Process: Reports on Public Submissions and Provincial & Parliament Hearings

Constitutional Review Committee

13 September 2018
Chairperson: Mr L Nzimande (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

VIDEO: Joint Constitutional Review Committee receives briefing on written submissions,13 September 2018

High-Level Panel Report

The Committee discussed how to deal with the thousands of submissions it had received concerning section 25 of the Constitution. The Committee was not certain it would meet the deadline of September 28 to report back to the House and an extension might be needed.

A service provider was appointed to deal with the submissions, but it was not ready to present to the Committee.

Members thought it would help to first clearly lay out the process that was going to be followed by the Committee with regards to the various forms of contributions by the public.

Some members were concerned that the Committee had not had access to the written submissions. They intended on going through each of the written submissions. There was no possibly of accepting a summarised version of what was contained in the documents.

Some members thought the Committee should look at whether there were any parties or committees that had previously indicated that they wanted to make oral presentations so that the Committee could be as inclusive as possible. They cited the High-Level Panel and Office of the Valuer-General as entities that should be invited to present as they were referenced during the oral hearings. Others pointed out that the Committee took a decision that it would be unfair to allow anybody else to give submissions after the closing date and that everybody had an opportunity to indicate their interest in making oral submissions beforehand. It was noted that if there was a need to call anybody else, it should put it on the table and the decision will be taken by the Committee.

Members suggested that the Committee should start setting time frames in terms of how long the Committee should process the documents.

The Committee agreed to meet the following Thursday, where it will received presentations from the service provider and Parliament before deciding on the rest of their programme.

Meeting report

 

Remarks by the Chairperson

The Chairperson welcomed everyone and tabled the agenda.

According to the schedule, the Committee was supposed to receive a briefing from the service provider, however it had communicated that it was not ready with the report.

He proposed that in the light of the concerns raised by the Committee members about the written submissions, the Committee should take a quick short visit to the storerooms where the submissions were kept. If possible, the Committee could get copies of the submissions so that it can take over the process of the submissions. He requested to add the matter on the agenda.

Discussion

Mr L Filtane (UDM) thought it would help to first clearly lay out the process that was going to be followed by the Committee with regards to the various forms of contributions from the public. He reminded the Committee that there were concerns from the very beginning with the service providers and laying out a clear detailed process would help with the anxiety around the submissions.

Mr N Swart (ACDP) stated that he would like to know how far the service provider was in terms of summarising the written submissions. The last time the Committee sat, the service provider had gone through 140 000 of the 400 000+ submissions.

With regards to those invited to make oral presentations,was this determined by the first 140 000 submissions or did it include all the submissions?

Dr A Lotriet (DA) said that although there was much appreciation for the hard work that the staff had done in terms of the report the Committee had received and the agenda referred to consideration of the two reports, she did not think the Committee would be able to meaningfully discuss the documents at the meeting because they were very lengthy. The Committee had not had sufficient time to go through the documents. The one document was received the previous night and had 144 pages. The other document the members had just received was 43 pages.

Adv G Breytenbach (DA) was concerned that the Committee did not have access to the written submissions. She intended on going through each of the written submissions. There was no possibility of accepting a summarised version of what was contained in the documents. The Committee members wanted access to all the written submissions.

Ms D Carter (COPE) said she was covered by the Members before her. She expressed that it was the responsibility of the Committee and anyone else to go through the written submissions. She added that the Committee could not be expected to discuss documents that it had not been given time to go through.

Mr L Magwebu (DA) echoed that it would be incorrect and an injustice to the process to discuss documents the Committee had not been afforded the time or space to go through.

Mr F Beukman (ANC) agreed that the Committee needed to be given time to go through the documents. He also believed that the Committee should look at whether there were any parties that had previously indicated that they wanted to do oral presentations so that the Committee could be as inclusive as possible.

Mr V Smith (ANC) thought the Committee should formerly table the documents and find a day where it would go through the documents. He also agreed that the Committee should be given access to the written submissions. However, given the number of the written submissions, the Committee should start setting time frames in terms of how long it should process the documents. If the matter was left open ended it would take the whole year.

Mr F Shivambu (EFF) aligned himself with the view that the documents should be formerly tabled and discussed at another meeting. The matter should be postponed, and the Committee should also have time frames in place.

Ms T Mampuru (ANC) stated that nonetheless, the Committee had received the reports. She proposed that the Committee should allow the presenters to present and then it notes the presentations.

Dr Lotriet said she leaned towards what Mr Swart had said in terms of the request to make oral submissions to Parliament. What was clearly heard throughout the submissions that were made was the High-Level Panel Report. She proposed that the Committee considers having the authors of the High-Level Report come and do oral submissions.

Mr Swart disagreed that the Committee should go ahead with the presentations. Members needed time to read the documents. It would be a waste of time. With regards to the High-Level Panel, he thought that it should join the oral presentations as the report kept coming up in the oral presentations.

There was 250 pages on the report that concerned land and extensive public hearings throughout the country. He thought the Committee could learn from High-Level Panel ‘s process as well.

