The Subcommittee on the Review of the National Assembly Rules along with its NCOP counterpart will review the Joint Rules before the State of the Nation Address is delivered next year.
The Subcommittee discussed the procedure for motions without notice, the guidelines and determinations for the revised National Assembly Rules, and the system for monitoring replies to questions in the House.
Members discussed at length the proposals on procedure for motions without notice, ensuring that the promotion of democracy was taken into account, and that the Constitution’s recognition of the individual’s independent voice was acknowledged. Members were in agreement about their joint opposition to the tendency of Members to circulate one version of a motion to parties, then in the House, read out a motion on the same subject, however with the substance adjusted. Accordingly, the proposition to add the phrase “no Member may read texts that differ from the ones submitted to the office of the secretary” was raised.
Another topic debated was ministers standing in for and answering questions on behalf of absent ministers in the House. The main concern was that the ministers standing in would not be able to sufficiently answer Members’ questions with the necessary detail required. The suggestion to restrict the opportunity of asking follow-up questions by the original Member who posed the question was contested by Members, on the claim that the provision is undemocratic and unjust towards small parties.
The Chairperson announced that MPs within the Subcommittee on Review of the National Assembly Rules have been requested to be a part of the joint team that will be reviewing the Joint Rules. The team is required to identify Rules that need to be amended or reviewed before the State of the Nation Address (SONA) is delivered next year. On 21 October, the team will meet to discuss which Rules need to be amended, and he believes that the Secretaries and legal advisors will be able to provide assistance given that there is limited time to complete the task.
Secretary to the National Assembly, Mr Masibulele Xaso, announced that the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) component of the joint subcommittee had prior communicated that they will be unavailable on the proposed meeting date of Friday 21 October 2016, and requested that all other Members of the subcommittee still continue to meet to be able to prepare its submission.
The Chairperson agreed that continuing with the meeting was indeed necessary and added that he believes that six months will be a sufficient period to complete the task, given that they have already reviewed the Rules previously.
Mr Perran Hahndiek, Committee Secretary, introduced the day’s agenda and the relevant documents: the procedure for motions without notice, followed by the guidelines and determinations in terms of the revised Rules, of which only Parts B-E would be deliberated by Members, given that the Rules Committee had already passed approval on Part A. A third document discusses the system for monitoring replies to questions in the National Assembly.
Mr Xaso explained that all the inputs agreed upon by the Committee were incorporated into the published version of Part A, entitled; ‘Guidelines and determinations requiring the urgent approval of the National Assembly (NA) Rules Committee to facilitate House business’.
The Chairperson confirmed the conclusion on deliberations of Part A, and requested that the Secretary to the National Assembly introduce the first matter.
Motions without Notice: Proposals for Procedure
Mr Masibulele Xaso, Secretary to the National Assembly, stated that the document was drawn from inputs gathered from previous Committee meetings. He explained the document in summary, outlining that every party would be given the opportunity to move a motion, provided they have complied with the procedural requirements. The process would be completely voluntary, therefore, there would be an opportunity to have 22 motions without notice on specified days although the opportunity need not always be used.
The attempt of the new set of Rules with regards to ‘Dispensing with Notice’, was to take care of the notice requirement outside of the House. For this, two options were proposed:
- Option A rests on the principle of unanimous concurrence, and gives Members or parties the opportunity to object to motions during the circulation process, and such motions would be omitted in the House.
- Option B involves effectively giving power to five specific political parties - two of them being the Majority Party and the Largest Opposition Party - where the parties would be expected to register an objection to a motion during circulation to prevent that motion from being read in the House.
On ‘Decision-Making in the House’, he raised two schools of thought that have shaped their devising, one of which acknowledges all Members’ entitlement to object to notices. He expanded on the matter, explaining that out of a total of 400 Members of Parliament, Option B under ‘Dispensing with Notice’ would be exclusionary because it requires that the motions be circulated to only a limited number of parties and Members. The intention is to avoid a situation that requires voting for a motion without notice in the House, but at the same time it would be unconstitutional to allow motions to be moved in the House without parties having an opportunity to state their objections. Three suggestions were made:
- Option A allowing for motions to be moved in the House given that they meet the procedural requirements for notice, and allowing for Members or parties to make objections to motions, which would then be transferred to a notice of motion.
