The Ad Hoc Committee for the filling of vacancies of Commissioners for the Commission for Gender Equality firstly considered and adopted the minutes of 30 November and made a follow up on the previous discussions.
The Chairperson, in her opening remarks, referred to two recent incidents where young girls had been raped, and said that she had urged the outgoing Chairperson of the Commission for Gender Equality to take proactive steps, firstly to meet with the family and identify any assistance needed, and secondly to try to work with the families to ensure that the perpetrators were not released on bail where they might re-offend. This led her to express the view that ideally the Committee would like to see activist commissioners who would adopt a proactive approach.
Several Members expressed the view that whilst the agenda for this meeting had proposed that shortlisting might be possible, they did not feel that the Committee was yet in a position to do this. They had only received some papers at this meeting, although it subsequently was noted that in fact civil society had been informed that CVs would be uploaded to the website and this had happened with a number of them (although some had to be taken down and re-loaded after discrepancies in redaction of personal details were noted). Members felt that since the final report was due to be submitted to Parliament only at the end of February, there would be sufficient time for Members to do the necessary background checks, give due consideration to all applications and nominations and then attend to a shortlisting process later. Although one Member suggested that a smaller number of candidates should be selected now and vetted, the majority preferred that a more in-depth process be followed in the first instance. It was noted that around 71 applications had been uploaded to the Parliamentary website up to 6 February, in keeping with the aim to involve civil society and allow for comment. Members took cognisance of the criticism that the time allowed for comment was too short, particularly in view of the misunderstandings about the uploads, and it was agreed that the Committee would allow for additional time for comment. It was also clarified that a particular nominee's forms had not been received and it was noted that if a potential candidate claimed to have submitted a CV this would need to be checked. Members were generally in agreement that the closing date for public comment should be extended, particularly since valid points had been raised by those wishing to comment that they were not notified of the closing date in the first advertisement, nor notified of where comments should be submitted. It was agreed that the closing date for comments would be 13 February 2017. 14 and 15 February would be set aside to consider the shortlisting, with interviews commencing around 20 February, with due consideration given to travelling arrangements for those from outlying areas. The final report would be agreed on 23 February 2017.
Chairperson's opening remarks
The Chairperson welcomed Members including the new DA representative, Ms T Stander (DA).
She informed Members that during the December break, she had been informed of two instances where young girls had been raped. One was a 12 year old girl from Pretoria who was kidnapped and raped by a Nigerian national, and the second was a young girl raped by a former inmate of a prison in Ekuruleni. The Chairperson called the outgoing Chairperson of the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE or the Commission) to tell him that it was important that he must visit the families of the victims, try to assist and to ensure that neither of the perpetrators was released on bail. The Committee would like to see the Commission adopt an activist approach and promote itself as too many people were still not aware of its existence and work.
For this reason, she urged that the ad hoc Committee should be looking to appoint someone to the vacancy who would be an activist. The Committee already had dates on which it wanted to advertise the post by the House Chair had asked that the Committee should postpone advertising until 8 January 2017, because of the December holiday period. The Committee had now received applications, would work through the CVs, but had to work hard as it would like to report to Parliament by 28 February 2017.
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) agreed with the Chairperson that Members have to select a candidate who is best suited for the job. Since Members had received many documents only at this meeting, including the CVs , they needed time to go through them and verify qualifications. She would not be comfortable attempting to shortlist now, given that they would like to select the best candidates.
Ms D Robinson (DA) agreed with Ms van der Merwe, stressing also that this was a serious task, that there was a huge amount of paperwork, and she would support Members having time to conduct their own verification and research on the candidates and postpone the actual selection process to another date.
Ms T Stander (DA) agreed with both previous speakers. No selection process should be rushed, based on her own experiences of more than ten years working in human resources. It would take time to carry out the necessary reference and background checks, and it would be impossible to do justice to a full check whilst still trying to make the selections on the same day. She would like to postpone the actual selection, allow Members to agree on the process and the timelines as there was still three weeks to complete the report and submit it to Parliament. She confirmed that whilst the Committee Members had received a summary of the CVs, they did not receive the full documentation prior to the meeting. The summary may well not contain all the details that the Members would need. The Committee will need to go through each CV, and Members will also have to make verification calls outside of this meeting.