Ms R Mothapo (ANC) thanked the secretariat for a job well done on the reports. She aligned herself with Mr Smith and Mr Beukman. The report should be tabled and noted.

With regards to High-Level Panel recommendations, they did not have status as of now. There was no way that the Committee could have the High-Level Panel authors to come and do oral reports as they were mere recommendations and did not have status.

Dr C Mulder (FF+) said it would be irresponsible of the Committee not to invite the High-Level Panel to come and do oral presentations as many people had referred to it during the oral presentations. He remembered from a previous meeting, Mr Malema had requested that the Committee members be given access to video recordings from the oral provincial hearings. He asked if the request was declined as he did not see that on the agenda.

Mr Filtane expressed that if there was a still an opportunity to invite any critical role-player because of their relevance to the process, there was one office that the Committee needed to invite. This was the Office of the Valuer-General. The reason for his statement was that, throughout the public hearings in the provinces there was a constant reference to fact that the government had not exploited the land reform provisions in Section 25 to the full extent. The Valuer-General plays a critical role when it comes to deciding whether a farm should be bought at reasonable price or it should be bought for R0. This was a very critical stakeholder in the whole process. He suggested that the Committee allow presentations of the document received the previous night. He had slept late to make time for it (I,e. read it) and had expected that Members would do the same. The Committee needed to move forward.

Adv Breytenbach stated the suggestion that the High-Level Panel does not have status was somewhat misplaced in her view. All of the written and oral submissions were recommendations and so the High-Level Report being also a recommendation had the same status as the other submissions. There were many other Committees in Parliament currently debating considerations of the High-Level Panel Report so the view that they did not have status was not entirely correct.

The Chairperson reminded Members that the Committee had made a resolution to advertise and ask people to make an indication if they wanted to make oral presentation. It was impossible to call around 700 000 people to appear before the Committee. The Committee must stick with its resolution that those who indicated that they would like to speak from the advert would be given consideration. This process was not open ended as well. If there are too many of those, it would be impossible for all to appear.

He stated that because of the disjuncture of the service provider in completing the report, there might be people who would be considered. The Committee would have to explore the possibility in the programme. It would discuss and deliberate who it thought would be strategic to bring to make oral presentation.

Secondly, the purpose of bringing the reports to the Committee and asking the members to go and see the submissions themselves was to initiate the process of hand over to the Committee from the secretariat. Once the Committee sees the submissions, it would then have to deliberate on the process that should be taken to go through the submissions. The submissions that were via e-mail would be printed in hard copies so that members can have access to them as well.

What the Committee tried to do today was to ask the service provider for at least a spreadsheet of the things that they had gone through so far. The intention originally was that the Committee wanted the service provider to give it the complete report that would have been tabled after the service providers had presented. Thus, the intention of the meeting was to have a complete handover of the process of the written submissions to the Committee.

Mr Swart asked for clarity on the decision of the oral hearings based on written submissions. Were they based on the first 140 000+ submissions or on the 400 000+ submissions.

The Chairperson indicated that the oral presentations were based on the first 146 000 submissions and those individuals who were verified to have indicated they want to speak at the oral presentations. Initially the Committee had approved 28 people from the first batch of submissions who had indicated that they wanted to make oral presentations. However, there more than 48 oral presentations because those that indicated upfront before the closing date were included.

Some members were suggesting that the Committee starts another process of inviting those that it felt were critical to the matter. He emphasised that he did not think this was possible because they were given the privilege to indicate beforehand as per the advert.

Advocate Breytenbach disagreed with the interpretation of the Chairperson. The Committee was going through a very important process which had very important implications for the country. The process needed to be dealt with a lot of thought and consideration. What the Chairperson was suggesting was that if the Committee felt that it needed more information, it was not entitled to that information.

The Chairperson expressed that he did not say that the Committee could not get more information if it needed to. He was only referring to High-Level Panel.

Advocate Breytenbach stated that she was also referring to High-Level Panel and everyone else. If the Committee needed information, she could not imagine why it would not be entitled to get that information.

The Chairperson explained that he was saying the decision to invite further people was simply not on the table at the moment until such a time the Committee deliberate on it including High-Level Panel.

Mr Smith stated that the Committee members should remind each other that when the closing date was reached, the Committee said that it could not invite anybody else. At the time there were rumours that the ANC had branches that wanted to come and make presentations. The Committee took a decision that it would be unfair to allow anybody else to give submissions after the closing date. If Members fee that there was a need to call anybody else, they should put it on the table and the decision will be taken by the Committee. The Committee still had the right to collectively disagree with it.

He wanted to put it on record that having denied many people after the 15th of June, the Committee could not now open oral presentations up.

He did not think the Committee should deliberate on the matter any longer, if there was a view to call for more oral presentations it should be tabled, made an agenda item and be discussed by the Committee.

Mr Swart stated that the matter should be made an agenda item and discussed because there were two main bodies that needed to be considered. It was the High-Level Panel and the Valuer-General.

The Chairperson stated that the item would be put on the agenda once they had seen the people on the written submissions. The Committee had three agenda items. The one item was part of the proceedings and the two reports which would be tabled and put back on the agenda in the next meeting.

