Small Enterprises Ombud Service Bill: DA MP Mr R Chance briefing; with Minister

Small Business Development

22 August 2018
Chairperson: Ms N Bhengu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The introduction of the Small Enterprises Ombud Service Bill by an Opposition Member of the Portfolio Committee on Small Business led to him being accused by the ANC Members of undermining the Committee, grandstanding and politicking, because it was being introduced by one individual based on work done by the Committee as a cooperative. While acknowledging that what he had done was excellent work, they said the manner in which he had proposed this work had been backstabbing, and had been aimed at ridiculing the Committee and the Department, to show that they did not care about small business.

After Mr R Chance (DA) had given a presentation on the proposed Private Member’s Bill, the Chairperson placed emphasis on all the meetings the Committee had held previously to engage with big and small businesses over the matter that the Bill dealt with – the need to promote small businesses, to level the playing field, and to prevent the bullying of small entities by big companies. She did not have a problem with a member coming forward and proposing a Private Members Bill, but the Bill should not be based on the work the Portfolio Committee had spent two years on. Her views were supported by most Members, who felt it was not right for an individual Member to “hijack” the role of the Committee as a multiparty body, and without consulting stakeholders such as the Department of Small Business Development (DSBD) and the business community on the ground.

Mr Chance said he did not believe his initiative had been opportunistic, in the sense that he wanted to score points. Nowhere in his presentation had he even mentioned the Democratic Alliance, or any political party. Nothing would give him greater pleasure than to hold the hand of the Minister and the Chairperson to process the piece of legislation that everyone agreed was necessary and in amended form, through the consultations that this Committee would proceed with in the coming weeks. He said that the DSBD had had ample opportunity in the past to present or table legislation and present it to this Committee, which it had not done. There was nothing stopping any Member of the Committee from tabling a Bill, whether it be a Committee Bill or a Private Members Bill, on any matter.

He suggested that the Committee’s reaction presented a dilemma. Would the Bill be thrown out because of the Members thinking that he had hijacked the Bill -- irrespective of its merits? Or were all persons involved going to be mature citizens who were not putting politics first, and were putting the people of this country first, and saying that there was a legislative proposal that the Committee was obliged to consider as Parliament? He believed that irrespective of the politics, it was the duty of this PC to produce a decent piece of legislation, and that also the people of the country would see multi-party support in the form of a decent piece of legislation.

A Member commented that in a world where small businesses and cooperatives were a beacon of successful countries, South Africa also needed to make sure that its small businesses and cooperatives did indeed become successful, and that they received as much support as could be rendered.

Meeting report

Briefing on Small Enterprises Ombud Service Bill [B14-2018]

Mr R Chance (DA) began by explaining why the proposed Bill was necessary. He said there was an uneven playing field between small and big businesses, as well as the fact that small businesses do not operate in the same playground as the government. Big businesses used their financial muscle in order to bully and elbow aside small businesses. The available dispute resolution mechanisms currently in place were failing small businesses. These mechanisms included internal company or government processes, the courts and arbitration services.

South Africa’s economy was dominated by big businesses, as well as the Government, and this left no space for small businesses in the economy, which was detrimental to growth and employment creation by small and medium enterprises. He asserted that at any one time, a business may sit on R350 billion of payables, but that most of the amount would be overdue.

Discussion

The Chairperson thanked Mr Chance for his presentation, and opened the floor for questions.

Mr X Mabaso (ANC) thanked Mr Chance, and expressed his gratitude. He was aware of the amount of work and research that had gone into the production of this presentation. The challenges that were faced by small businesses were indeed enormous. In a world where small businesses and cooperatives were a beacon of successful countries, South Africa also needed to make sure that its small businesses and cooperatives became successful and received as much support as could be rendered.

Last week, where the Portfolio Committee had interacted with big businesses, small businesses were in the minority and the Committee had painfully witnessed how big businesses elbowed small businesses out and boastfully went about illustrating that they had big legal firms behind them. If a small business expressed its concerns to a big business, the big business would respond by asking the small business to take them to court. The Portfolio Committee Members had felt pain when they experienced how small businesses died at the hands of big businesses, contrary to what happened to other countries that were successful.

