Status Report on logistics for public hearings in provinces

Constitutional Review Committee

21 June 2018
Chairperson: Mr V Smith (ANC) and Mr L Nzimande (ANC)(KwaZulu-Natal)
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Meeting Summary

The Joint Standing Committee on Constitutional Review met to receive reports on the status of logistics for the public hearings due to commence in the Northern Cape on 26 June 2018 and to make final decisions on certain aspects of the process. The Committee was reminded that an extension had been granted for the finalisation of the process and the due date had been moved from 31 August 2018 to 28 September 2018.

The Co-Chairperson explained that, contrary to rumours, the final programme was the one that had been distributed earlier to the public. Hearings at public meetings started on 26 June 2018 and would continue until 3 August 2018. Thereafter the Committee would sit and deliberate on the written submissions and select those who would be called to the public hearings in Parliament.

The venues had been selected to hold a minimum of 350 persons and overflow locations had been arranged, with sound, for those who could not be accommodated in the hall. Meetings would start at 11:00 and had been scheduled for completion at 16:00 but Members would have to be flexible as the concluding time would depend on the number of people who wished to speak.

A high level security report was presented as Members felt that it would be unwise to reveal detailed security arrangements in an open meeting. The parliamentary Protection Services were managing security, together with the security cluster. The relevant provincial security structures would assist while the Committee was in each province and the South African Police Services would assist at the venues by providing scanning machines and electronic equipment as well as crowd control at each venue. Everyone who entered the hall would be scanned and registered.

There would be no catering at the venues and Committee Members were advised to bring some fruit for their lunches. Water would be available. Audio facilities would be available, but no visual services and minutes would be taken. Translation services would be available in all the commonly spoken languages in an area. The Committee would not entertain questions or discussions on land reform issues or any other matter. Written submissions would not be accepted as the closing date had elapsed. However, short speaking notes would be accepted as that would help the minute takers.

Each person would be allocated five to ten minutes to speak but, if there was time, a person could elaborate. The Committee was going out to hear the voices of South Africans, so Members were asked not to engage in deliberations or politicking. They were expected to facilitate the conversation. Only one person would be permitted to speak on behalf of a group but each individual who wanted to speak would be given the opportunity to do so. However, speakers had to engage with the key questions as per the parliamentary resolution of 27 February 2018: Did Section 25 of the Constitution empower the state to expropriate land without compensation? If yes, why? If no, what was the answer?

Travel arrangements for Members of the Committee were discussed and it was agreed that neither Group A which would visit the inland provinces, nor Group B which would visit the coastal provinces, would at any time travel together in a single shuttle for safety and logistic reasons.

Over 500 000 submissions had been received and Parliament would appoint an external service provider to capture the data. The external service would be required to do three things: Response handling to acknowledge receipt of each submission; indexing and data capture of the ‘yes/no’ response and summarising each submission; analysis of the information and production of a report for Members. It was decided that any submissions that were obviously computer-generated and could not be linked, by any means, to a specific individual would not be included in the data captured. Members could choose to scrutinise the actual submissions, although they were warned that there would be literally tons of paper to go through.

The Committee was embarking on a process of desirability. The Committee would be duty-bound, if the conclusion was to amend the Constitution, to prepare a draft Bill. Parliament would then have to engage with the people specifically on the draft Amendment Bill in a separate process, should there be a decision to make a change to the Constitution. The current process could not be seen as a substitute for a later consultation with members of the public. There was no determination before the Committee as to whether an amendment was required or not, as the process would inform the Committee. Desirability - for a change or not to change the Constitution - would inform the process thereafter.

The Co-Chairperson stated that he was talking to the South African people when he said: “We are ready to go!”

The meeting rose for a moment of silence in honour of the recently deceased Parliamentarian, Mr Sibusiso Radebe.

Meeting report

Opening Remarks

Co-Chairperson Nzimande welcomed everyone to the meeting.

Mr S Swart (ACDP) asked to make an addition to the agenda. He wanted to add an item addressing the hundreds of thousands of submissions that had been received. He noted that the agenda addressed only the logistical arrangements for the public hearings.

