Minister of Environmental Affairs & Minister of Mineral Resources Progress Reports

NCOP Petitions and Executive Undertakings

21 February 2018
Chairperson: Mr D Ximbi (Western Cape, ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Select Committee met to consider progress reports on Executive Undertakings made by the Minister of Environmental Affairs and the Minister of Mineral Resources in October 2015.

The Minister of Environmental Affairs responded questions raised by the Committee regarding the executive undertakings made on 27 October 2015. The Minister indicated that she would provide an update on three matters: planning for the future, the campaign that would bring job opportunities and find new partners, and the commitment to save resources. The Minister explained that the Working on Fire programme was part of the Extended Public Works Programme, targeting the disadvantaged participants and communities for training as part of the operational plan of the Department. It was an ongoing programme that differed on an annual basis regarding the targeted numbers for the programme. The Minister talked about manhours of involvement in Working on Fire. As evidence of the success of the Working on Fire programme, she announced that 207 people had voluntarily resigned in the previous year to take up better opportunities. The Minister informed the Committee that research had shown that fire bombs were too expensive, and that the Department had abandoned that programme, but she pointed out that the fire-fighters did make use of fire-retardant chemicals in their operations. Fire-fighters they were currently using world standard chemicals that had proved to be effective. Working on Fire teams had been called to assist internationally in fire-fighting situations.

Members demanded specific numbers of people involved in the EPWP programme and not the manhours of training as that was a departmental scorecard matter. The Member asked for clarity on the issue of the loss of helicopters and the cost of helicopters because that question had not been answered in the previous session. Was funding sufficient for the working-on-fire programme for the year ahead? What challenges was the Department experiencing and what outcomes had they achieved regarding the training programme?  Another Member asked whether the Department worked with labour brokers in finding employment for those who had been trained. The same Member asked for an analysis of the 207 people in terms of why they had resigned and what they were currently doing. She believed that they were sitting at home.

Members were not happy with the responses of the Minister of Environmental affairs, noting her unpreparedness regarding her answers to the Committee.

The Minister of Mineral Resources also responded to some of the questions in respect of executive undertakings that had been made by the Minister on 27 October 2015. The responses focussed on the filling the positions for the Board of Directors of the South African Diamond and Precious Metals Regulator (SADPMR). The composition of the Board had taken into account that the Department was committed to transformation of the industry and had ensured, through the guidance of an independent selection panel, that competent men and women with requisite expert industry skills had been shortlisted and appointed from the pool of 84 nominations. Stakeholders in the diamond industry had been invited to the meetings of different Board sub-committees to ensure inclusivity and to encourage them to contribute positively towards industry development and transformation. He assured the Committee that the Board was addressing challenges, including the barriers to entering the jewellery manufacturing industry, as well as the declining beneficiation in the sector. Beneficiation provided opportunities for the growth and sustainability of the mining sector and should be supported by all.
 

A Member asked for details of the resource capital goods development strategy and the feasibility study of producing iron and titanium from Bushveld Magnet Heights. The lack of information suggested that nothing had happened since 2015. What projects had actually been implemented? Another Member asked why it had taken so long to make appointments to the Board.

The Chairperson took the opportunity to talk about the backlog in the Committee work in respect of dealing with petitions to Parliament.  It was a huge burden on the Committee. There was backlog of 60 petitions from the Fourth Parliament and 30 petitions in the current Parliament. Investigation into the matter showed that many of the petitions should not have been accepted as they did not meet the requirements for a petition to Parliament. Since proper scrutinizing had been implemented in November 2017, only one petition had been sent to the Committee.  Plans were discussed for evaluating the backlog of petitions and using extraordinary measures, as per Rule 91, for the Chairperson and one other person to go to provinces and deal with batches of cases there.  Other petitions would be forwarded to the relevant Departments.

Meeting report

Opening Remarks

The Chairperson welcomed all present at the meeting. He announced that the purpose of the meeting was the consideration of Progress Reports on Executive Undertakings made by the Minister of Environmental Affairs and the Minister of Mineral Resources in a question session on 27 October 2015. The Committee did not need a quorum for the meeting, and the agenda was taken as published. He welcomed the Ministers and thanked them for availing themselves for the meeting. 