In other countries, big businesses relied on the success of small businesses so that they could build a relationship. An example was the car industry, which would make it their business to leave space in the market for small businesses to manufacture specific car parts that they would not themselves manufacture. This created a financial opportunity for the small businesses. The small and big businesses would get together and agree on quality. The big businesses showed their support to small businesses to make sure that they produced the quality that would enhance the production of the car.

Mr Mabaso said he assumed that most of the Portfolio Committee Members were going to agree with Mr Chance on his observations, reiterating that he had correctly noted the challenges faced by small businesses. Commenting that a collective did better than an individual, he suggested that the Committee. Committee should sort out what needed to be done together. Mr Chance’s input would serve as a jewel and should be combined with other proposals that were coming from other Committee Members. It was great that his presentation was well researched, as it would eliminate any research challenges that may be faced.

He said that he did not think it was proper for Mr Chance to steal the Portfolio Committee’s thunder by proposing a Private Member’s Bill. He asked why it had become a Private Member’s Bill, and why it had not stayed in the realm of the Portfolio Committee (PC). All these challenges had been noted by the PC.

He said that it would have been different if the PC had suggested to Mr Chance that he should put forward a Private Member’s Bill. This would have been great. It was different when the team was doing something together and then, without a mandate from the other team members, another team member --in this case Mr Chance -- steals the thunder and introduces a way forward that is undermining. It was undermining the collective framework of the Portfolio Committee.

In raising these concerns, all was not lost in his opinion. He said that this valuable work would contribute to the way forward when the Portfolio Committee was considering how to practically address the challenges faced by small businesses.

The Portfolio Committee was going to look at all the alternative ways that these matters may be addressed. Introducing a Bill was one way, but that there were also other ways that could be analysed. A comparison may be done when they were dealing with the matters that were facing small businesses. This could be done when searching for appropriate tools in a developmental South Africa that would function better.

Mr N Xaba (ANC) said that the Portfolio Committee had noted the presentation. Perhaps he was coming to the table as a learning person, but he had key questions he would like to raise that he thought would enlighten and assist the process. The presentation was not numbered, he wondered about the Government inefficiency that negated the objectives of preferential procurement. What was this research based on?

He would like to suggest that the Bill focus only on the matter of 30 days’ payment, because one would think that other issues that may affect the Bill could be the manner that some contracts were drafted.

Another matter was related to the PC receiving numerous pleas from small businesses, and there should be more emphasis on the fact that it had done its best to resolve the matters that had been brought forward.

It was best if the PC completed this report as a report of a Committee. Each Member should not move as an individual. In the process of the PC’s work, it was important to consider more stakeholder consultation, and that it did not work in silos. There were also other factors related to small businesses in the proposal which could have relevance to the country’s trade relationships with organizations like BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa), and these had to be considered by the PC.

Mr Chance had mentioned that he had been engaging with Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) on some aspects. Mr Xaba said that he thought the engagement had been with BUSA as a structure, and this engagement was meant to be a responsibility of the Committee as a collective, to adopt a prompt payment code. Perhaps other structures could have been analysed regarding the prompt payment code, but an individual engagement would not bear results.

The other key minister in these matters could be the Minister on Trade and Industry, who was alongside the work that this Portfolio Committee did in terms of its work and functions in this matter. This implied that as this work was done, perhaps the situation could be that the people involved in this matter were moving towards reaching a destination, with the current matter being discussed.

He referred to the Competition Commission, and said that this matter had not been clearly explained, and a fuller explanation was needed.

He concluded by saying it was best for the Portfolio Committee to move as a team, rather than as individuals. There were gaps that the PC needed to close, as well as other factors involved in this matter.

Rev K Meshoe (ACDP) thanked Mr Chance for the effort he had made in addressing what the Portfolio Committee had discovered, and had marked a challenge. Small businesses were being bullied and intervention was necessary in this regard.

It was unfortunate that there had been mention of someone “stealing thunder,” when Mr Chance was trying to solve a problem. He was not undermining the collective, as no decision had been made. He also did not remember a rule that one could not move as an individual.

He said that the work was in progress, but that more needed to be done. Members should encourage one another. He asked when the Portfolio Committee was going to produce something that was going to help small businesses. The Portfolio Committee should make sure that this bill was passed, so that small businesses were covered.