- Option B would allow motions that met the procedural requirements to be moved on the basis that only objections, and not divisions arise.
- Option C would allow for a motion meeting the procedural requirements to be moved in the House and this would be followed by the presiding officer’s indication of whether the motion is in order, and the question will then be put to the House for a decision.
There is some anxiety that exists around divisions, given that a number of divisions can arise from the motions. This situation is undesirable when dealing with motions without notice. Their responsibility is to implement amendments that would make the process more politically desirable.
The Chairperson asked that Committee Members deliberate on the options put forward for consideration.
Ms N Michael (DA) stated that her party was in agreement with Option B for ‘Dispensing with Notice’ given that all elements of democracy are taken into account under the option. On ‘Decision-Making in the House’, she suggested that Option C be amended to include the phrase; “parties are allowed to raise objections”. She added that five or more parties - included among the five would be the Majority Party, the Largest Opposition Party and three other parties - will have the opportunity to object, and if five parties or more do in fact object, the motion would not be carried. She explained that this system would avoid calling divisions, and would thus call for a focus on party votes rather than individual votes.
Ms J Kilian (ANC) expressed agreement about Option B being the better option given that Option A had failed to work in the House. For ‘Decision-Making in the House’, she argued that Option A was the better option because it provides for a balance by recognising decision making of the House, and giving all Members of Parliament the opportunity to engage with motions without notice. She suggested that if the nature of a proposed motion without notice was offensive to a Member, the motion be processed as a motion with notice to ensure that the sentiments of that Member are not disregarded, and thereafter, a decision would be taken by the House.
The Chairperson requested that Members refrain from continuing the discussion in the context of individuals, but to rather talk of parties.
Mr Kasper Hahndiek, Consultant to Parliament, expanded on two stages that had been part of the discussion. The first stage involved Members having an objection to ‘Dispensing with Notice’, and he explained that the previous process required that if an objection arises, the motion be converted to a notice, and essentially, parties and participants would have more time to think about what had been proposed. The second stage is the ‘Decision-Making in the House’, and he explained that according to the Constitution, every individual Member has an independent voice and accordingly, they have an individual responsibility to cast an individual vote. He therefore refuted the assertion that parties should be able to vote on behalf of individual Members.
On the same matter, he explained that the decision to adopt Option C would be problematic given that the recommendation to grant five parties the opportunity to object violates the majority provisions of the Constitution which states that a third of the Members present are required to vote for a motion to be accepted or rejected. He proposed that Option B be adopted to allow for motions objected to by the five particular parties not to be read in the House and instead converted to notices. The proposal follows that Members will each be given an opportunity by the presiding officer, to state objections over those motions without notice that are read in the House, in order to establish whether they will be proceeded with without notice. For those motions without notice that are not objected to, a division process may be demanded.
There was general agreement by all Members that the suggestion creates a good balance.
Procedural Officer of the National Assembly, Ms Zainab Naidoo, raised the point that the five party objection system may raise challenges, given that last term, an ANC motion was objected to by the DA as well as other parties, however, it was still read in the House.
Mr P Hahndiek suggested that Option B be amended to read; “the Majority Party or the Largest Opposition Party and three other parties” so as to give the Majority Party and the Largest Opposition Party more power and influence and to prevent such a situation such as last term’s from occurring again.
Mr K Hahndiek responded that if such power were given to either one of the two big parties, the consequence would be many more division demands in the House.
Ms Kilian stated that for ‘Dispensing with Notice’, she sees no problem with Option B including the phrase “the Majority Party or the Largest Opposition party and three other parties” because in this way, several motions will not reach the stage of being read in the House. With those motions that are read in the House, she stated that having too many divisions should be avoided, and it should ultimately be left to majority votes when making decisions. She highlighted the importance of ensuring that decision making in the House cannot be vetoed, and proposed that to ensure that the mechanism operates effectively in the House, the number of motions without notice brought to the House be limited.
