mr M Booi (ANC) who inquired whether she would be at the Powers and Privileges Committee meeting, she stated that until such time as she received a public apology from Mr Mdakane for making accusations which were simply untrue and that anyone who participated in the Subcommittee process which lasted 18 months would know was pure fabrication and pure lies. If Members of the Rules Committee and Subcommittee, could display that much bad faith and so little integrity, that they would stand up in the National Assembly and accuse each other of pure lies; how could the Rules Committee expect the rest of Parliament to follow their example. She stood by her statement and her party stood 100% behind her. Every single one of the Subcommittee meetings was video recorded and if need be Members could go back and watch any of them. She would dare Mr Mdakane to point out one time where she misbehaved, lied in any way or did anything to hamper the good and healthy atmosphere within the Subcommittee. To then be accused of that in the House remained unacceptable.

The Chairperson said it was regrettable that the Committee had to start on this note, but it was better practice to be honest about what one felt. She proposed that the ANC Chief Whip and Chief Whip of the official opposition assist Members in dealing with this matter. She noted the general acceptance of this approach.

Composition of the National Assembly Programming Committee
Mr Xaso said Rule 206 stipulated the membership of the NAPC and when one came to subrule (h) indicated a number of members who could be nominated by the Speaker with approval of the Rules Committee. A memo had been circulated containing a proposal which was an adaptation of that rule. The composition as contained in the rule was stipulated from sub rules (a) to (g) and the nominees of the Speaker were two Members of the ANC, Chief Whip of the largest opposition party and two Members of the same party; two Members of the second largest opposition party and a single Member from every other party in the National Assembly. The rule required every party in the National Assembly to be represented in the NAPC. This was the proposed composition of the NAPC. The NAPC was now to take decisions on the basis of consensus and there would be no voting in the NAPC.

The Chairperson asked for Members input.

Mr J Mthembu (ANC) asked how the proposal would differ from the old composition of the NAPC.

Mr Xaso said there had been two dispensations he could recall. First was the one before the Mazibuko judgement, where NAPC took decisions by consensus and there was no issue of proportionality. Following that judgement there was a need for a deadlock breaking mechanism for it to be able to take decisions where it had to. The NAPC at that stage was 14 Members, with an ANC majority. This proposal went back towards consensus decision making, but created a deadlock breaking mechanism whereby the Speaker of the National Assembly, Leader of Government Business and the Chief Whip of the majority party met and tried to break the deadlock.

The Chairperson said the proposal of the list of people to compose the NAPC and noted was generally accepted.

Confirmation of Guidelines and Determinations Arising from Revised Rules
Mr Xaso said the document circulated was split into five parts. Members would recall that at various points during the consideration of the Rules, some of the guidelines were served before either the Subcommittee or the Rules Committee, although at times the items were not discussed in detail. Hence the proposal to confirm the guidelines. He proposed considering only part A of the document, because it was necessary for the Committee to apply its mind to the other guidelines. However, the guidelines in part A were necessary for the House to function and without them there would be no motions without notice or draft resolutions, among other things.

The Chairperson asked if the proposal was accepted and noted general acceptance.

Mr Xaso on draft resolutions, the guideline for Chapter 7, rule 124 basically indicated that the draft resolution must comply with the criteria and other requirements as stipulated in the Rules. Secondly, on motions of condolence, the circumstances under which a House would debate such a motion and Members’ observation of a moment of silence. The next point dealt with motions of no confidence in the President and Cabinet in terms of rule 129, and are the same as those for other motions. Chapter 6 guidelines indicated that the Rules Committee was to determine a time allocation per party for declaration of vote, in line with the principle of proportionality. The proposal served before the Subcommittee was that the ANC would have six minutes, the DA four minutes, the EFF two minutes and other parties 45 seconds. There was an option to give the other parties one minute and the Rules Committee should express itself on the appropriateness of those times. Chapter 7, motions without notice, the Rules provided that the Rules Committee must determine the number, time allocation and sequence of motions without notice. Further, they require that smaller parties are given an opportunity in line with the principles of democracy. This proposal was basically in line with the current practice for Members’ Statements and was an option for consideration by the Committee.

For Members statements, it was proposed that the current practice be maintained and for executive statements under rule 133 (5) the current time allocation of ANC 12 minutes, DA eight minutes, EFF four minutes and other parties three minutes had been retained. Under the revised Rules the member of the executive had the opportunity to respond to the statement. On Chapter 12, the Subcommittee on the Review of the Rules of the National Assembly retained the current membership with eight Members overall, with no proportionality requirement.

On Chapter 3, rule 39, on absence of Members from Committee meetings, the Rules required the amount of the fine to be determined by the Rules Committee and it was proposed that a fine of R1000 per day, if a Member were absent for three of four days consecutively. The Rules also required that a Committee be created to deal with appeals on sanctions for non-attendance and the recommendation was that the Disciplinary Committee, established under the Rules, fulfil this function.

The Chairperson proposed going through the guidelines page by page.