He had a few questions. Firstly, who would determine whether a candidate qualified for a waiver of adjudicating these matters? Secondly, he was concerned about the emphasis being placed on the treatment of symptoms. Many times the Portfolio Committee had witnessed repeat offenders, and he suspected that at times big businesses were not sure where they going wrong. Focus should be placed on the causes and not the symptoms. He added that the Portfolio Committee should listen.

When Mr Chance was talking about the appointment of a Chief Financial Officer and that the process of appointment should be competitive, what had he been inferring when he said “competitive?”

Mr Capa (ANC) said that he would like to join his colleagues in appreciating Mr Chance’s input, but said he had some concerns.

He referred to page 3 of the presentation on why the Bill was necessary, where there was a quote that read: “South Africa’s economy was dominated by big businesses and the government to the detriment of growth and employment created by small businesses.” He said that if the Minister were to protest against this statement, he would support her. The statement was an indictment, but at the same time it was fair to note that big businesses were not treating small businesses fairly. He thought Mr Mulaudzi (EFF) would agree with him when he said that the terms used in this statement were a euphemistic and light way of talking about big capitalists.

He said that there had been talks about these matters and trying to address them as a Committee, as well as engaging the Department of Small Business Development (DSBD). He remembered this area involving complaints and cries of talking about the amendment of the Small Business Act being on the cards, and this being done together. A conclusion had been reached that this was necessary and that something had to be done as quickly as possible, because it was considered that everything else that was a shortcoming in this matter was encompassed in the amendment of this Act. Everyone had been together on this point, but maybe things had changed. Clarity should come from the Department or the Ministry. He asked whether the amendments to this Act could not address all the matters and inefficiency raised.

He asked what had actually happened to the amendment to the Small Enterprise Ombud Service Bill, because everyone present believed that the amendment of this Bill would assist in solving all the matters raised regarding small businesses.

Mr T Mulaudzi (EFF) appreciated the effort Mr Chance had made in delivering an instrument having the teeth to tame big businesses and Government departments. It was unfortunate that Mr Xapa had analysed only the shortfalls of the presentation. Currently the Department and state-owned enterprises (SOEs) were doing the same thing to undermine small businesses and cooperatives. The research in Mr Chance’s presentation showed that there was money -- in fact, billions -- which were due to be processed on time. The proposed Bill showed that something could be done to the big businesses and government undermining small businesses.

DSBD needed the support of all other departments where there was supply chain management (SCM) and SOEs. However, this was not happening because the government was there, and the small businesses and poor people did not see the effectiveness of the Department.

He had certain questions to ask about the presentation. These pertained to the establishment of the board, as well as some questions on the presentation. It had been stated that the board should consist of seven members – two executive members and five non-executive members. There could not be only one executive member present in the hypothetical scenario where an executive member could not make a meeting. Therefore these figures should be revisited. There was quite a lot of work to be done for the creation of many smaller businesses and that as a result, perhaps a big board should be established that consisted of four non-executive members and maybe nine executive members.

The other matter he wanted clarity on was the participation of the Chief Ombud, and the qualifications of the Chief Financial Officer. Stating only that they needed a suitable qualification was vague and ambiguous, and this matter needed to be as clear as possible. The Bill should also state if a legal qualification was needed, so as to be not be challenged.

Mr B Bongo (ANC) thanked Mr Chance for the presentation. He said that the PC had had a meeting in the hotel not long ago, where an observation was made that 80% of the population of South Africa was black, and the majority of people in small businesses were also black people, and that the big businesses were composed of a monopoly. Amongst other matters, the need for a symposium had been mentioned. He added that what had been seen at last week’s meeting was merely a drop in the ocean, and that a consultative process was still needed. This consultative process did not mean that questions should be asked, as solutions needed to be found now.

There should be no privatisation of a Bill of this nature, and if the Portfolio Committee left this matter only to Mr Chance, then it would be doing a disservice to the country. There should be no Private Member’s Bill, and the Committee should move together on this matter. The Department of Small Business Development should be at the centre of this initiative and driving it. This was important, because at the centre of implementation there had to be a Department that oversees the entire process. At the end of the day, it was the executive that had to monitor the process, and if the Bill was privatised it would be difficult for the Department to be a part of this process. The Department should be the driving force behind the drafting of this Bill and that via the Department it should head to the Cabinet, as this was a Bill that affected all Departments. By privatising the Bill, there was a chance that it would be suffocated in terms of implementation.