Mr Xaso summarised the points that had been raised and confirmed the changes that had been agreed to for motions without notice.
Mr K Hahndiek pointed out that if any other party that is not part of the specified five parties is feeling excluded from the process, they would have the option to demand a division on each and every motion, and that they cannot be prevented from doing so.
Mr Xaso added that although he believes that the mechanism is good, the opportunity for a ‘tit-for-tat’ situation still exists.
The Chairperson pointed out that Members are more likely to accept motions that the party has agreed to, and that it is unlikely for an individual to go against their party’s vote.
Mr N Nkwankwa (UDM) said that the mechanism was going to be an enabler for control both prior to the motions going to the House, and for how decisions are made in the House, given the past crisis. He believes that all Members agree in principle about what they need to do and how they need to do it, and that all that is left is to take it forward and manage it as best as they can.
Ms Kilian suggested that when an important motion is raised, there should be an opportunity to re-submit the motion before noon the following day so that all Members and parties have access to another channel of bringing forward motions which the House would then vote on.
Mr Nkwankwa stated that he did not believe that the Rules could provide for Ms Kilian’s suggestion. In the past, there were situations where motions without notice were circulated among parties. However, he found that in the House, the subject of the motion remained the same but the substance had changed completely, thus forcing Members to listen attentively so as not to be tricked into thinking that the motion is the same.
Mr K Hahndiek agreed that there is a need for the National Assembly Table and the presiding officer to be careful about this so that as soon as there is a divergence from the text as circulated, the presiding officer can put a stop to it. The intention of motions without notice was to create an opportunity for a quick response to an event taking place in the country. If it happens that one or more Members record objection to the ‘without notice’, then notice of that motion is given. In the normal course of events, a motion that is considered to be important could be placed on the order paper through the normal scheduling process with the assistance of the Chief Whip of the Majority Party, so the motion is only delayed for a 24-hour period.
Ms Kilian, in response to Mr Nkwankwa, proposed that an addition be made to the guidelines to state that; “no Member may read texts that differ from the ones submitted to the office of the secretary”.
Ms Michael suggested that each of the 13 parties in the House be provided with a pack of notices before the sitting begins so that a double-checking mechanism can be put into effect between the parliamentarians and the Chief Whip’s Table.
Mr Xaso explained that the secretariat has in fact been attempting to operate in line with a paperless system, however the suggestion would be adopted if the political leadership decided to do so. The information been requested is usually distributed electronically, however hard copies could be made available.
Ms Michael responded that she supports the decision to go paperless however she does not believe that Parliament is currently at the stage that would allow for processes to be carried out completely electronically.
The Chairperson remarked that Members of Parliament are honourable Members, and that it should not be assumed that Members would present a motion and later amend it after it has been screened and vetted.
Ms Naidoo explained that most parties have officials that draft their motions, and they tend to draft motions on a particular topic with the intention of preventing other parties from raising motions on the same topic. A skeleton version of the motion is usually submitted, and by the time the motion is raised in the House, more detail has been added to the motion, and there are thus divergences between the motion originally circulated, and the one read in the House.
The Chairperson stated that the act of presenting a particular motion, then proceeding to read a different version of that motion in the House is political fraud. He agreed that such situations need to be avoided.
Mr Nkwankwa stated that the reduction in the number of motions without notice assists in dealing with the problem to a large extent because dealing with 22 or less motions on any given day, makes it possible to identify variances.
The Chairperson agreed and stated that he believed that the discussed approach is ready to be proposed to the Rules Committee.
Mr P Hahndiek indicated that the Subcommittee had already been through the guidelines and briefly took Members through Part B of the guidelines.
Mr Xaso explained that the guidelines are not controversial, and that they were set in compliance with the Rules and the Constitution.
The Chairperson stated that he was happy with the guidelines concerning the ‘Removal from office of Speaker or Deputy Speaker (Rule 28)’ under Part B.