Co-Chairperson Smith provided guidance. The agenda had a generic heading but items to be dealt with included the programme, security arrangements, venue, the event, logistical arrangements and submissions. It was an open meeting, so Members could feel free to raise issues as the meeting progressed.

Co-Chairperson Nzimande indicated that the purpose of the meeting was to provide an opportunity to update Members on all the arrangements and to inform members of the public of the entire process. Co-Chairperson Smith would lead the meeting.

Deliberation

The programme had been distributed to Members who were given a file containing full details of the logistical arrangements for the programme. There had been queries about the programme changing but it had not. The final programme was the one that had been distributed earlier to the public, with perhaps one or two changes in Groblersdal and Tzaneen. The actual event would take place from 11:00 to 16:00 each day, but the closing time was dependent on the number of people presenting at each venue.

 

Venues

Ms G Breytenbach (DA) stated that she had sent correspondence to the Committee Secretary regarding the move of venue from Groblersdal to Marble Hall. The information that her party had, was that the venue in Marble Hall was not big enough to accommodate the people who would be attending. Was there a reason for holding it in Marble Hall even though the venue was not adequate? Why was there a move?

Mr Swart noted that one of the programmes had indicated that meetings would be held with stakeholders prior to the public hearing. Was that still the plan? Would there be a pre-meeting to discuss each day’s agenda as to who would be making submissions? The programme indicated an 11am start but if there was to be a pre-meeting, it had to be allocated on the programme.

Ms D Carter (COPE) needed to know how much time would be allocated to each presenter. That was important because if there were say 300 people who wanted to make submissions, and each was speaking for five to ten minutes, only then would Members know how long the meeting would be. For example, the meeting would finish at 18:00 instead of 16:00.

Co-Chairperson Smith indicated that he would address those issues he reached those items on the agenda. He was still on venues. He added that the 11:00 start was for all. The finishing time could be 16:00 or it could be midnight. There would be no separate meeting for organised groups or stakeholders as it was a public meeting.

Dr Thulisile Ganyoza-Twalo, Project Manager, stated that the rationale was simply that the hall in Groblersdal did not have sufficient capacity. The venue in Marble Hall could accommodate the number of people who were expected to attend the hearing.

Co-Chairperson Smith stated that Ms Breytenbach seemed to be suggesting differently.

Ms Breytenbach stated that the Chairperson of the DA in the area had informed her that the hall in Groblersdal was much bigger and that the one in Marble Hall would never accommodate the people who were interested in attending.

Mr F Shivambu (EFF) suggested that the programme should remain with Marble Hall and if the venue was not big enough, then other interventions could be made.

Co-Chairperson Smith stated that it seemed that there could be a problem and that measures should be taken to accommodate an overflow.

Ms Carter said that the decision taken at the meeting had been to go to Groblersdal and the decision to move to Marble Hall had not been made by the Committee, so she proposed that, before the end of the meeting, the Committee Secretary should find out about the venue and report back to the Committee.

Co-Chairperson Smith stated that Ms Carter’s suggestion was too complicated. At the last meeting, the Committee had decided that the staff to go and look at the venues and make a decision, taking the principles into account. A similar situation had occurred in the Eastern Cape. The public should not be denied access or the opportunity to speak because the venue was inappropriate. He thought that Mr Shivambu’s suggestion was best.

Ms Carter suggested that the Co-Chairperson had misunderstood her. All that she had wanted was for the staff to check during the course of the meeting and come with a proposal.

Co-Chairperson Smith stated that Mr Shivambu had come with a proposal and he was going with that proposal. He had asked for overflow facilities and if that arrangement was unworkable, he would get back to the Committee, but no one was to be denied access. The Marble Hall/Groblersdal location would be finalised by the staff before they left that day.

Security

Mr Shivambu stated that it was not wise for the Committee to discuss the security plan in an open meeting. Those that were going should be told separately because now the Co-Chairperson was giving away the whole plan. They would be safe and secure as Members of Parliament.

Co-Chairperson Smith agreed with Mr Shivambu that details of a security plan should not be revealed. He could give Members the assurance that the security cluster was working on the ground and that everything that needed to be done around security was being handled, plus the parliamentary security staff would also be involved in securing Members. There would be metal detectors, etc., and Members would be advised on the situation every day and would be informed if a problem was foreseen for the following day. A security official was at the meeting to answer any general questions without going into detail.