He agreed with Mr Mulaudzi, as he had been at an SABC meeting yesterday where he had witnessed that small businesses were indeed not being paid what was due to them within 30 days, and that some of their businesses were dead due to this. To push this Bill as a private matter would be too individualistic and it would defeat the purpose and objects of the Bill. He recommended that the draft Bill be taken as it was, and that moving forward the Portfolio Committee should proceed as a collective.

It was Department that must monitor and evaluate, as well as put in place certain penalties. He did not think the route that had been taken with the Private Members Bill would be a route that assisted all those involved in the long run.

Mr H Kruger (DA) said he was very concerned about Mr Chance’s presentation being seen as “thunder was being taken away” from the Portfolio Committee. He said that as a PC, it had been agreed that there was a big problem with small businesses. At many meetings that had been attended by the PC in the term, the Department had been asked to come up with a Bill, and he asked where the Amendment Bill was. Mr Chance had just introduced this Bill, and had done so through an advocate working for Parliament.

He said that the process from here would definitely involve consultation. This was just the first step in introducing the Bill, and the process from here would be the same as if the Bill had come from the Executive. Who introduced the Bill was the only difference between the two processes. The same process was followed by Parliament. If everyone involved agreed on the Bill, and then the President signs it over, it would not be considered a “Toby Chance Bill,” and no lawyer was going to see it as such. He said that it would be considered a Bill of South Africa, and that it would be the law of South Africa.

Mr Kruger said that his colleague had taken the initiative and done a lot of research, and he did not hear anything about the desirability of the Bill. Everybody agreed that this Bill was needed. Everyone also agreed that the Department would not be able to introduce a Bill in the Fifth Parliament, and he would like to hear from the Department about this. He said that if nothing was done, but everyone agreed that this was the way to do it, the small businesses were the ones that were going to suffer. The PC could not let politics get in the way of this Bill. Let the process begin so that all the concerns raised could be sorted out as the process commenced. Everyone in South Africa would come aboard, and surely when the Bill was completed it would be more or less 50 pages.

He concluded that the process taken by Mr Chance was allowed by the Constitution, and that it did not involve “taking thunder away” from anyone. Everyone involved should start working so that small businesses could benefit.

Mr Mabaso said he wanted to make a quick point. He wanted to bring to the floor’s attention how the PC had always done things. It had made a number of oversight visits, even in the previous years. What was remarkable was that the Committee had been undertaking these oversight visits as a collective. As an example, the Committee would move from the Free State to Limpopo and then move to Gauteng, but at no stage would one of the Members produce an individual report before the completion of the whole oversight route. The PC always moved as a collective, and they covered three provinces with this understanding in mind. A draft report would be produced where it would be discussed and panel beaten with all Members, adding and removing views. He asked if this was not a richer way of doing things. He said that a collective was sometimes better than an individual approach.

Mr S Ncwabe (NFP) said that he was sorry for coming late, but he had managed to grasp the presentation. He was interested to know what the small business organisations were that Mr Chance had consulted when the Bill was compiled. He said that a proper consultation was needed on the ground with the actual businesses involved, and not just a table discussion on the matter. The Portfolio Committee needed to go to the businesses involved and their affiliations. He thought maybe the stage of deciding whether the bill was desirable or not had not been reached. The Department still needed to tell the Committee how far they were with the review of certain Acts. The PC had raised the matter here a couple of times, and that there was a synergy of matters present. He wondered whether this Bill should be taken as a contribution, in order to avoid two documents being parallel to one another and addressing the same matter.

Mr S Bhekwa (ANC) took the opportunity to thank Mr Chance for his efforts in compiling the document for the Private Members Bill. The observations that came from Mr Chance were the same as those that came from the Members of this Committee. The Members had done oversight together and had observed that small businesses were being bullied by the big businesses, and that a Bill was needed to protect them.

When the Portfolio Committee started this journey of calling small businesses to the Committee, he remembered Mr Chance being against it. Mr Chance had felt that it was not in the Portfolio Committee’s line of work. The matter of the Portfolio Committee saying that Mr Chance was taking the “thunder and stealing the light” from PC Members, stemmed from this. He recalled Mr Chance being against the Committee’s decision to call in big businesses to come in and account for what they had been doing to small businesses.