Progress Report on Executive Undertakings made by the Minister of Environmental Affairs (question session on 27 October 2015)

Ms Edna Molewa, Minister of Environmental Affairs, thanked the Chairperson and the Committee for inviting her to respond to issues that had been raised previously, and also about her responses on 27 October 2017, during the question and answer session in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). She understood that Committee Members required an update on three matters: The first matter related to the planning as contained in the letter. Secondly, there was the issue about the campaign that would bring job opportunities and finding new partners. The third issue was about the need for a commitment to save resources.

Minister Molewa explained that the Working on Fire programme was a programme based in the Department of Environmental Affairs and was part of the Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP).  Its aim in its initial conceptualisation was to ensure that the Department offered employment and training to those people not able to secure jobs in the formal sector. By definition, the programme targeted the disadvantaged participants and communities for training by the Department. It was never intended as a once-off programme as indicated in the question and answer session. It was always part of the operational plan of the Department. What differed on an annual basis was the targeted numbers for the programme. In the 2016/17 financial year, a total of 70 087 training person-days was delivered, of which 25 863 person-days were accredited training.  Training person-days referred to training even when employees were not putting out fires.  Every year the Department allocated accredited training targets. For the current year, the plan was to get about 5 200 people into the Working on Fire (WoW) programme.  31% of those people were to be women and 95% would be young people, which was the target. Across the world that was the highest target for women in working on fire programmes as in most cases women were not appointed because it was an intensive training programme. However, South African women did well on the programme.

Minister Molewa explained that the second part of the update was about a campaign for job opportunities aimed at finding new partners with effective and wide-ranging training programs that, when implemented, actually resulted in a highly trained and motivated workforce that could access other work opportunities and skills that were transferable to other work opportunities. The most recent report to the Working on Fire Oversight Committee on the 7 February 2018, indicated that the number of people that had resigned from the programme to date, during 2017/18 financial year, for better employment opportunities stood at 207. That was indicative of the fact that better skills were developed in that programme.

Besides, further job opportunities were being created by forming base partnerships with public and private entities, including local authorities. An enabling environment was also created through the partner agencies. The partnering led to a range of contributions that was not limited to financial contributions but included logistical support and infrastructural management of fire-fighting teams. In fact, that meant that the Department's investment into the Working on Fire programme was enhanced, thus reaching more participants. One of the outcomes of the programme was that a number of the workers had gone to pilot training and they had produced a solo pilot that year. The Minister emphasised that those workers had learnt a lot of entrepreneurial skills as well as many other skills.

Minister Molewa noted that she had been asked to respond to the matter of the development of a foam bomb to extinguish fires, but because she was not in the operational space, the Minister regretted that she had not responded and, having gone back to the Department, she had found out that the fire bomb was not operating.  They were still researching the matter, and it was not the first time they had researched the issue. It was something that Working on Fire had been involved in formally as far as research and investigation was concerned. The Department had found that the cost involved in that kind of mechanism was prohibitively high. One should remember that when it came to those technologies, there was quite a selection of technologies and experts had to decide what the best technology to use was. It was also worth noting that, in many cases, municipalities purchased a fire retardant additive which was provided to the Working on Fire response workers to use in the water buckets employed for aerial fire-fighting efforts. Working on Fire did use chemicals, but not that particular one because it was found to be cost prohibitive. The kind of fire retardant used were chemicals that allowed them not to come back many times to a particular fire, because it worked and put out fires. The Department was, therefore, satisfied with the chemicals that were used by working on fire teams operating on the ground. The chemicals that they used were of world standard.  Members would recall that the Working on Fire teams had been called to assist internationally. Therefore, since the issue of developing a foam bomb was cost prohibitive, and they were currently using world standard chemicals that had proved to be effective, Working on Fire was not pursuing that part. 