Mr K Hahndiek noted that with regards to the removal of the President, the Constitution states that the action be taken specifically on the grounds of serious misconduct. However, in the case of the removal of the Speaker, there is no such specification. Removal from office of the Speaker could be done both on the grounds of political censorship and the possibility of misconduct.
Mr Xaso explained that the guidelines for the ‘Appointment and responsibilities and whips (Rule 33(3)(a))’ apply when the party does not meet the threshold, and those parties that fall below the threshold would have the opportunity to make a joint request to the Speaker.
Mr K Hahndiek emphasised that the guidelines should never cover important policy issues, as they should be highlighted in the Rules, instead, the guidelines should assist in providing clarification.
Guidelines for Questions (Rules 134(4) and (6))
Mr Xaso noted that Questions had been controversial, and he hoped that this forum would be used to clear all misunderstandings around Questions.
The Chairperson asked that each guideline in the section be read out one at a time.
Ms Kilian requested that it be highlighted which particular guidelines caused controversy.
Procedural Advisor, Mr Michael Plaatjies, explained that the guidelines for Questions were set with the intention of having each question ask for information or press for an action. He proceeded to take Members through each of the guidelines for Questions.
Ms Michael said that when questions are submitted in writing, the questions return significantly changed in, and in the process, the political nuance behind the question becomes lost. She proposed that under ‘Editing of Questions’, the point; “The questioning Member must be informed of these changes at the time when such changes are made” be added.
Mr Plaatjies explained that the procedural advisors have a close working relationship with the political parties and that ever since the guidelines have last been revised, the problem had not persisted as it did three to four years ago.
Ms Michael said that it would be important to make the addition to strengthen the guidelines.
Ms Kilian explained that she had had issues with the Questions Office in 2009, and she realised that what they in fact needed was to have a dedicated individual that would be the receiving point in situations where Members are absent. She suggested that a direct link between the Questions Office and the parties be introduced so that even when Members are not around, deadlines may continue to be met.
Mr Nkwankwa opposed the matter of ministers standing in place of absent ministers and answering their questions on their behalf. He suggested that an addition be made to the guidelines that stipulates that Cabinet Members are required to communicate with those that they need to communicate with in the House to announce their absence from sittings in advance.
Ms Kilian agreed with Mr Nkwankwa’s sentiments and suggested that he raise the matter at a later stage, once all other guidelines had been dealt with.
The Chairperson stated that the matter of a minister’s absence was not so major given that generally, the Speaker was made aware of the absence. The bigger issues that need to be addressed are those of Members standing to declare their dissatisfaction with how a particular minister answered their question and the incorrect use of the ‘point of order’ provision. He claimed that such issues where however not a result of the Rules and guidelines being flawed, as they are clear and detailed, and that they as Members, will continue to work towards managing the issues.
Mr K Hahndiek agreed that it was necessary to have a direct link with the Questions Office so that the process of dealing with questions that need to be put onto the question paper can be smoother. Secondly, he pointed out that the Rules do acknowledge responses by another minister or deputy minister in certain circumstances if they are considered competent and prepared to deal with supplementary questions.
Ms Kilian pointed out that standing in for another minister is not always effective because those standing in may not have all the necessary details to be able to sufficiently answer the questions. She added that there is a need to value the oral question session in the House.
The Chairperson suggested that in terms of questions, the Member who raised the question should be the only one allowed to pose follow-up questions, to avoid numerous follow-up questions being raised. He explained that this proposition had been raised previously and he believed the system to be undemocratic. He noted that the point would be considered at a later stage.
Mr K Hahndiek raised a concern about the possibility of a situation whereby a minister standing in for another was unable to answer follow-up questions posed by a Member of a small party. He explained that it would be an opportunity lost for the asking Member, given that small parties only get a few opportunities per year to get their questions answered by the relevant ministers in the House. Ministers standing must thus be briefed to be able to answer supplementary questions. With the Questions mechanism, Members care more about the follow-up questions rather than the initial question, and parties would be concerned if they were barred from raising supplementary questions, as this would force them to wait for an opportunity to pose their own question so that they are permitted to raise follow-ups.