He would agreed with the stance that the Portfolio Committee was taking -- that what Mr Chance had done was good and that everyone agrees with it, but that it should be initiated as a collective.

Ms N Mthembu (ANC) said that she would also join her colleagues in appreciating the initiative of Mr Chance, but also indicated that as a Committee, the work being done last week included the proposal to move with speed in legislating. This was a good initiative, but the Committee had been moving together all along and it should continue to do so. It would maybe also be a disappointment to the constituencies that the Committee was here together and that they had been doing the work together all along, but that in the end a Private Members Bill came from the work done as a collective. This was supposed to be an appreciation of the work done as a Committee.

To take everyone through the process, she said that the Portfolio Committee had been to the oversights as a collective, the Committee had invited big and small businesses together, and that the Committee had heard the stories -- sad stories that were not encouraging as a collective.

Everyone had an interest in South Africa, and that even the commitments made by the government in terms of the National Development Plan showed that everyone was committed to this. There was mutual agreement that a symposium was needed. The Committee could not be seeking clarity from Mr Chance, and the Department should communicate where they were in the matter.

Last week, as a collective, the PC had noted the issue of time. Before the end of this Fifth Parliament, it had to make sure that there was legislation.

She said that Mr Kruger thinking that the Committee was making this a political issue was not the case, because if that were the case, then one could also simply say that the stance Mr Chance had taken in submitting this Bill, was a political stance. However, the Committee would not be going into these areas to say that persons were being political here. Everyone here was being sincere when they said that the Committee had collectively contributed to the progress being made, and that all persons rightfully involved should be able to respectfully claim the victory of the hard work that had been put in place from the inception of the matter of small and big businesses being raised.

Ms Lindiwe Zulu, Minister of Small Business Development, said that because this was not the Department’s meeting, she would not like the Department to be seen as interfering in these processes. However, because of a statement that was made, by particularly Mr Kruger, about not knowing what the Department was doing as far as the Small Business Development Act was concerned, she wanted it known that the processes that the Department had indicated to this Portfolio Committee had started, and the Department had even gone as far as going out to the provinces. This process was also understood. She would request that perhaps the DSBD should just give a short explanation of where the Department was, unless someone thought that this was not necessary. She felt that it was not correct to state that the Committee did not know about this process at all.

The Chairperson then moved to explain the process, as she did not want the DSBD to be reactionary and respond to what was being raised during the tabling of the Bill. She said that next week the Department would respond and in that response, the Department was expected to outline the work that had been done, taken from all the meetings that had been held and all the recommendations that had been made regarding legislation. The response of the Department in relation to this Bill and the work done, was coming next week.

The Chairperson said she would like to make her observation of what had happened and take everyone in this meeting down memory lane, where this matter had started. She said this because it had come out in this meeting that there was politics involved in dealing with this matter, and she really agreed with this statement. Politics had taken the centre of looking at matters that were affected small businesses.

She wanted to remind members of how this process started. In 2015, she had been approached by Mr George Raman from Kwa-Zulu Natal, the owner of NEELA Trading. He had had a problem with Ericsson and Vodacom. She met with him and listened to what he said and she also saw a need for this Portfolio Committee to listen to the story. He was not the first person who had complained about the bullying that was taking place between small and big businesses, as well as bullying taking place among SOEs, government departments and small businesses. The difference between Mr Raman and the other small businesses was that he was prepared to come to Parliament to tell his story. Other small businesses were afraid to bring the issue to Parliament. The small businesses were afraid that they were not going to be considered for work. This was why, in the first meeting, there needed to be an assurance that a small company was not going to be punished by both Vodacom and Ericsson for coming forward and seeking the expertise of the Portfolio Committee on the matters raised.

In the beginning, it had been Mr Chance who was pretty much against the Portfolio Committee dealing with these matters. It was he who had felt that the Portfolio Committee could not get involved in contractual matters between companies. Mr Chance had had to be lectured by herself and other Members of the Portfolio Committee, that the work of this Committee was to legislate and legislation did not come in a vacuum. The PC first had to identify the problem, understand the magnitude and nature of the problem and then decide. At that first meeting, she had interjected and said that it was a pity the Rev Meshoe had gone out, as he had said in his input that no decision had been taken to legislate. In that very first meeting she was talking about, she had indicated that legislation was where the Portfolio Committee was headed to. The PC knew that it was heading for legislation to level the playing field for small businesses to exist. It was a decision taken by the PC that all this work was being done in order to legislate as a PC, not as a Private Members Bill.

