The Portfolio Committee on Transport met with the Department of Transport (DoT) and the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) to deliberate on the draft of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Amendment Bill of March 2017, as earlier requested. However, the DoT and RTIA acknowledged that they had misunderstood the directives of the Committee, and said that the report contained responses to public comments on the Bill. The Committee allowed the team from DoT and RTIA to present the responses to public comments, and continued with the deliberations.
The presentations highlighted why some of the public comments from different stakeholders were accepted and why others were not. The comments of one member of the public had not been accepted, as his intention had been to market his equipment to the DoT and the RTIA, but neither had accepted his proposal.
During the deliberations, the Committee asked the DoT and RTIA to clarify why the phrase “negative and unfounded” was used in responding to some public comments, and why a status of “positive and accepted” was given to others. It said that in future, the DoT needed to sensitise the Committee about members of the public trying to market their products before their comments were captured, to ensure that it could address the issues beforehand. It sought clarity regarding the legal knowledge and capacity qualifications required of the people in charge of appeals tribunals. It appreciated the work done by the DoT on the draft AARTO Bill, and mandated it to submit the draft to the Committee on 20 June. In line with its programme, further deliberations on the draft Bill would take place on 21 June.
The Committee also received a briefing by a state legal adviser (SLA) on a letter from a DoT staff member who had questioned the Committee’s mandate to process the AARTO Bill. The SLA quoted various legal arguments show that there was nothing illegal or unconstitutional about how the Bill was being processed by the Committee. The Committee requested that the SLA should respond to the letter with the arguments given in the presentation, and resolved that steps should be taken to ensure that its image was not tarnished by people outside the Committee who did not appreciate the work it was doing.
The Committee also received Parliamentary permission for an oversight visit to the Cape Town Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) station to receive information about the fire incident which had occurred on the previous day.
The Chairperson said that Members would be deliberating on the draft of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Amendment Bill of March 2017, as the Committee had asked the Department of Transport (DoT) to consolidate the responses to comments on the bill.
Mr C Hunsinger (DA) asked for the Committee’s permission to visit the Cape Town station of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) in light of the fire incident that had occurred on the previous day.
The Chairperson asked for the Members’ opinions.
Mr T Mulaudzi (EFF) observed that a visit would be good, but advised that the Secretariat should confirm the logistics and support from Parliament.
The Committee Secretary suggested that the oversight visit could take place on 14 June between 07h00 and 10h00 during the commuter peak period, subject to Parliament’s approval. She also asked for guidance in times of times that would be suitable to Members.
The Chairperson suggested that the visit should take place immediately, subject to approval from the Chair of Chairpersons, because this was a crisis situation.
The Committee Secretary asked the Committee to allow her to engage with her manager to obtain the required approval.
Briefing by Department of Transport
Mr Sello Mokubyane, Deputy Director: Legislation, DoT, said that Mr Thabo Tsholetsane, Chief Operating Officer, Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) would be making the presentation, which would outline the status of the comments.
The Chairperson responded that although the Committee was not yet at the clause by clause vetting stage, the DoT had been expected to present a draft of the AARTO Bill to the Committee.
Mr Hunsinger agreed with the Chairperson’s submission that the DoT should present a draft, but added that the status of the comments would be helpful to the Committee.
Mr M Sibande (ANC) asked Members not to pre-empt the brief, since the DoT had already made a presentation, so deliberations would follow.
Mr Mokubyane said that the State Legal Adviser would give answers regarding the status of the draft of the AARTO Bill.
Mr Tsholetsane said that the RTIA and DoT must have misunderstood the Committee’s directives, because his brief showed the status of responses to public comments on the AARTO Bill. He highlighted why some of the public comments from different stakeholders had been accepted and why others had not been accepted. He also said that one of the members of the public, a Mr Niel Louwrens, had made some comments but these had not been accepted because he had wanted to market his equipment to the RTIA, but it had not accepted his proposal.
The Chairperson commented that the presentation sent to the Committee was elaborate but informative, and asked for Members’ views.
Mr Hunsinger acknowledged the presentation that had been sent, but said that he was curious about what the AARTO draft would look like.
Mr Sibande asked the team from the DoT and RTIA to clarify why it had responded to some public comments with the phrase, “negative and unfounded,” and why some comments were given the status of “positive and accepted.” He addressed the issue of Mr Louwrens, who had come to market his equipment to the RTIA and DoT, and said that in future the DoT needed to sensitise the Committee about such members of the public before the comments were captured, to ensure that the Committee could address the issue beforehand.
Mr T Mulaudzi (EFF) asked for clarity on the qualifications regarding the legal knowledge and capacity requirements for people in charge of appeals tribunals. He also asked about the responses to the public comments which CANCOM had made.
The Chairperson remarked that Members should be clear about the level of engagements concerning the AARTO Bill. For instance, the Committee had accepted the response of the team on the qualifications regarding the legal knowledge and capacity of persons in charge of appeals tribunals in earlier meetings. He asked the team to address the questions and concerns of Members.
Response of RTIA and DoT
Mr Tsholetsane said that the phrases used in the report were based on semantics, as the reasons for acceptance or non-acceptance had been given at earlier meetings. The phrases had therefore been used because the Committee had asked for detailed information. The legal qualification for the appeals tribunal was stated in the AARTO Act, but experience had shown that the requirements changed, so the draft AARTO Bill stated that such requirements would be gazetted, because it was easier to make changes in gazettes, as they were published often.
The Chairperson said he appreciated the work done by the DoT, and added that it was the Department’s responsibility to develop the AARTO draft Bill.
Mr Mokubyane agreed with the Committee’s submission that it was the DoT’s responsibility to develop the draft AARTO Bill, while the State Legal Adviser’s responsibility was the legislation.