Mr P Kekana (ANC) suggested that Members follow the agenda and allow the support staff to outline the work that they had done already, to avoid repeating the work, and then discuss the selection process after the researchers had given their input.
Ms W Newhoudt-Druchen (ANC) mentioned that the Deaf Federation of South Africa (DeafSA) had notified her that it had made a submission in December, but some names suggested were not on the list; she asked how any later submissions and proposals were to be added. She asked how civil society is going to review the delayed CV and the CVs that were missed. She questioned whether the candidate proposed by DeafSA was included in the 77 candidates.
The Chairperson agreed that the meeting should now proceed along the lines as set out in the agenda.
Process for selection
The Committee was referred to the minutes of 30 November 2016.
The Chairperson then addressed the points raised so far, noting that she had received a message from the Chief of Staff from the Minister’s Office, informing her that the advertisement sent by the Department was withdrawn, and that the Department had received ten applications, which were now included in the 77 CVs. She personally had only seen advertisements in three newspapers, Isolezwe (KZN), Isolezwe (Eastern Cape) and Daily Sun, but she had expected other newspapers also.
The Committee Secretary informed members that HM Media, which is the service provider to Parliament, had forwarded a number of publications, including Rapport, City Press, and community papers; an advertisement appeared in one newspaper in each of the official languages of the country. The national papers advertised the post on 8 January 2017, and the community papers advertised later.
The Chairperson made the point that the Committee had suggested a newspaper where the advertisements should be published, only to be told that they cannot use the newspaper, and this made the Members feel undermined.
Ms C Hlophe (EFF) expressed her dissatisfaction with the fact that Members were not properly informed and were made to feel undermined, having debated the issue. Although the matter of the advertisements was now “water under the bridge”, the Daily Dispatch was the most popular newspaper in the Eastern Cape, more popular than Isolezwe (a Xhosa publication). She urged that in future, such issues would have to be looked into and lessons learn to avoid the same mistakes; it is important to involve civil society in such processes.
Ms P Kekana (ANC) mentioned that the Committee officials had done their best in making sure that the advertisements reached local media platforms. She also mentioned that the presence of the Parliamentary Monitoring Group in the meeting helped, and suggested that this organisation might also do a thorough analysis of popular newspapers in provinces, so that any Parliamentary programme could receive more coverage.
The Chairperson asked the PMG representative to convey that sentiment to PMG senior management.
Adoption of minutes
Members then adopted the minutes of 30 November 2016.
Selection process: Content Advisor Briefing
The Committee Content Advisor gave a presentation outlining the selection process. It was noted that the Committee Members had received three sets of documents. The first contained 77 CVs, the second was a summary of who the candidates are, their qualifications as well as their career experience and any other commentary. The third set was a list of all the candidates with an indication of when each CV was received. Within the file there was also a questionnaire that Members had agreed should be used during the selection process. Each candidate had been asked to complete this, and give Members a sense of what each candidate knew about gender equality, and their motivation. Although all questionnaires had been sent out to all candidates who submitted a CV, about 27 had not been returned.
The Committee staff were still waiting for feedback from civil society, and this part of the process was important as civil society would assist in providing much needed details. A current challenge is that civil society has requested additional time because there are a number of CVs.
Mr Herman Tembe, Committee Legal Advisor, added that the Committee Secretary had received an email from the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC) and Centre for Human Rights (CHR) on the public commentary period, requesting an extension for the submission of public commentary since the period of five days. The media statement calling for public commentary was released on 30 December, and the closing date for the comments was 5 January 2017.