The Chairperson emphasised all the meetings that had been held and all the work that had been done, such as inviting all the small businesses from the telecommunication industry and those who were affected and not affected. Not a single case had been brought against MTN, but MTN had been invited to comment on what it was doing to promote small businesses, because the work that had been done by this PC was to show that the playing field was not level. Once the playing field was revealed as not level, the PC had looked at its role and function, which was to legislate.

She had been very surprised that today there would be Members saying that it was correct for one Member out of the collective to hijack the work of the PC, which had been in progress as late as last week. Last week’s meeting was actually dealing with this matter. The conclusion had been to say what route would be taken moving forward -- to call the Department and ask it to give the Committee a progress report on the recommendations that would have been made as an outcome of the process that was being dealt with. Included in the recommendations being made by the PC with regard to leveling the playing field, was to relook at the cooperative tribunal, because the tribunal had been enactment before the establishment of the DSBD. This meant that in finding a possible solution, the PC needed to look at the existing instruments and see whether these could not be amended to include SMME’s in the tribunal.

During that process, the PC had talked about franchising businesses, which was something that had been raised even in the meeting that took place last week -- that the telecommunications industry and the retail industry were demarcating South Africa according to monopolistic tendencies. She made mention of a family in Kwa-Zulu Natal that had more than 150 Kentucky Fried Chicken stores. This was the bullying that was taking place, because only one family was being promoted and in the process, this was killing small businesses. This was being done as a franchising industry, not taking into account the number of jobs that were expected from small businesses. There was no value chain that actually channeled chicken growers to be the suppliers of the Nandos, Kentucky Fried Chickens and the Honcho’s -- the whole lot. This was what the Small Business Act would look at, including the establishment of a structure that would look at the cases that the PC was dealing with.

She said accusations that Mr Chance was “stealing thunder” were politicking, were fair from her perspective as Chairperson. For instance, she could have used her position to ask the ANC to come up with a Bill, as she was a member of the ANC. However, she had not done this. She had brought the issues to the PC so that it could process these matters collectively.

Mr Mabaso’s submission had been that the PC should undertake an oversight visit and come back, produce a report, and then make recommendation based on that report as a collective.

She asked how was it possible that the Committee was again bringing up a matter when time had been spent from 2016 up to 2018, looking at the unfair level of the playing field between small and big businesses. Then, before a report had been processed and a recommendation made, one Member comes up with a Bill.

If Mr Chance had not made reference of the work done by the PC, then she would agree that it was a Private Members Bill. However, this was not the case, because even in his presentation he made reference to the work done by the Committee.

If Mr Chance had been honorable enough, and if he had been worried about time, he should have come to the PC and communicated that he thought the Committee was running out of time, that enough information had been gathered on this matter, and that he proposed that as a PC, that a Portfolio Committee bill be ventured into.

She also would have expected Mr Chance to say that we would “as a Portfolio Committee” invite the DSBD to look at the progress that the Department had done in relation to the recommendations made for legislation. If the PC had found that nothing had been done by the Department, then as a PC a Bill would have been initiated.

A Bill being introduced by one individual based on the work done by the PC was undermining, grandstanding and politicking. This had never been done by any Member of the Portfolio Committee. She hoped that the Committee would learn from this, as it actually created mistrust when one Member of the Portfolio Committee could want to be seen as the only one bringing a solution to a matter that had been worked on as a collective.

She did not have a problem with a Member coming forward and proposing a Private Member’s Bill, but the Bill should not be based on the work done by the PC -- work that the Committee had spent two years on. Different industries had been looked at by the PC, and the mining industry was also going to be looked at as the Chairperson had received letters from small businesses in mining, as well as the transportation industry. All these still needed to be looked at.

Mr Chance’s response

Mr Chance thanked the Chairperson, and said that it had been very interesting listening to everyone’s comments and questions, and a lot had been said. He was sure that more time would be needed to discuss and deliberate.

He wanted to state firstly that it was a private member’s bill in the sense that a private member had seen an opportunity and taken it.  It had not been a matter of “stealing thunder,” as this process of the Private Member’s Bill had been started by Mr Chance himself in October last year. He admitted that this was a long time after the Committee had met and deliberated on these matters.