Ms Carter stated that the security of the public was even more important than the security of Members. The Committee just needed to know what was going to happen and whether there would be sufficient security at the venues for members of the public to be secure no matter what happened.

Mr Swart had similar concerns. The Committee was aware that they would be very emotive meetings and when there were public meetings, Members had to have the assurance that every person would be able to express their views without intimidation. That was a security issue. It was important from the public’s point of view to know that they would be secure.

Co-Chairperson Smith asked Mr Eugene Stevens of Parliamentary Protection Services to make a presentation, addressing high level issues only, which he believed would allay the concerns of the Members.

Security Report

Eugene Stevens reported briefly on security arrangements for the programme of public meetings.

He stated that security personnel had been to inspect all venues. They were working on an estimate of a minimum of 350 people per hall. They had met with the security structures in the provinces and had been given the necessary support. Health and safety people had joined them in the physical inspection of the venues.

Parliament would be transporting 350 people to the venues. At most of the venues, but not all, there was provision for an overflow of people. Sound would be carried to the overflow locations as well as within the hall.

To accommodate the public and the media, Protection Services had created three security spaces in the hall. One would be for Members of Parliament, the second would be for the public that Parliament had mobilised to attend the venues, first and foremost. There was space for additional people in some venues and accommodation had been made for an overflow. Space would be allocated for the media.

It was a parliamentary Committee conducting a parliamentary meeting, so Parliament protection services rules would apply. SAPS was assisting with metal detectors and access to the halls. There would also be deployment to cover the outer environment.

There would be an electronic registration process and one could not enter the hall until registered so that protection services had a clear record of everyone who was present, and that included the media. Protection services requested that Members of Parliament and support staff from Parliament carried their parliamentary access cards so that they could be easily identified. The media would be accredited, and he requested the media to bring their credentials along and Protection Services would allocate a specific area in hall for the media.

A specific briefing would be provided to the Chairpersons about security pertaining to Members when they went to each town.

Co-Chairperson Smith added that there would be a daily briefing for Committee Members. He asked if all Members were satisfied. It appeared that they were.

The Event

Co-Chairperson Smith repeated that all meetings were scheduled for 11:00 to 16:00 but there was no guarantee what time each meeting would finish. Members had to be flexible. The Co-Chairpersons had taken a decision that, because they would not be catering for the public, MPs would also not be catered for. MPs who were diabetic or thought that they might be hungry were advised to take some fruit from the breakfast table. Water would be available for everyone.

There would be minute/note takers, but minute-taking would not be electronic. There would be translation services in every venue for the dominant languages in each area. There would be sound but no vision in the venues.

The Co-Chairpersons proposed that they would not accept written submissions in the meeting as the period for written submissions had elapsed. However, they would accept speakers’ notes to assist the minute takers. They proposed that every speaker would be given five to ten minutes to speak, but the Chairpersons would be flexible, and they would have rounds 2 or 3 as was normal in parliamentary meetings.

Mr Swart asked, on a point of clarification if Committee Members would engage. He also asked for clarification of what the Co-Chairperson meant by ‘rounds 2 and 3’. Surely, each person would speak once only?

Co-Chairperson Smith said that if someone wanted to elaborate on a point, doing so would be permissible, but one person could not dominate the meeting. The Committee wanted as many people to speak as possible.

The Chairpersons of the meetings would be very clear about sticking to the mandate of the Committee. People would not be allowed to raise issues that did not apply to the Committee. The Committee would not be listening to long stories about other challenges, etc. Speakers would have to respond to the set questions of the February 27 resolution: “Must the Constitution change? If so, how? If not, why not?” If someone talked about, for example, a claim in the area, the Committee would take their details and pass them on to the relevant Committee. It was not going to be a free-for-all.

Mr Swart agreed that it was a very important issue that had to be made very clear because there was a lot of confusion with the Rural Development and Land Reform Committee that was holding public meetings on land restitution at the same time. Those were the hearings that the Constitutional Court had required. The Committee would have to make it very clear about its mandate, and Members would have to ensure that the public was not confused.

