The Committee was provided with a short run down on how the South African Police Services (SAPS) perceived the Foreign Service Bill. SAPS agreed with the Bill. Initially, SAPS had concerns with the definition of “employee” in the Bill - the definition made mention of the Public Service Act however SAPS members at missions were employed in terms of the South African Police Services Act. The definition was amended to include the SAPS members and it was thus no longer an issue.
Members were informed that SAPS Liaison Officers worked on a daily basis with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO). The objectives of the Bill were supported. SAPS were satisfied that there was one set of rules applicable to everyone. SAPS members deployed at missions liaised with various persons such as DIRCO, the Department of Home Affairs etc and hence a standard set of regulations for all was needed. The head of the mission needed to coordinate everyone. SAPS Liaison Officers needed everyone’s assistance abroad. Having the same guidelines and rules for everyone was a positive way forward. The principle of one mission in the Bill was considered good and was supported.
The Committee was disappointed that a proper presentation document had not accompanied the oral briefing made by SAPS. A one page document handed out for perusal was not deemed sufficient but was nevertheless accepted. SAPS were asked to provide the Committee with a comprehensive presentation document speaking to each of the clauses of the Bill and to address issues that Members raised in the meeting. Members felt that SAPS speaking to each of the clauses of the Bill would highlight the clauses that it supported as well as those that it perhaps had issues with. The document should be provided to the Committee in due course. Members did appreciate the fact that the SAPS had no objections to the Bill and supported it. Members however asked for greater detail on the deployment of SAPS members at missions. What qualifications were needed in order for a SAPS member to be deployed at missions? Members also asked what kind of SAPS members were needed at missions. Did all missions have SAPS members? SAPS were further asked whether its members were provided with training to understand issues of national interest. Members asked whether SAPS members were deployed at missions by the Service itself or simply reported daily activities to SAPS. SAPS were also asked what happened to its members at missions that needed to be disciplined - who disciplined SAPS members deployed at missions? Would SAPS members be disciplined in terms of the South African Police Services Act or the Public Service Act? Members asked if the head of the mission had authority over the disciplinary action. The Committee asked SAPS to provide it with greater detail on its personnel, asset management and other issues. The detail could be included in the presentation document to be forwarded to the Committee.
The Committee Content Adviser raised matters which Members could raise on the Bill. The first was that the Bill only made mention of immoveable assets - movables were dealt with in terms of a Memorandum of Understanding with the DIRCO. The second issue was around what happened to employees of other departments at missions who were involved in disciplinary matters. The concern was that when employees of departments were deployed at missions they acquired diplomatic immunity.
The Committee agreed to defer the consideration of its Draft Report on the Committees visit to the Pan African Parliament (PAP) in order to allow Members to make recommendations to it.
The delegation from the South African Police Services (SAPS) comprised of Brigadier Jean Slabbert, from SAPS Legal Services, and Ms Doreen Edwards from the Interpol Unit within SAPS. Brig Slabbert extended apologies for the Minister of Police and Acting National Commissioner of Police for their absence.
The Chairperson said that the Committee intended to invite Ministers within the Security Cluster i.e. the Minister of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) and Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development to the Committee. Ministers had agreed to the invitation by the Committee. He noted that the single page document handed out to Members by SAPS for perusal did not have a letterhead of the SAPS on it as well as lacking other detail which headings of presentations should have. The Committee would for now accept the document but a proper presentation should be provided to the Committee in due course.
Brig Slabbert apologised for the oversight on the side of SAPS. He was not aware that SAPS needed to do a full presentation since it agreed to the Bill. The single page document was actually an email which Ms Edwards had sent outlining some of the issues pertaining to the Bill.
Mr S Maila (ANC) said the apology by SAPS sufficed.
Mr M Lekota (COPE) agreed that the single page document did not look official as it lacked the SAPS letterhead amongst other things.
Ms D Raphuti (ANC) also agreed that the single page document should have a letterhead and said SAPS should effect the necessary additions to it.
The Chairperson suggested that the single page document should have a SAPS letterhead, a topic/subject, a date and a signature attached to it.
Brig Slabbert endeavoured to send a proper presentation to the Committee.
The Chairperson noted that all submissions from departments on the Bill would be considered by the Committee. These would then be sent back to departments and thereafter would also be forwarded to DIRCO.