The Chairperson reminded members that their timeframe as a Committee was to give two weeks for the advertisements and two weeks for commentary. The CVs were loaded on the Parliamentary website on the 26thJanuary but after receiving poor communication from the Committee staff the Chairperson then called the staff members and told them to inform everyone that the CVs were now on the Parliamentary website. She further mentioned that it is not true that there were only 46 CVs loaded on the 26th, but all 76 if not 77 CVs were loaded.
A Parliamentary Communications official addressed the Committee, noting that the first communication was on 11 January 2017. After the closing date for CVs and nominations, a media statement was released to inform civil society that the CVs were loaded on to the website. The first batch of around 46 CVs was uploaded, but some were received later, through the post. After 25 January some of the CVs had to be taken down and re-posted when it was realised that the telephone numbers had not been redacted. Civil society raised a concern that it had not been made entirely clear as to where the commentary should be sent. They also emphasised that the timeframe was too short. The officials had responded that they did not have authority to extend the date but would convey those concerns to the Committee Chairperson. She noted that it was not in fact indicated on the first communique that the closing date for comment was 5 February 2017.
Ms Stander pointed out that she had never been told, as a Member, that the CVs were in fact loaded on to the Parliamentary website. Had she known, she would have found time to do background checks and due diligence that all Committee members should ideally do themselves; they bore a responsibility as Members of the Committee and should not rely on the officials. She emphasised that the Committee would have to postpone the selection process, to allow further time for civil society to provide commentary and for the Committee to perform its duties, without interrupting Parliament’s programme of Women in the Presidency.
Ms van der Merwe mentioned that if civil society was saying that there was not sufficient time to comment, this was really a non-negotiable point and the Committee should concede. She suggested, given this report, that the Committee should set a date for the following week to consider the CVs and make a shortlist, having considered the civil society input.
The Committee, having discussed the matter, agreed to set aside 14 and 15 February 2017 to shortlist. Interviews would be arranged for 21 and 22 February. The report would be finalised on 23 February 2017. The closing date for public comment would be moved to 13 February 2017.
Ms Stander further made the point that some of the applicants would need to be given sufficient notice as some may need to travel. If the shortlisting were to be completed on 15 February, interviews could begin on 20 February.
Ms C Majeke (UDM) agreed. She asked whether the Chairperson would be able to notify other committees in which the Members sat of this work, and the timeframes. She agreed that account would need to be taken of how far the candidates had to travel.
The Chairperson expressed that there should not be poor communication from the officials again. She had asked the Human Resources department to verify the qualifications of the candidates, but was informed that the Department of Women in the Presidency will verify the candidates who had been shortlisted. She would be looking for support from the Committee Members; it was far preferable that the verification be done now to avoid a situation that there might be discrepancies.
Ms van der Merwe fully agreed. She felt that the HR department was undermining the process. The Department had been able to pull out all the stops during the selection process for the Public Protector.
Ms C Dudley (ACDP) said that, from a practical viewpoint, she would like to see 30 people shortlisted, then have those vetted.
The Chairperson asked that she support the Committee in the majority viewpoint.
Ms Newhoudt-Druchen confirmed that by 6 February 2017 there were 71 names on the website. She asked again if the late submissions were to be included. She reminded the Committee that she had not received an answer to her question on the DeafSA nominee.
The Chairperson mentioned that the Committee had previously agreed not to close the process to anyone, so that there would be a wider choice. She felt that any CVs delayed to date should not be automatically dismissed for that reason. There were other factors that might influence the delay, including the mail taking long.
The Committee Secretary responded to Ms Niewhoudt-Druchen that she did receive an email from DeafSA and responded to the email by pointing out that the Committee advertising process was running from 8 to 23 January 2017. She asked for proof that the nomination had indeed been made. She had not received any CV and would like to follow up.
The Chairperson asked Members t that the process in terms of Committee Advertising began on the 8th of January until 23rd January and then requested for proof of the nomination because she did not receive the CVs and will then make a follow up.
The Chairperson noted that the Committee is no longer receiving applications, but will still give consideration to any delayed CV. The Committee would also ask for proof from any candidate who claimed to have sent through a CV which had not been uploaded.
The meeting was adjourned.