SAHRC Commissioner vacancies: finalisation

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Justice and Correctional Services

27 October 2016
Chairperson: Dr M Motshekga (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee agreed that the key criteria for nominating commissioners for the South African Human Rights Commission are race, gender, disability, continuity, experience of working with communities, legal skills, and human rights background. Members nominated and motivated for the following candidates: Prof Firoz Cachalia, Prof Christopher Bongani Majola, Ms Angelina Matlhodi Makwetla, Ms Devikarani Priscilla Sewpal Jana, Adv Andre Hurtley Gaum, Adv Jonas Ben Sibanyoni, Mr Kristen (Krish) Govender, Adv Bokankatla Joseph Malatji, Rev Andrew Christoffel Nissen, Prof Bonita Meyersfield, and Ms Lindiwe Mokate.

Using a process of elimination based on number of votes garnered, members settled on the following seven recommendations:
Prof Christopher Bongani Majola
Ms Angelina Matlhodi Makwetla
Ms Devikarani Priscilla Sewpal Jana
Adv Andre Hurtley Gaum
Adv Jonas Ben Sibanyoni
Rev Andrew Christoffel Nissen
Adv Bokankatla Joseph Malatji

Members agreed that the Chairperson’s list is a true representation of their deliberations and agreed that the nominees are representative of agreed criteria of race and gender.

 

Meeting report

South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) vacancies
The Chairperson explained that the present meeting will deliberate on filling vacancies in the South African Human Rights Commission. He recalled that the interviews for these seven vacancies occurred over two days. There are several criteria for filling these vacancies. These are race, gender, disability, continuity, experience of working with communities, legal skills, and human rights background. He asked members if there is any other criterion to be added. Members expressed satisfaction with the criteria.

The Chairperson asked members to comment on the selection process.

Mr S Swart (ACDP) stated that the key factor in the selection process is to try to reach consensus.

Ms M Mothapo (ANC) suggested that candidates’ performance in the interviews should be taken into consideration.

Mr N Matiase (EFF) suggested that past performance of returning members of the Commission should be a criterion.

The Chairperson called for nominations.

Ms G Breytenbach (DA) nominated Prof Firoz Cachalia.

Mr Swart nominated Prof Christopher Bongani Majola and Ms Angelina Matlhodi Makwetla

Ms Mothapo nominated Ms Devikarani Priscilla Sewpal Jana

Ms M Pilane-Majake (ANC) nominated Adv Andre Hurtley Gaum.

Mr M Maila (ANC) nominated Adv Jonas Ben Sibanyoni.

Mr Matiase nominated Mr Kristen (Krish) Govender.

Ms Mothapo nominated Adv Malatji Bokankatla Joseph on disability grounds.

Mr L Mpumlwana (ANC) nominated Mr Andrew Christoffel Nissen.

The Chairperson called out the names of nominees as Prof Firoz CACHALIA, Prof Christopher Bongani MAJOLA, Ms Angelina Matlhodi MAKWETLA, Ms Devikarani Priscilla Sewpal JANA, Adv Andre Hurtley GAUM, Adv Jonas Ben SIBANYONI, Mr Kristen (Krish) GOVENDER, Adv Bokankatla Joseph MALATJI, and Mr Andrew Christoffel NISSEN.

Ms Pilane-Majake called for closure of nominations.

Ms Breytenbach observed that there are only two women On the list. She suggested the inclusion of more women.

Ms Pilane-Majake suggested inclusion of the outgoing Commissioner Lindiwe Mokate.

Ms Breytenbach nominated Prof Bonita Meyersfield.

The Chairperson closed nominations. He repeated the nominees as: Prof Firoz CACHALIA, Prof Christopher Bongani MAJOLA, Ms Angelina Matlhodi MAKWETLA, Ms Devikarani Priscilla Sewpal JANA, Adv Andre Hurtley GAUM, Adv Jonas Ben SIBANYONI, Mr Kristen (Krish) GOVENDER, Adv Bokankatla Joseph MALATJI, Rev Andrew Christoffel NISSEN and Prof Bonita MEYERSFIELD. He suggested a balance in the selection criteria.