The Chairperson asked for confirmation from the State Legal Adviser.
Dr Noluthando Mpikashe, State Legal Adviser accepted the submission of the Committee and the DoT.
The Chairperson asked the DoT to give an indication of the time frame required for preparation of the draft Bill.
Mr Mokubyane responded that the draft Bill would be ready for the Committee by 20 June, 2017.
The Chairperson commented that the time frame given was reasonable, as the Committee would be going on a short recess and the DoT needed to work with the Committee’s timetable. He invited the Committee Secretary to indicate the programme of the Committee.
The Committee Secretary said that the Committee had a workshop on 20 June, and suggested that Members should meet to deliberate on the draft of the Bill on 21 June, subject to Members’ approval.
The Chairperson agreed with the submission to deliberate on the draft of the Bill on 21 June, but requested the DoT to submit its presentation the previous day.
He discharged the DoT, and advised Members that Parliament had given the Committee permission to visit the Cape Town PRASA station at 12.00pm.
State Legal Adviser on process issue
Dr Mpikashe said that the Committee had asked for an opinion on a letter from Mr Stanley Mngadi, a Department of Transport official, who had been aggrieved by certain processes and procedures at the Department, and had sought relief through the Committee, but the Legal Adviser’s office had decided to give a presentation to the Committee.
Based on the letter, Mr Mngadi had some concerns, but he did not have any obligation to perform any function of cooperative governance or support spheres of governance according to Section 41, because he was not an organ of state. Hence, according to the constitution, he was not empowered to undertake any function. There was also nothing illegal or unconstitutional about how the AARTO Bill was being processed by the Committee according to law, as claimed by Mr Mngadi, because only the Executive had the power to process Bills. She cited cases that had been judged in favour of the Executive in such matters, to back up her submission. In addition, the separation of powers was not relevant in the argument advanced by Mr Mngadi, based on Section 85, Section 85(2)(d), as the Constitution vested authority on the President, acting with the Cabinet, to prepare and initiate legislation. She cited cases to support her argument.
She also disclaimed the arguments of Mr Mngadi that the Committee was not the party envisaged by Section 45 (1) to process Bills, by stating that Section 57of the Constitution provided for internal arrangements, proceedings and procedures by the National Assembly on Bills. Section 57 gave the National Assembly the power to determine and control its internal arrangements, proceedings and procedures and provided that the rules of the National Assembly must provide for the establishment, composition, powers, functions, procedures and duration of its committees. In addition, Section 57(1)(b) gave effect for the making of rules and orders. The National Assembly had a rules book and Rule 199 empowered the Speaker to establish committees, assign a portfolio of government affairs to each committee and determine the name for each committee. Therefore, because the Portfolio Committee on Transport had been established by this rule made in terms of the Constitution, the it was a constitutionally and legally established Committee.
Mr Mulaudzi observed that Mr Mngadi was always writing emails and giving negative comments, so he suggested that the State Legal Adviser (SLA) should check if he was employed. He suggested that the SLA should respond to Mr Mngadi’s letter with the arguments given in the presentation.
Mr Hunsinger said that Mr Mngadi had questioned the process used in handling the AARTO Bill and whether the Committee had the mandate to handle the Bill. However, the presentation of the SLA had shown that the process had been constitutional and that the Committee had the mandate to handle the processing of the Bill by law.
Mr Sibande asked if Mr Mngadi had been given an opportunity to make comments during the hearing.
Mr Mokubyane confirmed that Mr Mngadi had had an opportunity to make comments, but he had refused to make any.
Mr Sibande observed that Mr Mngadi was probably working on his thesis, so the SLA should confirm if he was aggrieved. He would not participate in discussions to process Bills in future if the writer repeated such conduct. He submitted that necessary steps should be taken to ensure that the image of the Committee was not tarnished by people outside the Committee who did not appreciate the work it was doing. The SLA had adequately responded to Mr Mngadi’s comments.
Mr G Radebe (ANC) said that Mr Mulaudzi was correct to submit that the Committee should respond to Mr Mngadi, and appealed to Mr Sibande not to withdraw his participation from discussions to process Bills if any writer behaved in the same manner. He remarked that according to the SLA, such conduct had occurred before, as seen in the cases cited, hence the writer’s letter was to test if the Members of the Committee had common goals. He recommended that if Mr Mngadi was on the staff of the DoT, then the Department should hold Mr Mngadi accountable for his actions.
The Chairperson resolved that the Committee should respond to Mr Mngadi’s letter with the arguments given by the SLA, and allow the DoT to address the issue. He invited the Parliamentary Liaison Officer (PLO), Mr Jomo Khasu, to comment on the matter.
Mr Khasu said that the matter would be addressed, based on the Committee’s recommendation, and a report would be sent to the Minister for Transport.
Mr Hunsinger observed that Mr Mngadi had used the DoT’s letter head, so the Department had to address the issue.
Mr Khasu noted the suggestion, and said that the issue would be reported to the Director General of the DoT.
The Chairperson advised that the Committee should not victimise Mr Mngadi for using the letterhead of the DoT, and leave the DoT to handle the matter.
Mr Radebe remarked that since Mr Mngadi had used the letterhead of the DoT, the DoT should deal with the matter to ensure that such cases were not repeated by other officials.
The Chairperson observed that the DoT had noted the submissions and asked the Committee secretary to inform Members about the logistics for the proposed oversight visit and visit to the Cape Town PRASA station.
The Committee secretary briefed the Committee on both issues.
The Chairperson said that the draft programme for the oversight visit would be distributed to Members for consideration during the Wednesday meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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