Mr Shivambu noted that when the High Level Panel was doing public hearings, Parliament provided audio-visual facilities. He suggested that the Committee should check whether that was possible because then there could be a national discourse on the whole issue so that everyone could get involved. If the High Level Panel could have audio-visual facilities, why not a Parliamentary Committee that was going out on a process decided upon by the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces? By having audio-visual facilities, the Committee could have a national discourse on a matter that was very important to people. If practically, it was not possible, they would have to proceed with the public hearings.

Co-Chairperson Smith asked the support staff to explain to Members whether it was possible to offer visual as well as sound. If it was totally impossible, staff should explain why. However, if there was a possibility, the staff would be asked to explore what needed to be done so that South Africans could participate in the discourse. Members of the public would be asked: “Did Section 25 of the Constitution empower the state to expropriate land without compensation? If yes, why? If no, what was the answer?”

Mr Swart heard what the Member had suggested about audio-visual recordings and national broadcasts. A constraint was that the Committee was divided into two separate groups that met at the very same time. However, the two teams would get together in Parliament on Saturday 4 August in the Old Assembly Chamber and that meeting could certainly be broadcast. He was not opposed to the recording of meetings, but he was looking at practicalities.

Logistics

Members had been given travelling arrangements, but the Co-Chairperson reminded them that they had to get themselves to the nearest airport on 26 June 2018. In some cases, such as with Group B who would be in Limpopo in the first, Members would not return home for that weekend as they would finish too late to catch a flight home on the Saturday. He explained that logistically it was impossible to get to the airport in time to catch a flight home. They would, therefore, go from Limpopo straight to Mpumalanga. Similarly, Group B would not be returning home the first weekend.

The contact person for Group A was Thuli Ganyoza-Twalo and the contact person for Group B was Pat Jayiya. All questions, requests etc about travel, security and so on had to be directed to the relevant contact person. Members were requested not to contact travel agents or security directly.

 

Mr Swart asked for clarity regarding Group B as the travel arrangements simply said: ‘travel from home base to Springbok on the Monday’. He also asked if the group had to stay at the Groot Gat in Kimberley but added that he was joking.

Ms Carter expressed concern about the security of all team Members of the Committee being transported in a single vehicle, especially in the light of accidents and so on in the past few years. Her concern was both a question of about security and about the programme as, if anything happened, all Members would be affected. For example, if the vehicle had a puncture, none of the Members would arrive at the venue in time.

She also asked about travelling in her own vehicle, perhaps with colleagues, but she was worried about the blue light brigade if they had to travel in convoy as she did not want to be part of the way that the blue light brigade behaved on the road.

Co-Chairperson Smith agreed that 16 Members of Parliament could not go in one shuttle and asked the support staff to ensure that they were in at least two vehicles. He explained to Mr Swart that he simply had to get to the nearest airport on the Monday. Arrangements were flexible about Members using own their car when they were in their home provinces.

Ms Carter asked about the process of who would speak, when they would speak, and so on.

Co-Chairperson Smith stated that if there were organisations, the Committee would allow one representative to speak per organised body. That speaker would get five to ten minutes. The presiding officers would have to use common sense, but the intention was to let South Africans speak. His view was that the Members were going as facilitators. He asked that Members did not push a party line. The Members should not get involved in the banter. Political parties could send delegates to speak for the party.

Mr Swart suggested that the MPs should be cautious about pushing party lines if they engaged with speakers. He asked whether political parties were making presentations at each meeting. He understood that organisations should send representatives, but he did not think it would be a platform for political parties.

Mr Shivambu stated that Members would tell the people that they had been sent by Parliament to hear the people. They would not give inputs as MPs. People should speak on their own behalf, not organisations. People should speak on their own behalf so that Members could understand the sentiment of the area where the meeting. Members should take notes and come back and discuss the issues in Parliament. Members should not want to look smarter than other political parties.

Mr Beukman cautioned that they were parliamentary meetings and, therefore, organisations and lobby groups had to be allowed to speak.

Co-Chairperson Smith agreed with Mr Beukman but made the point that the Committee should not engage in politics. The Committee had invited people who would speak.