Mr Matiase sought guidance on the number of women needed in the Commission.

The Chairperson replied that no quota will be imposed. However, at least two women are needed. He called on members to motivate for the nominees.

Ms Breytenbach advocated for Prof Cachalia’s candidacy and was seconded by Mr Swart.

The Chairperson called on members to determine the number of full and part time Commissioners to be selected so that it can form part of the selection exercise.

Ms Pilane-Majake suggested at least two part-time Commissioners and five full-time Commissioners.

Ms Breytenbach stated that Prof Cachalia should be considered for full time or part time.

Mr Swart summarised the impressive qualifications of Prof Majola. Mr Swart stated that he performed very well in the recent interviews, was professor and law dean of the University of Limpopo, former assistant registrar at the International Criminal Tribunal (ICTR), is fluent in some languages, and has strong referees. Mr Swart concluded that Prof Bongani is available to serve full time or part time. Prof Bongani’s nomination was seconded by everyone: Ms Mothapo, Mr Maila, Ms Pilane-Majake, Mr Mpumlwana, Mr Matiase, and Ms Breytenbach. Members agreed that he would be a full-time commissioner.

Mr Swart also advocated for Ms Makwetla. She is qualified social worker with a track record of work in South African communities. She brings an added experience of grassroots mobilisation and will bring a blend of non-legal experience to the Commission. Ms Makwetla was supported by everyone and was marked for full time appointment.

Ms Mothapo advocated for Ms Priscilla Jana. She summarised her grassroots work and advocacy, and stated that she is prepared to serve full time. Ms Jana was supported by everyone.

Ms Pilane-Majake advocated for Adv Guam, a human rights activist, former deputy minister, and partner in a law firm who is ready to serve full time. Adv Guam was supported by everyone except Ms Breytenbach who abstained.

Mr Maila advocated for Adv Sibanyoni. Adv Sibanyoni has strong links with rural areas because he practices there. He is available to serve part time. Adv Sibanyoni was supported by everyone.

Mr Matiase motivated for Adv Govender. He argued that he has a long history of advocating for human rights. He has an impeccable track record of defending the most vulnerable members of society, sometimes on pro bono basis. He displayed great energy during the interviews and will bring new perspective to the Commission. He is available to serve full time. Adv Govender’s nomination was supported by Mr Swart and Ms Breytenbach.

Mr Mpumlwana motivated for Mr Nissen, a longstanding priest, community person, and director. He was seconded by everyone except Ms Breytenbach and Mr Matiase who abstained.

Ms Mothapo motivated for Adv Malatji. He is a physically challenged person, first black advocate, and a grassroots mobiliser, especially in mining activities. His nomination was supported by Ms Mothapo, Mr Maila, Ms Pilane-Majake, and Mr Swart.

Ms Pilane-Majake noted that her motivation for ex-Commissioner Mokate arose from the need to include more women in the nominees. She stated that Ms Mokate’s tenure just ended. In the Commission, she was responsible for children’s rights. The Committee received communication complaining that her leadership style was not good, to the point that some Commission staff resigned. While the Committee should take this information into consideration in determining her suitability, it should note that she performed well in children’s rights.

Mr Matiase stated that Ms Mokate’s tenure in the Commission was disastrous.

Mr Mpumlwana raised a point of order that Mr Matiase’s statement merely means that ex-Commissioner Mokate’s nomination is not seconded.

In declining the point of order, the Chairperson clarified Mr Matiase’s objection. He declared that Ms Mokate’s nomination is not seconded.

Ms Breytenbach motivated for Prof Meyersfield. She is Deputy Director for the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at Wits University, a human rights activist, well experienced in academia, civil society and on the international scene. She had a good interview. She is available on a part time basis. Her nomination was supported by Mr Swart.