Discussion

Ms B Engelbrecht (Gauteng, DA) asked the Minister to translate the manhours of people being trained into the number of people because the Minister was talking about 20 878 manhours of training. Could she please translate that into people? 

Ms Engelbrecht asked for clarity on the issue of the loss of helicopters and the cost of helicopters because the Minister had not answered that question in the previous session. Also, was funding sufficient for the Working on Fire programme for the year ahead? What challenges were they experiencing and what outcomes had they achieved regarding the training programme?  The Minister had focussed on the fact that there were training programmes but not the outcomes.  It cost a lot of money from the fiscus, and the Committee needed to know whether it was something that the Committee should support.

Ms T Mokwele (North West, EFF) thanked the Minister for coming to respond to the Committee. She was concerned though about the attendance of Members of the Committee, especially from the ruling party, which rendered their work useless. There were only three members in attendance at the meeting. The Committee insisted that Members of the Executive reported to them, but then Members of the Committee did not attend.

The Chairperson indicated that he would take note of the concern.

Ms Mokwele asked the Minister how often the Department interacted with the stakeholders and how they ensured that people that they had trained in the programme obtained permanent employment. How many people were finding employment? How often did the Department refer trained people to private agencies?  She was concerned that that would promote labour broking. How did the Department interact with other relevant departments to absorb trained people into permanent employment in those departments? Government could not train people and after training those people sat at home and did nothing or were exposed to labour brokers.

Ms G Oliphant (Northern Cape, ANC) noted that there were issues with the programming that meant Members were unable to attend the Select Committee meetings. Members did attempt to prioritise. She asked whether the 31% mentioned by the Minister in 2016/17 met the target for the people to be trained.  Could the Department not increase the target for women training in the programme?

Minister Molewa said that she had covered some of the issues in her opening response. She had read out responses to the questions, but the issue of helicopters was not part of the original questions which had come up in their previous meeting. Maybe it would come up and she would deal with it when it came up. She had only responded to the issue of helicopters in her notes of 27 October 2017, and she had made a note then that it had not been not part of the original questions. But she had responded that the Department had highly trained helicopter firefighters, which she was repeating. The Department was very proud of them.  She acknowledged that the Department had suffered several losses of helicopters, but it was not an easy job. She did not want to comment further without a report on the matter from her Department. The issue about funding of helicopters was a similar matter and she proposed to handle it in a similar way.

Minister Molewa said that the concern raised by the EFF and the possibility of trained people being referred to labour brokers was also quite a concern for the Department. Indeed, Members would all remember how the country had dealt with the issue of labour brokering. However, there was a difference between labour brokering and private sector employment. There was also a difference between private sector employment, labour brokering and self-employment. It should be noted that, at the meeting that was held in 7 February 2018, it was reported that the programme had had 207 resignations. A resignation meant that a person had chosen to resign because he/she had better employment elsewhere. Those trained people had not been moved by the Minister or the Department to another position. So, there was never a stage where the Department had taken anybody anywhere. But there were instances where the Department had engaged with partner agencies who were not labour brokers but private employers, or with other Departments which had opportunities available to employ trained people.

She noted that the Education Department undertook Basic Education and her Department took people further. Members could look back at previous Annual Reports to see the number of people who had resigned in previous years. Therefore, their role as a Department in the Work on Fire programme was to train and capacitate people to look for better opportunities elsewhere.

Minister Molewa explained how they interacted with other departments to employ trained people from their programme.  People also looked for employment on their own because they were capacitated, and they could be absorbed, even if it was in the Public Works Department.  Some of them had been trained in leadership so as to be able to get into any space in any department. The Department trained in a number of fields from management and leadership training to basic comprehension. The Department continued with engagements with other stakeholders without saying they should take trained people. It should also be noted that a decision had been taken as Government, and which had gone through NEDLAC processes, on how to deal with labour brokers. Therefore, they treated everything about labour brokers in accordance with the standards set at NEDLAC.