Briefing by the Department of Police on the Foreign Service Bill
Brig Slabbert provided the Committee with a short run down on how SAPS perceived the Bill - SAPS agreed with the Bill. Initially, SAPS had concerns over the definition of “employee” in the Bill - the definition made mention of the Public Services Act however SAPS members at missions were employed in terms of the South African Police Services Act. The definition was amended to include the SAPS members and it was thus no longer an issue.
Ms Edwards added that SAPS Liaison Officers worked with DIRCO on a daily basis. The objectives of the Bill were supported. SAPS was satisfied that there was one set of rules applicable to everyone. SAPS members deployed at missions liaised with various persons i.e. DIRCO, the Department of Home Affairs etc hence a standard set of regulations for all was needed. The head of the mission needed to coordinate everyone. SAPS Liaison Officers needed everyone’s assistance abroad. Having the same guidelines and rules for everyone was a positive way forward. The principle of one mission in the Bill was considered good and was supported.
Mr Lekota said that it was clear that there were no objections to the Bill. The definition of “employee” covered all mission staff. There seemed to be no problem on the Bill.
Ms S Kalyan (DA) pointed out that the presentation document was sketchy and did not give an indication of how many people were deployed abroad and what their capability was. What were the qualifications and nature of the people at missions? She asked how many people were employed. What kind of personnel was deployed? She also asked if all missions had SAPS members - she could not get a handle on what the SAPS’ deployment was.
Ms Edwards explained that there were 24 SAPS Liaison Officers deployed across 190 offices of Interpol. There were three-year terms for the SAPS officers. The recruitment process was open. SAPS members were required to pass DIRCO examinations and pass top security clearance. Determinations of which countries to deploy to involved high level discussions. A country could either be added to the list of deployments or a mission could be closed down - this decision was not taken lightly. She reiterated that the member needed to get top security clearance. Profile and security checks were done. The Director General of the DIRCO would also have a say in the deployment of a SAPS member - it was not only a SAPS decision.
The Chairperson asked if SAPS members were also trained, even at elementary level, to understand matters of national interests. Were SAPS members walked through this?
Ms Edwards pointed out that this was exactly what the DIRCO exam was all about. The exam covered economics, the State of the Nation Address (SONA), the workings of DIRCO as well as other aspects relating to national interests. There was also political, social and economic training. The training programme lasted three weeks. Perhaps in time to come DIRCO would send SAPS members through its diplomatic academy.
Mr S Maila (ANC) felt that SAPS needed to take the Committee through the Bill clause by clause. In this way SAPS could state what it agreed with or did not agree with. He noted that Clause 6 spoke about the diplomatic academy of DIRCO. He asked whether the diplomatic academy provided training to SAPS. The last line of the presentation document stated, “The Bill, if amended, will ensure a more effective and well managed deployment of SAPS Human Resources and Assets abroad” – what was meant by “if amended”?
Ms D Raphuti (ANC) agreed with what SAPS presented. She asked under which categories SAPS members deployed at missions fell under.
Mr L Mpumlwana (ANC), in as much as he agreed with what SAPS had presented, needed clarification on the question of employment - were deployed personnel employed by SAPS and did they report to the SAPS on their daily activities? He asked what happened when members of SAPS, deployed at missions, had to be disciplined. Did these SAPS members enjoy having diplomatic immunity? Who disciplined them? He asked how the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) affected employees of SAPS. How far were SAPS members given authority? He agreed with the Committee that a clause by clause presentation on the Bill by SAPS would be useful.
Ms T Kenye (ANC) concurred with the Committee that SAPS should go through the Bill clause by clause giving an indication of where it felt there were gaps. This should be included in the presentation document to be provided to the Committee. Were the challenges identified in the single page document provided to the Committee speaking to challenges currently faced or were they challenges that pertained to the Bill? She added that Clause 4 of the Bill spoke about instructions by the Director General of DIRCO to the heads of missions.
Mr Lekota highlighted that SAPS members were needed at missions. The political head of the mission was the ambassador. SAPS members deployed at missions were paid by their respective department and not DIRCO. SAPS members at missions were only under the guidance of the heads of missions. Hence if there was disciplinary of a SAPS member at a mission then it was not the responsibility of the head of the mission. The SAPS member had to be disciplined by the SAPS. The Committee needed to appreciate the dynamic of departments who supported the DIRCO at missions.