Co-Chairperson Nzimande reminded Members that it was not a referendum, so it did not matter how many people came as an organisation, it was unnecessary to hear each voice for them to be part of the process. The Committee just wanted to hear the voices of the public.

Submissions

Thuli Ganyoza-Twalo, Project Manager, gave a brief presentation on what was happening regarding the process with submissions.

Over 500 000 submissions had been received. An external service provider would be appointed by Parliament the following day to capture the data. The external service would be required to do three things:

1)Response handling: an email had to be sent, or some other acknowledgement of receipt, in the case of each submission received. The service provider would have to provide proof that all submissions had been acknowledged.

2) Indexing and data capture: All relevant information contained in each submission had to be captured. There were a number of variables to be considered when capturing the data. Some had sent emails, WhatsApp messages in email form and others had sent hardcopies. The cell phone number or email address had to be captured where there were no names. The submissions would be summarised, but substantial submissions would be attached to the report. Some submissions were a single word or line and that would be captured in its entirety. People had been asked to indicate if they wanted to give an oral presentation and that information would also be captured.

3)Analyse the information and produce a report: what people were saying about Section 25 of the Constitution.

The Committee would, therefore, receive have both quantitative and qualitative information on the submissions.

Co-Chairperson Smith explained that the parliamentary supply chain management would appoint a service provider by 22 June 2018 and when the Committee returned on 4 August, the report would be ready, and Members would have to identify the oral presenters for the hearings from 7 to 17 August 2018. The Committee would have to decide on what basis people would be called and who would be called.

Currently, no one could say what the information said and whether it was a majority yes or no, but the report would have a count of yes/no plus the substance of the argument.

Mr Shivambu said that if the report was going to deal with the quantitative aspect, the Committee should determine that the submissions that were anonymous be disregarded. The submissions without identity had to be disregarded as they may be computer submissions as AfriForum could sit at a computer and generate thousands of SMS’s as an attempt to filibuster the whole process. It was not a secret arrangement and everyone’s right was guaranteed and so he only wanted to deal with warm bodies. There was a high possibility that a large number came from a single source. If 500 000 submissions came from 500 000 people, they could deal with them, but he was of the opinion that a large number came from a very small number of people. The Committee needed to expose that a small group had sent about 200 000 submissions. That would be a better way of processing the submission and did not fall into the trap of the right wing that wanted to defeat the land question.

Co-Chairperson Smith determined that all Members should make a comment so that the Committee could guide the process of the data capture.

Ms Breytenbach asked if the Committee would ever see the actual submissions. Would they be accessible?

Mr Swart understood that every submission had to be linked to a name, but an email address should be sufficient. He objected to the assertions of right wing people trying to block the process. Every person had the entitlement to make a submission and if it was linked to a name or email, it would have to be considered by the Committee. As the Co-Chairperson had already indicated, it was not a referendum and therefore numbers did not matter. Each submission should be given consideration according to the weight of its argument. He appreciated the size and number of submissions and he agreed with the process of capturing them. However, a Member might wish to see specific, interesting submissions. It was a constitutional requirement that every submission was considered. He agreed that when the Members returned in early August, they would have to decide, based on reports and other information, who would be called to the oral hearings.

Ms Carter pointed out that the Committee had indicated that submissions had to be done in a specific way, i.e. by email or by delivery, so she agreed that an sms on a phone where the number that had not been given, could not be accepted. The Committee kept on hearing about the WhatsApp submissions, but those went to a phone and that process was not appropriate and should not be accepted. Each computer had an IP address, so they could identify one sending thousands of submissions.

She added that the capture of the yes/no question and the summaries would total 14 000 pages which could be made available. She did not think, until Members had personally offloaded them off the back of a truck, that they would know what 200 000 submissions looked like. For 500 000 submissions, they would be looking at four tons of paper. It would be an impossibility even to have it in one room for Members to go through them. She also warned the Committee that sometimes the answer to yes/no did not always align to the content of the submission, so the data capturers had to take care in capturing.

Dr E Buthelezi (IFP) aligned himself with his colleagues who had expressed their views that those who made submissions, had to be identifiable. The Committee should also pay attention to the fact people who did not have computers or internet access used the computers at an internet café so there could be more than one submission from an IP address, but the content of the submission would indicate whether the submissions were from the same source.