The issue of 31% women was well understood because there was a target in Government of 50% employment of women. It was a reachable target and the Department was looking forward to increasing the number of women in the Working on Fire programme. But if Members looked at the number worldwide, it was still a relatively good number, and amongst the best in terms of women in Working on Fire programmes.

The Chairperson thanked the Minister for her responses.

Ms Engelbrecht stated that the Minister had not answered her questions. She had asked about the outcomes of the programme, 20 878 men hours trained people which should be translated to the number of people.

The Chairperson was not sure that Ms Engelbrecht’s question related to the information the Minister was asked to supply.

Ms Engelbrecht explained that she was asking for clarification of a response made by the Minister.  20 878 man-hours. What did that mean in terms of the number of people?

Minister Molewa responded that it was man-hours, and that was how it was counted. The Department could not count half men. She could not state how many people it represented as there was a specific methodology of measurement in EPWP. She could only answer in term of the EPWP methodology of counting. In terms of the outcomes, the programme was effective. It was a good programme and well supported. 207 people had resigned to take up jobs.  The people had saved a tremendous amount by keeping fires away from people and buildings.  The Minister would send a document to the Members which indicated the value of the programmes so that Members could evaluate the impact of the programme for themselves. The mere fact that National Treasury put money into the programme meant that it was effective. It was not enough money, but it was what government could afford. It was one of the Government programmes that employed people on a permanent basis.

Ms Mokwele noted that the Minister could give no details of where the 207 people who had resigned had gone to. She did not believe that the Minister could actually account for the success of the programme.  Her real concern was the absorption of large numbers of people by government departments and the question of labour brokering.  The people were not going to proper employment agencies.  As the Minister had said, the Department took vulnerable people, invested in them, trained them and gave them the necessary skills and then it was up to them where they went.  Members could not get the gist of the benefit of the programme.  Government could liaise and find employment for people. How many of the 207 had permanent employment, how many had been absorbed in a department and how many were sitting at home doing nothing?  The Minister could provide answers later. Ms Mokwele knew that when the Committee did oversight visits, they found a lot of cases about the Working for Fire programme and people were not satisfied about employment opportunities.  When the Minister investigated what had happened to the people, she would find out what people were saying about the programme.

Ms Engelbrecht asked the Committee to note her unhappiness with the Minister for not answering her questions. It seemed the Minister had come to the meeting unprepared because she had not responded clearly to her questions. The Minister’s answers were no different from the earlier ones. She had given no statistics. She had come back to tell the Committee about how many people had been trained but she could not explain about the manhours and she was using 207 resignations as an indication that the program was effective. Ms Engelbrecht understood the explanation regarding the helicopters, although it had been in the questions. The Minister had given nothing new and it was totally unacceptable that a Minister could come before the Committee and not give new information or answered the questions that were put to her. It was unacceptable. That was why the ANC was in a mess and those Ministers should be replaced.

The Chairperson said that concern would be noted. He invited the Minister to respond.

Minister Molewa explained that the programme was not like the Working on Wetlands programme where a job was undertaken and completed. The question that she had been answering was about Working on Fire, where if there was a resignation, it meant that the person had a better opportunity.  Each of the 207 people who had resigned, had said that they had a better opportunity for employment.  That was the figure that the Department had given her. She did not see how or why the Department should follow those people. Those who remained in employment were kept in the programme. She asked the EFF to provide the names of the people that she had met on the oversight visit who were dissatisfied with the programme and who might have left for their own reasons. The Department trained people so that they could find job opportunities.

She did not know how to respond to the question raised by the DA Member.  She wanted to answer with respect and she demanded respect from the Member of the DA. She demanded that they all listen to each other because if Members had listened, they would have heard, but she would take them back.  It was about the format in which people counted manhours. She would go and create the half-people and send the response to the Committee, but she had responded according to how the Department accounted for training.  She would not get into an altercation.

Ms Oliphant wanted to understand whether she was in the wrong Committee. In that Committee, Members were like sisters and brothers and there was no DA, no EFF and no ANC, but it was not right for someone to say that that was why the ANC was in a mess. The ANC did not run around trying to get votes that way.

