The Committee was due to discuss the Annual Report for the 2016/17 Financial Year for the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services but it was resolved that the meeting be postponed and the delegation sent back due to the lack of ministerial attendance. The Minister was in a Cabinet meeting and Members accepted this apology but could not accept the apology of the Deputy Minister. It was noted that the Deputy was attending to other government business in Gauteng even though the meeting today was communicated in a month in advance. The Committee took offence to this and found it to be indicative of the Deputy Minister not taking the NCOP seriously and prioritising other matters above engagement with the Committee. Members felt it was left with no choice but to postpone the meeting as the Minister or Deputy needed to be present to account for the important matter of the Department’s Annual Report – the Committee also wanted to send a strong message that it was not pleased.
Members also discussed its composition and the number of Members from provinces. This arose from the joining of Dr H Mateme (ANC, Limpopo) where the Committee received no communication as to who the Member was replacing other than what was contained in the ATC. The Committee suggested legal opinion be sought on how the Committee was constituted and the impact of this from a political perspective.
The Chairperson communicated apologies from the Minister who would not be able to attend the meeting because of Cabinet meeting. Apologies were also noted from the Deputy Minister. She asked the Committee if it was concerned by the absence of the Minister and the Deputy as the Annual Report was crucial and required ministerial representation to answer critical questions.
Ms Z Ncitha (ANC, Eastern Cape) understood it was Cabinet day but an invitation was sent in advance to the ministry and the Minister had once attended a Committee meeting on a Wednesday hence the Committee could not accept that apology. She felt the NCOP was not taken as seriously as the National Assembly by Ministers. The NCOP had a distinct role and the Department of Telecommunications and Post Services (DTPS) should not push the Committee to send the delegates back until they came with ministerial representation.
Mr J Julius (DA, Gauteng) asked whether the Minister and the Deputy actually gave the apologies. He asked if there was in fact a Cabinet meeting and whether this meeting was every Wednesday or every second Wednesday – he was aware of every second Wednesday. It seemed to be the norm for ministerial representation to skip meetings and it showed that Ministers regarded the Committee to not be as important as Cabinet meetings.
Dr H Mateme (ANC, Limpopo), subject to correct judgment, was aware that Deputy Ministers did not form part of Cabinet - this meant the Deputy had to perform certain duties in the absence of the Minister. The apology of the Deputy Minister was thus unacceptable.
Mr E Mlambo (ANC, Gauteng) suggested the Committee meeting be called off because throughout the year Members had been singing the same song and they needed to take a step and ask for ministerial presence.
Mr O Sefako (ANC, Free State) said that as the Committee dealt with provinces, ministerial representation was paramount so that the correct authorities could demystify myths surrounding pertinent issues like grants failing to reach poor people. Bearing in mind that the Committee could be harsh, it could also be costly as some of the delegates had flown to attend the meeting. Ministerial representation was important and this should be communicated to the Minister. He appealed to Members for the meeting to continue.
Mr C Smit (DA, Limpopo) seconded the suggestion of Mr Mlambo for the meeting to be postponed until there was ministerial representation to answer to the Committee.
Mr A Singh (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) felt the Committee needed to send a message that it was as important as the National Assembly and the Deputy Minister should have been present.
The Chairperson asked the Parliamentary Liaison Officer (PLO) to communicate where the Deputy Minister was before a decision could be made.
Vukani Mthembu, PLO, Ministry of Telecommunications and Postal Services, checked with the office of the Deputy Minister and it was communicated that the Deputy Minister had other government engagements in Gauteng.
Mr Mlambo found this communication not to be an apology – the Committee needed to take a position and send a very strong message.
Dr Mateme found the communication from the PLO to translate to the engagement with the Committee being less important. Cabinet functioned in clusters - her view was that either a Minister or the Deputy from the same cluster should respect Parliament.
Mr Julius suggested a comparison of the apology given by the Deputy Minister and what was communicated by the PLO to see if the reasons for the absence of the Deputy were the same.
The Chairperson asked the Committee Secretary to check when and if the Deputy Minister’s apology was communicated.
Ms Ncitha found the matter of the apology to be making the situation worse as the Committee was dealing with the Department’s Annual Report and there was nothing more important than the Minister coming to account for the Department. The Deputy Minister showed that he prioritised other matters.
The Chairperson said the DG was putting the Committee in a difficult situation. The PLO tried to communicate with her the day before but she was in and out of meetings. The Chairperson expressed discomfort in sending the DTPS delegation back but argued there was no other choice given in the situation. The matter of Ministers not attending Committee meetings was raised and it was on the Deputy President’s checklist meaning the Committee had to report this incident. The Committee did not exist for the convenience of the Ministers but to perform oversight duties. A decision to send a financially struggling Department back because of this would not be her doing as the Committee is there to keep the Executive to account. Apologies for the Deputy Minister’s absence due to other governmental engagements was sent the day before.