The Chairperson repeated that race and gender are important criteria. There can be no all white, all black, all Indian or all women Commission. There needs to be a balance. He noted final nominations and support as follows:
Prof Firoz Cachalia – nominated by Ms Breytenbach and supported by Mr Swart (two votes).
Prof Majola – nominated by Mr Swart and unanimously supported (seven votes).
Ms Makwetla – nominated by Mr Swart and unanimously supported (seven votes).
Ms Jana – nominated by Ms Mothapo and unanimously supported (seven votes).
Adv Gaum – nominated by Ms Pilane-Majake and supported by everyone except Ms Breytenbach (six votes).
Adv Sibanyoni – nominated by Mr Maila and supported by everyone except Mr Matiase (six votes).
Mr Govender – nominated by Mr Matiase and supported by Mr Swart and Ms Breytenbach (three votes).
Rev Nissen – nominated by Mr Mpumlwana and supported by Ms Mothapo, Ms Pilane-Majake, Mr Maila, and Mr Swart (five votes).
Adv Malatji – nominated by Ms Mothapo and supported by Ms Pilane-Majake, Mr Maila, and Mr Mpumlwana (four votes).
Ms Mokate – nominated by Ms Pilane-Majake and received no support.
Prof Meyersfield – nominated by Mr Matiase and Ms Breytenbach (two votes).

The Chairperson used a process of elimination to announce the final seven nominees. They are:
Prof Christopher Bongani Majola
Ms Angelina Matlhodi Makwetla
Ms Devikarani Priscilla Sewpal Jana
Adv Andre Hurtley Gaum
Adv Jonas Ben Sibanyoni
Rev Andrew Christoffel Nissen
Adv Bokankatla Joseph Malatji

From this process of elimination, Prof Firoz Cachalia, Mr Kristen (Krish) Govender, Prof Bonita Meyersfield, and ex-Commissioner Mokate fail to be nominated by the Committee.

Members agreed that the Chairperson’s list is a true representation of deliberations.

Ms Pilane-Majake noted that the list is representative of the agreed criteria of race and gender. Racial-wise, she stated that of the seven nominees, Adv Gaum is white, Adv Jana is Indian, and Rev Nissen is coloured. For persons with disabilities, there is Adv Malatji. Women are represented by Ms Makwetla and Ms Jana.

Mr Matiase expressed his disappointment that women in the Committee do not take full advantage of men who are prepared to add more women to the Commission. He would have been happy to have more than two women recommended for the Commission. He however endorsed the openness and democratic nature of the selection process.

The Chairperson supported Mr Matiase. However, he stated that women cannot be included just for the sake of inclusion. He stated that the nation’s interest will be served by the two women nominees. He further stated that race is well covered in the selected nominees.

Ms Pilane-Majake attempted to replyto  Mr Matiase’s comments but the Chairperson overruled her.

Ms Pilane-Majake suggested that the Chairperson and deputy of the Commission should be selected.

Ms Breytenbach recommended Prof CB Majola as Chairperson of the Commission. She was seconded by Mr Swart, Ms Pilane-Majake, Mr Maila, Mr Mpumlwana, Mr Matiase, and Ms Mothapo.

Mr Swart recommended the Commissioner Mohamed Shafie Ameermia for the sake of continuity.

Ms Pilane-Majake nominated Ms Jana for Deputy Chairperson because of gender balancing. She was seconded by all members of the Committee.

The Chairperson declared that Adv JB Sibanyoni and Rev AC Nissen would be part time Commissioners. He announced the selection process as closed.

Closing
Mr Swart thanked the Chairperson for the manner in which he conducted the proceedings.

The Chairperson declared that the recommendations were not based on party affiliation, but based on the nominees’ potential contribution to the people of South Africa. Even though he did not vote for any candidate, he supports all the nominees. He thanked everyone and closed the meeting.
 

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