Ms J Kilian (ANC) asked for clarity on the Chapter 7, motions without notice guidelines. She asked for Mr Xaso to elaborate on what was meant. Paragraph (a) was clear, but she asked for an explanation of what was happening in the block beneath that. If the number in brackets was the number of Members of each party, then the number of COPE Members was incorrect.

Mr Xaso agreed that the correction should be made.

Mr Waters, on Chapter 7, asked if the submission of motions without notice still had to be submitted before 12 pm and adhere to certain criteria. Secondly, if a party in one of the rotational groups did not have a motion without notice to present, would the other parties in the group simply take the whole slot or would the group forfeit the opportunity? How would the process work in practice? He assumed the Subcommittee had to deal with how many motions without notice would be allowed or a time allocation. If all parties participated, would smaller parties still be afforded an adequate opportunity to congratulate or send condolences.

Mr Xaso said the current practice with Members’ Statements, which this process was a replica of, was if say the IFP were to forego their opportunity then the ANC would have the chance. If the ANC were to also decline, then the DA would be afforded the chance and so on. The Committee therefore had to decide if that practice is to apply to motions without notice as well. If this sequence were adopted then there would only be 15 motions without notice on any given day, with each taking about 90 seconds. In the Fourth Parliament, motions without notice barely would reach five per sitting, but presently they could reach up to 25. So the Committee had to decide whether enough motions were being allowed and whether the sequencing was appropriate. Within the groups, it was decided which of the component parties should be afforded the opportunity to present a motion without notice on a given day.

Mr Mthembu said as there were new Rules, what ought to be important in Members analysis was whether this observed proportionality when brought to the House by the electorate. He felt that the guidelines did recognise proportionality. The Committee should give the nod to the guidelines to start the ball rolling, because if there were no guidelines and the House sits, there will be no mechanism to deal with matters before Members. If after experiencing the practicalities of the guidelines, it was felt there is a need to tweak the Rules Committee could do so. He proposed seeing whether the guidelines worked in practice and then taking it from there.

Mr Waters wanted to confirm that the guidelines were proposing only one round of motions without notice. Receiving this he said, while understanding the proportionality consideration, this did penalise smaller parties to an extent. If the rules were implemented properly then these motions truly should only be for congratulating people and the like. So smaller parties should also be allowed to do so on any given sitting day. These were not meant to be political motions and smaller parties should not be penalised here.

Ms Kilian said as she understood it Mr Waters wanted the Committee to specifically look at the section dealing with condolence and congratulatory motions, looking towards a possible exception. She proposed accepting the rules as they stood and looking at a more flexible provision going forward.

The Chairperson said that sounded like it would make sense.

Mr Xaso responded to Mr Waters about the submission of motions without notice and directed Members towards rule 123 (d), because the times for submission had changed. The text must now be submitted before 10am on the day on which it is to be moved. If the motion complied, the Secretary must circulate it to all parties by 11am. Further, at least five parties including the majority and largest minority party must have notified the Secretary to the National Assembly that they had no objection to the motion being moved without notice.

The Chairperson asked if it was agreed that the Subcommittee should look at a rule to accommodate Mr Waters’ proposal, but that otherwise the guidelines were accepted.

Mr Xaso asked for guidance on what happened where a party foregoes its chance to put forward a motion without notice. Would the practice with Members’ statements be adopted?

The Chairperson noted the general agreement of the Members.

Ms Killian noted that the reference to the number of COPE Members was also incorrect on page 3 of the guidelines.

The Chairperson then continued with the page by page consideration. She reached the end of part A receiving no objection.

Mr Waters referred to rule 47, which read “subject to subrule (1) and unless altered by resolution of the House the business on any sitting day may additionally include any event below”. So this was not a set standard, because it may include. The events which may be included were motions without notice, petitions, opportunities for statements by Members and notices of motions. As the Rules used to stand motions without notice used to be included as a matter of course, but now they may not be. He asked if that was correctly read and if that was the intention of the Rules Committee. He thought the intention of the Committee was to have motions without notice and notices of motions, on the order paper on ordinary sittings days.

Mr Xaso said this Rule went to the House and the NAPC would have to decide when to schedule notices without motion and notices of motion.

Ms Mazzone said in the Subcommittee one of the reasons the NAPC was designed the way it was, operating on consensus, was for situations such as this, with the NAPC deciding when to schedule notices without motion and the like. This was also a reason why the NAPC was extended to include all parties. So it would not be a situation of the ANC being able to just use its majority, rather all parties would by consensus decide upon the democratic feeling of the House.

The Chairperson said then that was what was agreed. This brought the consideration of the guidelines to an end.

Mr Xaso said as there were only nine full Members of the Committee and ten are required for the quorum. Four Members who were not official Members of the Committee were present and therefore one could be co-opted, so that the Committee can take decisions.

Mr Mthembu agreed because the Rules Committee had been restructured, which officially had taken place the previous day. A number of Members were also informed of the meeting at the same time, leading to Members who were structured out of the Rules Committee being present. He then proposed co-opting Mr N Masondo (ANC).

The Chairperson noted no objections and the resultant co-option. The decisions were adopted.

The meeting was adjourned.


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