He also wanted to deal with point Mr Bekwa had made about his opposition to this PC making judgments on big businesses being bullies. He had had no problem with the hearing, but there was no legislative framework that allowed Parliament to intervene in private matters. This was the point of the Ombud Bill, to provide this legislative framework.

The Chairperson asked to correct Mr Chance, and said that that was not what he had said at the meeting. His words exactly were that it was not the responsibility of the Portfolio Committee, nor was it the business of the Portfolio Committee to intervene. After the Chairperson had explained the responsibility of the PC to legislate, Mr Chance had said that the Committee had no powers to make judgments. The Chairperson again explained that the intention was to not make any judgments. The intention had been how the Committee could resolve this legislatively, within the PC’s own rules and responsibilities. The PC had never made any judgment.

She also wanted to say that if Mr Chance had started in October, it was long after the Committee had started this process.

Mr Chance said he acknowledged that the Chairperson was right in stating that it was the duty of the Portfolio Committee to legislate, and that this was why he had started working on the Bill. He had changed his mind -- one was allowed to change one’s mind in life.

He did not believe that this was opportunistic in the sense that he wanted to score points. Nowhere in his presentation had he even mentioned the Democratic Alliance, or any political party. This had not been about scoring points.

Before he came to Parliament, he had had a 30-year career in business, and politics had been the last thing on his mind. He could assure the Chairperson that nothing would give him greater pleasure than to hold the hand of the Minister and the Chairperson to process the piece of legislation that everyone agreed was necessary and in amended form, through the consultations that this Committee would proceed with in the coming weeks.

He said that the DSBD had had ample opportunity in the last year to present or table legislation and present it to this Committee, which the Department had not done. There was nothing stopping any Member of the Committee from tabling a Bill, whether it be a Committee Bill or a Private Members Bill, on any matter.

As he had mentioned in one of his slides, it was the duty of Members of Parliament, if they see a need, to table a Bill which happened to be known as a Private Members Bill. The process was then identical to the implementation of a Committee Bill, or a Bill initiated by a Member of Parliament.

This then presented the Committee with a dilemma. Would the Bill be thrown out because Members of the Committee thinking that he had hijacked the Bill -- irrespective of the merits of the Bill? Or were all persons involved going to be mature citizens who were not putting politics first, and were putting the people of this country first, and say that there was a legislative proposal that the Committee was obliged to consider as Parliament. He commented that after this Parliament was dissolved, there may no longer be a Small Business Portfolio Committee. Furthermore, the Chairperson was not even coming back as a Member of Parliament.

He said that this Committee would be dissolved. The work of this Committee would have been forgotten, and no-one was going to know what this Committee had been doing. He did not feel that the PC was being responsible in this regard. He apologised if any Committee Member felt that he had hijacked the matter, but he had not hijacked it intentionally. He was just doing his job as a Member of Parliament.

He said that the Committee had been hard on the DSBD, and he had discussed with Minister Zulu that it would be an honour to pass this legislation in the interest of small businesses. He believed that irrespective of the politics, it was the duty of this PC to produce a decent piece of legislation, and that also the people of the country would see multi-party support in the form of a decent piece of legislation.

He then moved on to address some of the substantive questions that had been asked, but before he began he asked if he may continue.

The Chairperson interjected, and stated that there were hands that had been raised by persons in the meeting who wanted to respond, and she would like to give them an opportunity. She would also like to respond to some of the matters raised by Mr Chance.

Mr Bongo said he and the Chairperson e had been listening with great interest to all Members. He said the Committee was rejecting the approach, not the Bill. He explained using an analogy, and said that it was much like driving an already stolen vehicle. It had also been for Mr Chance to say that a Member, or some Members, were not coming back, because he was not a member of the ANC. He reminded Mr Chance to do things professionally and in an orderly way.

On behalf of the Committee that supported his statement, he said that the approach was not yet sufficient. Also, the question of desirability that Mr Kruger had raised was not yet a matter that was ripe in order to determine its desirability. The matter of desirability would be looked at after consultation had been carried out with departments and other stake holders.