The Chairperson thanked Minister Molewa for availing herself to provide a progress report on questions posed by the Committee.

The Minister said that in his summary, the Chairperson could indicate that she had asked the EFF Member to provide a list of names, but that she did not know what the DA Member was asking her to do.

Ms Mokwele indicated that she would provide the names of all the people that the EFF had engaged with who had problems with the Working on Fire programme.

The Chairperson again thanked the Minister and suggested that she could provide the Committee with the number of people involved in the programme.

The Chairperson invited Minister of Mineral Resources to address the Committee on Progress Report on the Executive Undertaking made by the Minister on 27 October 2015.

Progress Report on Executive Undertakings made by the Minister of Mineral Resources (question session on 27 October 2015)

Mr Mosebenzi Zwane, Minister of Mineral Resources thanked the Chairperson and the Committee for inviting him to explain how far the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) had gone since their last discussion on 27 October 2015. Following that meeting the Department had undergone a process of filling the positions for the Board of Directors of the South African Diamond and Precious Metals Regulator (SADPMR). The public call for nominations of suitable candidates to serve on the board was made in the newspapers with national coverage and had been open for a period of two weeks. After two weeks, a total number of 84 nominations had been received from that process. Then he had appointed an independent panel in line with the provisions of Section 17(4) of the Diamond Act. The skills and expertise of the five independent panel included legal and corporate governance experience, as well as knowledge and understanding of the diamond industry. Subsequent to that process a Board was appointed for a period of three years, from 1 November 2016 until 31 October 2019.

Minister Zwane said the composition of the Board took into account that the Department was committed to transformation of the industry and had ensured, through the guidance of the independent selection panel, that competent men and women with requisite expert industry skills had been shortlisted and appointed from the pool of 84 nominations.

It was brought to his attention by his officials that organised formations representing the beneficiation industry had not responded to the call for nominations through the media advertisement. As a result, and of his own accord, he had requested the Chairperson of the Board to ensure that, as an interim measure until the next appointment process, he developed a workable proposal to see how industry stakeholders could find a voice, particularly into the Technical Committee where decisions affecting the industry were discussed and recommended to the Board. That would ensure inclusivity and would encourage role players to contribute positively towards industry development and transformation. He assured the Committee that the Board was working to ensure the development of the industry in collaboration with stakeholders in the industry. He was confident that the challenges were being addressed, including the barriers into the jewellery manufacturing industry, as well as the declining beneficiation in the sector. Beneficiation provided opportunities for the growth and sustainability of the mining sector and should be supported by all.

Discussion

Ms Engelbrecht noted that the Minister had said on 27 October 2015, a number of complementary and collaboratory steps had been taken by both the DMR and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to drive the implementation of beneficiation. That was the question the Minister needed to answer because as a Committee, Members needed to find out about the implementation of beneficiation. The Minister mentioned that that included developing the resource capital goods development strategy and the feasibility study of producing iron and titanium from Bushveld Magnet Heights. The Minister said the Department had been busy with preparations and leading discussions of key stakeholders during the Mining PAKISA that was currently underway. She asked the Minister to give the Committee clarity on those issues.

Ms Mokwele asked what measures had been put in place to ensure that the Department had appointed qualified people on the Board of Directors, and why it had taken so long to make those appointments because the undertaking had been made on 27 October 2015. In the Minister’s answer he had referred to the measures in place to deal with the matter. She asked that he explain what those measures were.  She also hoped that the Minister had appointed deserving and qualified people who could ensure that the industry itself produced and that, in turn, those that were due for beneficiation would also benefit. Why did it take so long to make the appointments? Was it because the previous Board’s appointment had lasted until then, or was it an oversight on his part? She had further questions for when he had answered.

Minister Zwane thanked the Members for their constructive questions. He said they had engaged on 27 October 2015 and he had indicated during that engagement that the term of the Board was about to lapse. From 1 November 2016 a new Board had been appointed for three years which would last up until 31 October 2019. As already indicated the Department had called for nominations, advertised in national newspapers and appointed an independent selection panel to ensure quality of the Board. And as already mentioned, he trusted and was confident in the appointed Board.