Ms Naidoo raised the problem of Members asking questions on the same topic as one that had already been asked. It is a problem because it prevents Members from adding questions onto the question paper, on topics that had already been addressed within the same year.
Mr Nkwankwa expressed disagreement on the point, for the sake of small parties that are not given the opportunity to be able to ask their questions regularly. The politics of Questions lies in the follow-up questions, and not in the initial question itself. From the response of a minister, several points may arise and these may affect different departments, so all Members of Parliament should have the opportunity to follow up and raise matters.
Ms Kilian mentioned that the posing of questions by Members of Parliament was an important democratic opportunity. However, the problem arises when applying the Rules. She asked the Secretary to ensure that officials assist the presiding officer in ensuring that the supplementary questions adhere to the Rules.
She noted that all parties should participate and represent a specific constituency, and thus all parties, particularly small parties, should be given the opportunity to ask follow up-questions to ministers.
On stand-in ministers adhering to the time constraints when answering questions, she suggested that the Subcommittee work to protect the Questions mechanism to prevent it from being abused.
Mr Plaatjies explained that with the current set of Rules, they have been able to deal with 10-12 questions in a period of two hours. The time had been extended to three hours, and they expect to now be able to deal with 12-14 questions. Having a large number of supplementary questions is the reason that so few of the original questions get answered in a sitting. On the matter of time, he pointed out that questioners often do not adhere to the time constraint provided for asking supplementary questions, and they ask more than one question. Often, supplementary questions turn into questions without notice, which is problematic because such questions usually do not arise from what was in the original question or response. There was a need for clear and concise questions instead of broad and general questions that had proven to cause problems.
Ms Michael raised the point that ministers have the obligation of knowing their portfolios inside and out, and they should thus be able to answer any question at any time, about any issue in their portfolio. She was unsatisfied with the way ministers answered questions in the House. As parliamentarians, asking questions in the House is one of the strongest mechanisms available for holding ministers accountable.
The Chairperson stated that the current system of having one original question followed by follow-up and supplementary questions is problematic because it makes it difficult for other Members to raise their initial questions. He stated that the matter would be revisited and dealt with at a later stage.
Mr K Hahndiek responded that one cannot micromanage by way of the Rules and the guidelines and that the presiding officers, supported by the Table need to assist in preventing Members from raising questions that are not related to the initial question or the response given. The ministers themselves in such a situation should point out supplementary questions that are not related to the initial question and answer, and request that that question be added to the question paper, rather than responding to it.
Mr Nkwankwa agreed and mentioned that in most instances, questions on the question paper never get answered primarily because most time is wasted on points of order. To reduce the number of follow-up questions asked by Members of Parliament, the cycle would need to be changed altogether, and more opportunities to ask questions would then have to be granted to parties during sittings.
General Forum and Content of Questions
Ms Kilian sought clarification on point 2(h) under the ‘General Form and Content of Questions’ and wanted to know whether it was necessary to include the description “friendly”.
Mr K Hahndiek responded that the intention was to highlight the importance of having good relations with other countries in international relations.
Ms Michael remarked that the DA is of the opinion that point 2(h) be done away with because individuals in the House should have every right to question the Minister of Foreign Affairs about certain international matters. Members’ right to speech and right to privilege should not be controlled through prohibiting them from making statements about foreign countries or Heads of State in the House.
Ms Kilian said that she recognised that the intention was not to prevent Members from asking about South Africa’s engagement in foreign policy, but rather to prevent ‘discourteous’ references.
Ms Michael responded that when speaking of certain foreign events and Heads of State who are thought to be committing genocide or violating human rights, discourteous language will be used.
Mr Nkwankwa agreed and remarked that this should be a responsibility for the ANC as they consider their relations with their foreign affiliates, instead of the burden being placed on the other parties. He stated that the point should be removed and that it be acknowledged that Members have the right to ask questions and use whatever language they believe is appropriate.
Mr Plaatjies explained that the point was in fact a carry-over from the National Assembly Guide to Procedure, and not a point that he could personally defend. He added it is the adjectives used by Members that bring emotion into questions and express opinion, instead of doing what is required of them, which is to obtain information and press for action. He stated the word “friendly” could be removed from the phrase, however, the practice of questions as a civil practice should still be maintained.