The Chairperson noted that he was covered to a certain extent by comments made by the Committee. He was also in agreement that a clause by clause presentation by SAPS would shed light on clauses the Service wholly supported or where it had issues. There needed to be clarity on who did what. For example he knew that the Department of Public Works was responsible for the upkeep and purchasing of properties that missions were housed in. In the same way SAPS had its own specialised role. There was an understanding that personnel from different departments deployed at missions reported to the head of the mission. There was a need for regulation. The Committee had to be enlightened by SAPS in its presentation about its personnel, asset management etc. He was aware that DIRCO had an asset register of its own assets. Each department however had its own assets that personnel took along with them. Even SAPS had sensitive equipment which it most probably took along to missions. SAPS were asked to include these types of information in the presentation which it was to forward to the Committee.
Brig Slabbert explained that the single page document handed out to the Committee was in fact an internal communication between Interpol staff within the SAPS. He reiterated that SAPS agreed with the Bill. SAPS would provide the Committee with a proper presentation in which it would also deal with issues raised.
Ms M Mothapo (ANC) asked whether it was correct that SAPS members deployed at missions would be employed in terms of the Public Service Act as amended. Was it correct, as Mr Lekota stated, that if a SAPS member at a mission committed an offence, SAPS would deal with the matter? The heads of missions would not have the authority to deal with it. Was it correct that the provisions of the South African Police Service Act would be applicable? She was under the impression that the Public Service Act would be applicable in all circumstances. SAPS were asked to clarify.
Brig Slabbert said that SAPS’ members at missions were employed in terms of the South African Police Services Act. There had initially been concerns that SAPS were not covered by the Bill but the Bill now covered SAPS. SAPS were excited about things coming together. The head of a mission was the head of the unit - SAPS had no problem reporting to the head of a mission. All departments at missions represented SA and hence he did not foresee any problems. If there should be any problems between a SAPS member and a head of a mission it could be sorted out by those in charge i.e. the National Commissioner of Police and Director General of the DIRCO.
Mr Mpumlwana said that it was all good and well that Mr Lekota gave an explanation based on his own opinion but it was the explanation from SAPS that the Committee wished to have. If SAPS were unable to explain at present then it should include the explanation in the presentation to be forwarded to the Committee.
The Chairperson said that when a member of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) committed an offence then it was handled internally and not by a civilian court. SAPS needed to clarify who handled matters of its members when it came to disciplinaries etc.
Brig Slabbert pointed out that the only problem that the SAPS did have with the Bill was on the definition of an employee. However the SAPS were now satisfied with the definition. He said that criminal acts by SAPS members were covered by the Criminal Procedure Act. On disciplinary matters the National Commissioner of Police could take action and recall members from missions and hence discipline them. The SAPS had no problem with that. Clause 5 of the Bill made provision for members of the SAPS to be recalled from missions for disciplinary matters.
Mr N Paulsen (EFF) asked whether the Committee was giving SAPS the option of being disciplined by SAPS itself or by the head of the mission.
The Chairperson answered that the Committee was doing no such thing – all it was doing was providing context of how other departments dealt with issues such as disciplinaries etc. There could be Memorandums of Understandings (MOUs) between DIRCO and other departments. It was however important for the Committee to get the views of SAPS on each clause of the Bill, especially those clauses that it perhaps had had issues with.
Ms Dineo Mosala, Committee Content Adviser, wished to highlight some issues that Members might raise on the Bill. The first issue was that the Bill only referred to immovable property which was under the control of the Department of Public Works. With regards to moveable assets there was a MoU with DIRCO. The second issue was about what happened at disciplinary hearings of employees of other departments besides those of SAPS. She noted that employees transferred to missions became a diplomat and hence enjoyed diplomatic immunity in terms of the Vienna Convention.
Mr Kgabo Mahoai, Acting Director General, DIRCO, explained that when departmental personnel, for instance from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) or SAPS were deployed at missions, they were called attaches. If persons were posted at missions as diplomats then they enjoyed immunities. However if these individuals were recalled from duty then the original legislation came into play. For example, if a member of the SANDF was recalled, the Defence Act came into play. The Bill intended to regulate circumstances for DIRCO. Departments like the DHA and SAPS were not actually present at missions but only provided a service. The personnel were thus SAPS attaches or DHA attaches. An attaché was the lowest ranking. These attaches were still paid their South African salaries by their respective departments. They were, in terms of the Bill, given allowances for costs of living abroad. If disciplinary issue came up, they were sent back to SA and it was dealt with by therespective departments.
Draft Report on the Committee’s Oversight Visit to the Pan African Parliament (PAP)
The Committee agreed to defer consideration of the Draft Report in order for Members to make recommendations on it.
The meeting was adjourned.
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