Minister Zwane said Ms Engelbrecht had reminded him that he had said his Department had been working together with other government departments like DTI. He thought that perhaps he should be specific. Together with DTI and the Department of Science and Technology (DST), DMR had been able working together in terms of beneficiation and had come up with a project called "Fuel Cell Energy".  As they spoke, there was a proposal that some buses and motorbikes should be considered for using fuel cell energy in South Africa. That process was underway; it was a collaboration effort between those three departments.

Minister Zwane said in response to the key stakeholder question that, as already indicated in his presentation, some stakeholders had not shown any interest during the nomination process. And when he got that information he had told the Board to work with them in the sub-committees. There were four sub-committees: Licensing Committee, Technical Committee, Finance Committee and Audit and Risk Committee. The Technical Committee had invited Mr Ernie Blom from the Rough Diamond Dealers Association of South Africa and the Chairman of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses to its meeting of 12 January 2017.  The Board would ensure that, from time to time, it worked with stakeholders in finding a way forward.  It was not only Mr Blom. The Board had also engaged other stakeholders.

The Chairperson asked for follow-up questions.

Ms Engelbrecht appreciated the Minister’s responses. She reminded him that it was not the Committee’s portfolio and that the Committee was just following up on Executive undertakings. The Committee, therefore, did not have all the insight that people in the Select Committee and Portfolio Committee would have regarding the matter but she could go on the dates of the undertakings that the Committee had requested the Minister to answer questions on.  One of them was the feasibility study of obtaining iron from Bushveld Magnet Heights. He had answered the question about the DTI and working with other departments.  However, the report was in 2015 and so one would expect a little bit more than just a project about fuel cell energy.  It was almost as if nothing had happened, and yet in 2015 he had given the undertaking that he would be driving the programme of beneficiation. She was confused. Did that mean that nothing had happened since 2015? Could he also give a bit more information about the feasibility study?

Ms Mokwele continues with Minister’s response read verbatim: “The Board that the Member was talking about belonged to the DMR. As far as I know, but I will look into the issue of our representation as we also take keen interest in the beneficiation of the minerals that we are directly responsible for.” Now, Minister, my question. That was a very important engagement.

 

The Chairperson invited the Minister to respond.

Minister appreciated that Members were promoting indigenous languages in the Committee, which was very important. The notion that since 2015 DMR had not done anything, except for fuel cells, could be dismissed by facts.  The process of feasibility studies and research was not a six-month process, as they all knew.  The feasibility study on iron ore was still work in progress. The Chairperson would remember that the DMR had said it would designate other minerals when it was busy with the Mining Charter to ensure that beneficiation happened. DMR had done that. As Minister, he had gone to a number of countries, including Russia, Australia, Canada to begin to talk to investors to come and beneficiate in South Africa rather than transporting the raw product abroad. That work had been continued and that was why the 2018 Mining Indaba had been a great success. All of the investors that he had talked to had been at the Indaba and he had talked to them there on specifics.  He could give an example of building more smelters around the province of Limpopo because the country had adequate electricity.

The working was continuing, and a team was going to Canada to continue the work on beneficiation. How did beneficiaries benefit?  In everything that he had explained, the Department had emphasised transformation in the South Africa. Members would remember that he and the Department had been on the news in February/March of the previous year where they had refused to allow diamonds to be exported in terms of Section 74. The argument had been that diamonds had been processed and beneficiated outside of the country despite the legislation demanding beneficiation, and that year he had had a meeting with the company to ensure that beneficiation took place within the country. He thought that they were finding each other. The Minister informed the Chairperson that he had answered the question.

The Chairperson thanked the Minister for availing himself to report progress on questions posed by the Committee despite his very busy schedule. He asked Ms Engelbrecht to say something to the Minister on behalf of the Committee.

Ms Engelbrecht thanked the Minister. As she had said previously, the Committee Members were not experts in his portfolio, but Members appreciated the responses and thanked him for finding the time to address the Committee.