Mr K Hahndiek asked that it be noted that the stipulations being discussed refer to initial questions that go on the question paper, and he referred to point 3(c) which specifies that “unnecessary descriptive words or phrases” should not be included in questions.
Ms Kilian clarified that the word “friendly” in point 2(h) is being removed because the consensus is that the intention is already adequately covered.
Mr Plaatjies, in reference to point 5(d), proposed that questions on matters before a commission either be removed or amended.
Mr K Hahndiek explained that a department, in providing detailed information to a Committee, is essentially letting that information be known to a maximum of 30 Members, which differs greatly from a situation where Members ask a question about a department for reply in the House, in which case, 400 responses may surface. If a Committee has information about a department available, it is not obliged to publish that information in its ultimate report to the House, and as a result, that information could get lost to the Membership, which is a problem.
Ms Kilian stated that one would not want to close certain elements of political oversight and she expressed that she did not believe that there should be a limitation or protective coating over certain matters. Moreover, she asked that the Members consider whether the guideline is currently workable in practice.
Mr Plaatjies explained that with regards to information that is provided to the Committee, provision 5(k) states that “Questions that require information that is readily accessible are not allowed”, for the fact that the information is readily and easily accessible in the minutes of that Committee.
Ms Kilian asked what the term “readily accessible” refers to specifically.
Mr K Hahndiek remarked that the Questions Office and Members would not necessarily know what information is “readily accessible”, given the volume of reports submitted by departments. He disagreed with provision 5(k) and suggested instead that when information about a question asked is readily accessible, the minister respond by referring the Member to where such information can be found.
Mr Plaatjies responded that the issue at hand is one of the issues which departments raise to procedural advisors, and that procedural advisors end up doing research for Members when Members should in fact be conducting their own research. He said that by applying guideline 5(k), it would eliminate the process of Members seeking unnecessary avenues to obtain information that is readily accessible.
The Chairperson proposed that the provision be retained given that as it stands, it causes no harm.
Mr K Hahndiek agreed that the provision may be retained.
The Chairperson confirmed the general agreement among Members to remove provisions 2(h) and 5(d) under the ‘General Form and Content of Questions’ of Part C.
Ms Kilian explained that her earlier intervention was not meant to protect ministers generally, but rather to address the issue of ministers who stand-in for other ministers lacking the necessary information to answer questions.
Guidelines on Criteria for Questions to the Deputy President
The Chairperson inquired whether there were any issues to be raised on the matter.
Mr Plaatjies referred to Rule 352 in the 9th Edition of the Rules of the National Assembly, which states that the Leader of Government Business needs to inform the Speaker of any appointments and their responsibilities in Cabinet, which would include the responsibilities of the Deputy President. There was a gazette that occasionally publishes the responsibilities of ministers, however the same does not exist for the Deputy President, and that information about the Deputy President’s responsibilities had to be obtained from the Presidential website.
Mr K Hahndiek explained that the rule was new and that there had been doubts concerning its relevance. He remarked that the Rule suggested that the executive has the obligation to inform Parliament so that Parliament could do its work.
The Chairperson briefly took Members through the rest of the guidelines under Part C and stated that under Chapter 12 of Part D, Members would not be expected to look at the provisions in detail.
Mr K Hahndiek sought clarification on what the “Programming Priorities” cited under ‘Committee programmes’ referred to.
Mr Xaso asked that this inquiry be raised at a later stage given that the inputs of the House Chairperson and the Committee Secretary would be necessary.
The Chairperson warned about giving authority where it does not belong and explained that Rules need to be shaped in a manner which assists to support the Speaker. He agreed that the matter be dropped and revisited at a later stage.
System for Monitoring Replies to Questions
Mr K Hahndiek took Members through the discussion document.
The Chairperson highlighted the importance of the proposed involvement of the Deputy Speaker, given that he would create a direct link with the Speaker.
Mr Plaatjies asked if questions directed to the President would follow the same protocol as those outlined in the document for questions that are directed to ministers.