Mr Julius said it needed to be stated clearly that the apology was not accepted.
The Chairperson ruled to proceed with the meeting.
Mr Mlambo asked the Committee Secretary to check and communicate when the invite to the Ministry and the Department was sent.
The PLO communicated that the invite was sent a month prior.
Mr Mlambo argued that Parliament had to be prioritised above departmental issues. He did not accept what was happening.
Mr Sefako proposed that the meeting continue – he did not want to suppress important issues so he withdrew his earlier suggestion that the meeting be postponed.
Dr Mateme stressed the importance of the Annual Report and wondered how the Department planned to conclude its year if it did not want to choke and inform the Committee how matters were throughout the year. She expressed disappointment at the level of accountability that was being shown to the responsibility given. A strong signal should be sent.
The Chairperson agreed with Members that the Department be sent back - the leadership will be told why this was done.
Mr Julius asked the Chairperson if she full heartily agreed with the Committee on this decision.
The Chairperson agreed as it was one of the reasons she stressed the importance of apologies.
Adoption of Committee Minutes
Draft Committee Minutes dated 4 October 2017
Mr Sefako moved for the adoption of the minutes.
Mr Mlambo seconded the motion.
Draft Committee minutes dated 4 October 2017 were adopted.
Draft Committee Minutes dated 18 October 2017
Mr Julius queried why the responses from the discussion on this meeting date was not recorded and said this had to be rectified. He also queried the use of the term “unanimously” and suggested a lighter term be used as the Committee welcomed the ideas but not unanimously.
Mr Mlambo (ANC) (Gauteng) moved for adoption of the draft minutes with amendments.
Mr Julius seconded the motion.
Draft Committee minutes dated 18 October 2017 were adopted with amendments.
Draft Committee Minutes dated 1 November 2017
Mr Julius again queried the use of the term “unanimously” and suggested it be removed. He also found the response of the DG not to be representative. He suggested detailed responses be recorded in the minutes.
The Committee Secretary indicated that in instances where responses were clear it was reflected in the minutes but this was not so when the responses were less clear.
Mr Julius suggested the minutes be sent back so that it could be corrected.
Mr Sefako proposed that the Secretary and Content Advisor see to it that the minutes are well consolidated.
Dr Mateme found the minutes not to be representative and agreed with the view that minutes must correctly reflect proceedings.
Mr Julius queried the matter of Committee composition because Members were not informed of Dr Mateme joining the Committee and who she was replacing. He was of the view that she was replacing Mr P Parkies (ANC, Free State) but clarity on this was needed.
The Chairperson did not receive any correspondence other than communication from the Committee Secretary that Dr Mateme be welcomed as a new Member.
The Committee Secretary noted the information contained in the ATC signaled that Dr Mateme was the new Member of the Committee.
Mr Mlambo suggested the Committee seek advice on how it was constituted in terms of the number of Members from provinces, if the current number of Committee Members was sufficient and the impact of this from a political perspective.
The Committee Secretary indicated that Mr Parkies was made an Alternate Member but she had not received any communication other than what was contained in the ATC.
Mr Mlambo suggested the Committee receive the correct information from the legal section on this matter.
Mr Julius also asked to check for a Member from Free State.
Draft Committee Minutes dated 8 November 2017
Mr Singh moved for adoption of the draft Committee minutes dated 8 November 2017.
Mr Sefako seconded the motion.
Draft Committee Minutes dated 8 November 2017.
Adoption of the Report of the Select Committee on Communication and Public Enterprises on Oversight Visit to Broadband Infraco (BBI), Eskom, South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and Transnet, dated 14 - 18 August 2017
Mr O Sefako (ANC) (Free State) moved to adopt the report.
Mr Julius suggested that the observation on Transet be preceded by a note that the Committee went there and found no one. He then seconded adoption of the draft minutes.
Report of the Select Committee on Communication and Public Enterprises on Oversight Visit to Broadband Infraco (BBI), Eskom, South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and Transnet, dated 14 - 18 August 2017, was adopted with amendments.
The Chairperson communicated that she had phoned the Minister – the Minister was at the Cabinet meeting and was under the impression that the Deputy would attend the Committee meeting. The Minister asked if the DTPS delegation could be accommodated but she communicated the Committee’s resolve.
Mr Mlambo said it seemed there was honesty on the part of the Minister. The Committee accepted the apology but was disappointed in the Deputy Minister.
The meeting was adjourned.
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