The Minister was invited to respond.

Minister Zwane thanked the Committee for keeping the Executive on its toes.  He appreciated the way in which the engagement had been handled. It was the only way in which the Executive could empower Members so that, wherever they went, they could inform South Africans of what the Executive was doing.  Members were part of government and it was important to share so that Members could inform South Africans.

Committee business

The Chairperson took the opportunity to talk about the backlog in the Committee work. He had tried to arrange a trip to the Eastern Cape before the commencement of the 2018 session but only Ms Oliphant had been available for the trip, so he had cancelled it. He had since been advised by the Committee support staff and the parliamentary legal section that he could use Section 91 of the Constitution which dealt with not needing a quorum. It was not necessary to sit in Parliament, and the Committee could go to a province to deal with a number of hearings at a time.

Ms Engelbrecht agreed with the Chairperson on the need to speed up work in the Committee. It was great. However, she cautioned that the Committee was holding hearing after hearing, but never coming to any conclusion.  She would appreciate fast-tracking hearings but then the Committee had to come up with solutions.  The Committee could not take a year and a half to come up with decisions. That needed to be looked at. 

She had had a problem that day. Her understanding was that an executive undertaking was when a Minister said, in the House, that he or she would do something.  She asked for confirmation of her understanding.

A staff member indicated that the undertakings were taken out of the Hansard but not all undertakings were referred to the Committee. It was tricky as the Committee had to decide whether to respond to referrals or just to what had been directed to the Committee.

 

Ms Engelbrecht stated that it confirmed her understanding and she explained her concern with the day’s proceedings. She had gone through the Ministers’ speeches very carefully and there had not been a single undertaking made by either of the Ministers. That meant that the Members had wasted their time on the matters. She recognised that she had challenged the Minister of Environmental Affairs but that had been because she was not answering her questions. But there was not one single undertaking in the statements by either the Minister of Environmental Affairs or the Minister of Mineral Resources. It had been a waste of Members’ time and a waste of the Ministers’ time. Minister Zwane had been answering a question in the House and he had given an explanation. He had not promised to do anything. It was a general statement that had been turned into an undertaking.  The previous undertakings by the Minister of Social Development and the Minister of Economic Affairs that the Committee had investigated were excellent because those Ministers had made specific undertakings and the Committee had been able to take them up on that.  The Committee had to be careful as it was embarrassing itself.

A Committee staff member responded that the Committee had specific guidelines with an appendix with specific phrases that constituted an undertaking, such as “I will look into it,” or “I will get back to you on that issue.”  Those were considered executive undertakings.  But she would speak to the Table staff because by the time that the items came to the Committee they had been signed off by the Head of the Table staff.

She also spoke about the backlog of 60 petitions from the Fourth Parliament and 30 petitions in the current Parliament. In discussion with parliamentary administration, she had suggested that the petitions, especially the backlog ones, should be referred to the relevant departments. The parliamentary offices had begun to vet petitions, and as a result of that, they had had only one petition since November 2017.  She required the buy-in of the Committee as, in accordance with Rule 225, the Committee could refer a petition to a Department, a Member of the Executive or any government agent.  What was needed was that the petitions on hand, especially the heritage ones, be referred to the relevant department or person. The Committee had dealt with only 15 of the 30 current petitions.  The Table staff had begun evaluating petitions and sending them to appropriate bodies or persons. They indicated that many of the documents did not meet the requirements for a petition. The effectiveness of the way that the Table staff were handling the petitions was evident in the fact that the Committee had received only one since November. She had spoken to the procedural officer as the Committee had to determine how many of the petitions it would handle before finalising the programme for the term, which was a very short one. The Committee was well within its rights because sometimes neither the province nor local government was aware of the matter raised in a petition.