Mr Beukman agreed that all voices had to be heard but precedent had to be followed that the person must be identified and emails linked to a specific address. The proposal made by Dr Ganyoza-Twalo was good and he supported it.

Co-Chairperson Smith reminded everyone that the Committee had been granted an extension from 31 August to 28 September 2018. The process would be flexible but that was the broad framework so that South Africans knew what to expect and how to expect it.

General

Dr Buthelezi was satisfied with arrangements.

Ms Carter asked for the names of the Members in each of the groups.

Mr Swart presumed that there would be a comprehensive introduction by the Chairpersons at each meeting. He thanked those responsible for the logistical arrangements as it had been a lot of hard work.

Mr Shivambu stated that there was a legal process that had to be followed so that the Committee did not fall into the trap of those who wished them to fall into the trap. What was the procedure in respect of Constitutional Amendment? He knew that there had to be consultation on any piece of legislation. However, the Committee was consulting on a question without tabling a Constitutional Amendment Bill that had been gazetted and tabled. He had a sense that the people who were asking why the Committee was consulting without a Constitutional Amendment Bill would go to the Constitutional Court and say that the Committee had consulted prior to the tabling and gazetting of the Bill. The Committee should not fall into trap where, later on, it could be said that it was not in compliance with the Constitution if it was to result in the Amendment of the Constitution. The Co-Chairpersons should check with the legal services so that the Committee would not have to go back and consult again. He did not want any delays in the process.

Mr Beukman stated that on behalf of the ANC, he wished to commend the Co-Chairpersons and the organisers. The process was on track and he appealed to all South Africans to take up the opportunity to engage. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and so no one should stay away or boycott the process. It was everybody’s process, and all should take up the opportunity.

Co-Chairperson Nzimande noted that the process that they were embarking on was a process of desirability. The Committee would be duty-bound, if the conclusion was to amend the Constitution, to prepare a draft Bill and Parliament would have to engage with the people. The Committee would have to consult, regardless of pronouncements, party conferences, etc. There was no determination before the Committee yet, as the process would inform the Committee. Desirability would inform the process thereafter. That had to be made clear.

Closing remarks

Co-Chairperson Smith stated that he was no longer talking to Members of Parliament but to the South African people: “We are ready to go!”

The names of Teams A and B should be in the file but, if not, they would be made available. Co-Chairperson Nzimande would be leading the coastal group and he would be leading the inland group. The process was starting on 26 June with a meeting in Springbok with the coastal group and in Limpopo with the inland group. They would be away from families for two weeks.

The task as MPs was to facilitate and to allow South Africans to speak. The public hearings would be run as per parliamentary Committee meetings and South Africans had to allow dissenting voices from either side. The Co-Chairpersons would intervene should there be a need. Challenges such as Marble Hall /Groblersdal would be sorted out.

No written submissions would be allowed but the Committee would accept speaking notes. Sufficient translators would be available for South Africans to speak in their mother tongue. No one person or group would be allowed to dominate the proceedings. He hoped that the awareness campaign was going smoothly. Communication was taking place via community radio stations, et al. He hoped that the advance teams were on the ground and knew when the Committee was going to be at a particular venue.

As regards submissions, if the author could not be identified, the submission would be disregarded. Parliamentary supply chain management would appoint a service provider. He would check with the Legal Unit that the process was legitimate. The Committee was not going to change the Constitution, but it was not a superfluous exercise. All Members were allowed to scrutinise the submissions. Arrangements had to be made to facilitate scrutiny.

He wished everyone good luck and reminded Members that the Committee would reconvene in August 2018.

Co-Chairperson Nzimande thanked the Members for their cooperation and the decisions that they had made. They had adopted the programme, accepted how the process would take place and had been informed of the security arrangements. It was a Committee decision, not the decision of the Chairpersons. He reminded Members that lunch would not be served at the venues. He called for respect and courtesy for members of the public, especially the sick, old and disabled. Members needed to allow the public to speak first. He thanked the Members, parliamentary officials and the media.

Co-Chairperson Smith asked for a moment of silence in honour of their recently deceased colleague, Mr Sibusiso Radebe.

The meeting was adjourned.

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