He indicated that even those lawyers of Parliament assisting Mr Chance on the sidelines, was actually an anomaly -- that Parliament would sideline the rest of the Committee. The spirit of collectiveness should be promoted amongst the Committee members.

At the centre of everything that had been said and done concerning this matter, the DSBD was the only viable vehicle, as it was the one dealing with these matters. Mr Chance’s business approach would not assist, as the Committee was not dealing with substance now, it was dealing with approach. The matter of substance would be dealt with when it was desirable to do so at a meeting with the stake holders, the Department and other businesses.

Mr Mabaso said that the multiparty phraseology that Mr Bongo had  spoken about, was what could be achieved if the Committee worked as a collective in order to take this process to completion as a multiparty Portfolio Committee. It was human to err and that nobody was perfect, and he thought it may have been “out of eagerness” that this Bill had been proposed.

It would have been understandable if Mr Chance hadstated that the content of the input was going to enrich the way forward that the PC was going to come up with. He added that it was time for the Committee to move on this. He asked what would happen to all the work that the PC had done. He also commented that to say that a Member was not coming back, was politicking.

Mr Xapa said that if being in business for 30 years had been mentioned, then perhaps the Committee should ask whether he was rejecting the role that he had been appointed for. If he did not indicate confidence in politics, then he could not solve the matters of the nation. The anxiety and manner in which Mr Chance had stated that he had had a change of heart was almost like he was in praying. Mr Xapa said that this was not a church, it was a meeting where facts were being raised. The Committee was not about to score points for successfully implementing a Bill. The Committee was procedural and considerate, and the process should involve what was correct to put in a Bill. There were processes to be followed.

The Chairperson said that she thought that Members here did not have experience in business and politics. If everyone here were to share experiences and share what each person had done to add value to small businesses, then everybody would appreciate why each Member had been deployed by their own respective party. No party would deploy someone that did not add value to the development of small businesses. So the notion of being in business for 30 years was appreciated, but should not be seen as better. She had also had her own 35 years’ experience in cooperatives, and she had never used this to look down upon others -- she had used this to empower others.

She said that Mr Bongo had explained it very clearly when he had stated that it was a stolen vehicle, and that Mr Mabaso was putting it correctly when he said, to err was human.

What was being disputed here was that was it unfair to propose it as a Private Member’s Bill, when he had even stated in his presentation the matters that the Portfolio Committee had dealt with.

What Mr Chance had done was excellent work, but the manner in which he had proposed this work had been backstabbing. He asked Mr Chance to put himself in the shoes of the other Committee Members. What he had done was aimed at doing two things -- to ridicule the Portfolio Committee and the Department, to show that they did not care about small business, but in fact that was why this process had been started. This was about the elections in 2019 and Mr Chance’s desire to become the Minister of Small Business Development should the DA win the elections, as Mr Chance was referred to as the shadow minister. He was promoting, but it had nothing to do with promoting the work of the Portfolio Committee.

Mr Chance said that he thought he had already answered the question as to why he had not proposed a Committee Bill. At that stage, he had not thought about it. That was the honest answer. He could see the Members were upset. He did not see what he had done as a deliberate hijack. His personal view was that the Committee had a process that needed to be followed, deliberating and forming an opinion of the Bill, if that involved discussions outside this room.

He did not think that he would answer detailed questions now. Content would come up after the Committee had heard from the Department.

The Chairperson stated that this bill is premature. One member initiating this Bill is dangerous especially based on the work that the Portfolio Committee worked on as a collective. It does not take into account what the other members of the Portfolio Committee who were part of this process are feeling and thinking. This is against democratic processes and speaks volumes of a dictatorship approach. She indicated that Mr Chance alone cannot pass this Bill yet he is hijacking the work of the Portfolio Committee and further wanting the support of the Portfolio Committee in the hijacking process chosen.

Outstanding Minutes

The Chairperson asked Members to consider the outstanding minutes.

Mr Mabaso noted that electronic copies of the minutes had been sent but proposed that hard copies be made available so that they can be studied for the next meeting.

The Chairperson rejected the proposal saying each member has a secretary and that copies of the minutes of the meeting are sent to those secretaries. Further, members had printers; the work of the secretaries is to print those minutes and hand them to the secretaries. She said that the members should make their secretaries work.

Mr Kruger asked the Chairperson if her secretary can email his secretary the minutes of meetings.

The meeting was adjourned.

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