The Chairperson asked that the discussion be focused on just ministers for the day.
Ms Kilian asked what the position is regarding the appearance of the Office of the Leader of Government Business (LOGB) before the Subcommittee.
Mr Xaso responded that it was possible for the LOGB to sit in the Subcommittee as a member. He added that there was quarterly correspondence that goes to the LOGB from the Speaker. He remarked that a decision will be made regarding whether the current practice will be retained, or whether it will be replaced by the newly proposed one.
Mr K Hahndiek explained that according to the way in which the new mechanism was drafted and presented, there is no expectation for ministers to appear in person, as they would be invited to submit a written response. He was not clear about whether the LOBG would be a full member, and if so, what the role of LOGB or the representative would be as a full member of the Subcommittee, given that the LOGB would presumably be defending and explaining the failure of the executive to meet requirements.
Ms Michael agreed that the LOGB had to account to the President as to the performance of the ministers and she suggested that the LOGB and their representative does in fact join the Committee meetings so as to see what is happening first hand to be able to report back to the Presidency and to Cabinet.
Mr Plaatjies pointed out that Rule 136(2) states that the LOGB must be informed about the actions that are taken, as a reason in support of having the LOGB present in meetings.
Ms Kilian said that she had no argument about the LOBG or his representative being at the meetings, and she asked whether it was necessary for the representative to also be a Member of Parliament. She asked whether there was currently a practice for the NA Table to present a monthly report to the LOGB.
Mr K Hahndiek responded that the Subcommittee takes no decisions, and merely makes recommendations to the Rules Committee so the presence of the LOGB and their representative is not vital. He also pointed out that week by week, it is easy to see from the question paper, which questions have been unanswered.
Mr Plaatjies explained that on the questions paper, one can see the date on which the question first appeared, and at the back of the paper, are all the questions that have not been replied to.
The Chairperson explained that the Rules are very important because as democracy matures, the people within Parliament will eventually disappear as new people come in, but the Rules will always remain and sustain democracy.
Mr Xaso took Members through Part E of the document, outlining all ‘other determinations’.
Mr K Hahndiek suggested that the Committee should consider different options to conduct manual voting.
Mr Xaso explained that electronic is the preferred voting mechanism, and that manual voting is used only on the rare exception that problems occur with electronic voting.
General Form and Content of Questions
Mr Plaatjies suggested that provision 3(1)c on sub judice under ‘Guidelines for Questions’ be amended to read “A question will not deal with merits of matters before court”.
Mr K Hahndiek expressed disagreement with provision 3(1)d, explaining that he did not understand why the rule of anticipation was being used to block questions.
Mr Plaatjies explained that provision 3(1)d had been used in the past . There was a situation where a minister was involved in a court case concerning a question that was on the question paper, which was later pulled off the paper.
Mr Xaso proposed that the provision be dismissed when dealing with questions because it has proven to be difficult to implement.
Ms Kilian asked how the relative strengths of the different mechanisms were determined. She asked if it was stated in the guidelines that specific mechanisms take precedence over others.
Mr K Hahndiek responded that the measure is whatever provides the greatest opportunity to Members.
The Chairperson asked whether any harm would be caused from leaving the provision as it currently is.
Mr Plaatjies explained that the guidelines should not be applied restrictively, to block Members’ ability to exercise their oversight functions, and that it has been applied non-restrictively to be in favour of Members when they put their questions forward.
The Chairperson stated that the provision would be left as it was. It would be returned to if there was ever the need.
Mr P Hahndiek asked whether a Member could ask about discussions in Cabinet, even though Cabinet meetings were closed.
Mr Plaatjies responded that Cabinet discussions were indeed private but explained that questions were sometimes permitted about them, in which case it would be up to the minister to decide how to deal with the question.
Mr Xaso announced that a Rules Committee meeting would be held on 19 October, though it is yet to be confirmed.
Mr P Hahndiek noted that a Subcommittee meeting would be scheduled for 21 October on the Joint Rules.
The Chairperson thanked Members for their contributions.
The meeting was adjourned.
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.