Ms Mokwele thanked her for the input. Sometimes some of the Members did not attend Committee meetings, especially when the Executive was coming to answer to executive undertakings. An undertaking was anything that the Executive had agreed to do.  The challenge was the manner of the response. For example, the Minister of Environmental Affairs had found Members in a very good mood because it was their best month, but the Minister had come with an arrogant approach towards Members.  Secondly, she had come unprepared to answer the questions.  Thirdly, she had undermined the Committee.  It was disappointing when an Executive Member came to the Committee and she could not even hear herself when she answered questions.  She did not know how the staff and the Chairperson were going to address the matter, but an executive undertaking was a very serious matter. The day’s activity had been a fruitless and wasteful expenditure, especially for the Department of Environmental Affairs.

Ms Mokwele made a few comments regarding the way forward.  She noted that the Committee would agree on its programme in its strategic planning meeting. There would be problems.  In the meeting of the Whips the previous day, they had been unable to conclude how to address the problem of the strategic planning sessions. There was a challenge. She was appealing to Members that whatever they agreed upon, they needed to adhere to what had been agreed. No one should cause the Committee not to be able to do its work. 

She knew that the Rule 91 gave Chairpersons the responsibility to manage the Committee business in particular ways. The Chairperson and a Committee Member could be given permission to go to a province and address the petitioners and give a report to the Committee, which could conduct an oversight visit if required.  There were certain instances, such as the one in the Free State, where there was extensive corruption and the Committee needed to pay an oversight visit. The Committee could fast track by allowing the Member from a particular province to visit that province together with the Chairperson. The Committee could not overburden itself with matters that could be referred elsewhere. Sometimes the Committee was used to fight political battles. The Committee had to be decisive. She offered her support to the Chairperson to execute Rule 91 but warned that he should not become involved in party political matters. The Committee could not be partisan.

In the Free State, there was a matter where Ace Magashula’s office was conflicted with the petitioner. She suggested that the Committee address that matter, not because Ace was the ANC Secretary-General or Premier of the Free State, but in his position as an executive Member in relation to the petitioner.

Ms Engelbrecht concurred with her fellow Member.  She pointed out that the Minister of Environment Affairs had not answered her questions but had been quoting from the departmental scorecard when she spoke of manhours and that it had nothing to do with the number of people, nor with her being a member of the DA. She agreed that Members of the Committee should not attack each other. She was holding the Minister to account and she expected the Chairperson to intervene and to support Committee Members in order to ensure that the Ministers did answer the questions.  He should not allow Ministers to come to the meetings unprepared.

The Chairperson agreed to take up the matter of non-attendance.

Ms T Wana (ANC) stated that she was very angry because she had not been aware of the meeting. However, she supported her fellow Members fully and stated that the Committee needed to speed up matters.  She was not aware of the strategy meeting but as Committee Members, they needed the strategy meeting.  The Committee had to decide how long a petition should take to resolve.  After six months the Committee should be able to report back.  She would never run away from people out there who had written to the Committee and expected a reply.  She did not understand why in 2018, the Committee looked at issues in the departments but not the corporates. The Committee had to address issues and finish them.

She indicated to her fellow Members that when she was not in attendance, it was because she had many other matters to attend to.  She was not defying the Committee.

Some discussion followed with the staff members about informing Members of meetings.

Consideration and adoption of outstanding Minutes

The Chairperson referred Members to the Minutes.

Ms Engelbrecht thanked the Committee Secretary, Mr Mkhize, for the way in which he had prepared documents for Members, including colour coding various items.  She understood that it must have taken him some time to do it and she wished to express her gratitude.

Minutes of 6 September 2017: Ms T Wana moved for the adoption of minutes. Ms Engelbrecht seconded the move. The Committee adopted the minutes with no changes.

Minutes 25 October 2017: Ms Wana moved for the adoption of minutes. Ms Oliphant seconded the move. The Committee adopted the minutes with no changes.

Minutes of 15 November 2017: Ms Oliphant moved for the adoption of the minutes. Ms Wana seconded the move. The Committee adopted the minutes with no changes.

Ms Wana requested that the minutes of a meeting showed if a Member was not invited so that it did not appear that that Member had not contributed anything.

The Chairperson thanked all that were present in the meeting.

The meeting was adjourned.

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