Mr S Maila (ANC) suggested that Members should be given at most three weeks to go through the written submissions.

Ms Carter stated that the Committee could not decide on the time frame yet. It should tour the storerooms first, come back and decide logically how long it would take the Committee to go through the documents.

Dr Lotriet concurred with Ms Carter.

Ms Mampuru asked whether the Committee was saying that the deadline which was 28 September would be shifted if it was going to make exceptions for oral presentations.

The Chairperson explained that procedurally, the Committee would have to go back to the House and ask for an extension. The Committee would decide on the time extension matter once it had received all the reports and assessed the feasibility of it reporting to the House on 28 September.

Mr L Mpumlwana (ANC) requested that the Committee carries on with the programme as it was.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee would go for the tour and come back to close the meeting.

The Committee went to the storerooms for about 15 minutes to view the written submissions.

On return, the Chairperson stated that he would take comments from the members.

Mr Maila said Ms Carter's proposal was good for Members to first go and make sense of what they had by viewing the store rooms. He still suggested that three weeks would be enough for the Members to go through the submissions.

Mr N Koornhof (ANC) suggested that the Committee ask the service provider to give a report and this should be on the agenda some time next week. The Committee should also ask Parliament to give some sort of assessment of what they had seen. For example, Parliament staff should give details about the submissions so that the Committee could have a flavour of what was awaiting it. After these reports, the Committee could make the decision of how much time the Members needed to go through the submissions.

Mr Swart believed that there was a huge amount of work to be done. The Committee does need some form of report. There should be reports from the report the service provider and from Parliament. Only then should the Committee decide on time frames.

Dr Lotriet supported the proposal that the Committee could not decide on the time frame just yet until it had received the reports from the service provider and Parliament.

Ms Carter concurred with Dr Lotriet. She thought it was unfortunate that two months later nothing had really been done in the room where the submissions were stored, and the staff could not even say how many submissions were in each box and how submissions were actually delivered. This should not have taken two months because papers of acknowledgement of how many documents were hand delivered were signed for example. The Committee should think about allocating a time frame per submission like it did with the oral submissions.

Mr Smith agreed that the service provider and Parliament should make presentations. He suggested that the presentations be done the following week on Tuesday. The Committee was of the view that it could not move on until it received the presentations, thus the presentations should be called as soon as possible. The process could not be delayed by the one decision.

The Chairperson asked the secretariat if it was possible for the IT department to compile the report on behalf of Parliament which included both the hard and soft copies of the submissions by Tuesday.

Ms Carter made a contrary proposal. She stated that the Committee had a meeting scheduled Thursday and Friday. It was unrealistic to expect the staff to try and compile a report between Friday and Monday. To download and print all the submissions by e-mail would take them longer than the meeting itself. To sit and screen through the boxes which the Committee agreed should have been done already, would take a long time. She thought the staff would not be done by Tuesday. She proposed that the Committee sticks to its meeting dates and have the presentations on Thursday.

Mr Filtane wanted the Committee to first agree on what it expected to be reflected on the reports of the service provider and the Parliament before it decided on the time frames.

Ms Breytenbach thought it was unfair to expect the stuff to do the kind of work in such a short time. He supported the view that presentations should be done on Thursday.

The Chairperson explained that the request was not to ask the staff to copy the e-mails and go through the hard copies. The staff had gone through the copies and that is why they were able to give the Committee the comprehensive report.

Mr Koornhof explained that the report by the parliamentary staff was a factual document. Political parties who did not trust the process could then go on their own to look at the documents. He was not asking for the parliamentary staff to give exact copies of the submissions. He wanted some sort of comprehensive and detailed report that would be formerly presented to Parliament.  

Mr Swart noted that there seemed to be confusion amongst the Members. The reports relate to a feedback on the summaries and not the documents themselves. The Committee would then look at the summaries and decide how much time it would need to look at the written submissions. However, the Committee needed to hear from the administrative staff whether they would be able to compile the report by Tuesday or Thursday.

The Chairperson stated that what Mr Swart had expressed was how he understood the matter. He asked the secretariat to tell the Committee when it would be able to present the report required.

The secretariat stated that the sense it was getting was that members wanted numbers of what was submitted to them by various bodies for example and the number of e-mail submissions. The process would be labour intensive because it required the stuff to go through each submission. At the moment, the secretariat was limited with regards to resources capacity. Tuesday would not be possible, however they would try to put a team together and compile the report by Thursday.

Mr Smith stated that the point he was making was that the Committee could not go beyond the following week with taking the decision of the programme of the Committee. He agreed with Thursday being the presentation day.

The Chairperson expressed that the Committee would meet on Thursday, 20 September to receive the report from the service provider and Parliament.

Ms Mothapo asked whether the Committee was meeting on both Thursday and Friday.

The Chairperson replied that as things stood the Committee was meeting on Thursday to determine the programme based on the reports.

Mr Beukman asked whether the Committee knew what the current position of the service provider was. Would they be able to present on Thursday?

The Chairperson expressed that the service provider had submitted a report but Parliament's quality control felt it did not meet expectation. It returned the report and the agreement was that the service provider would come back with the required report on Tuesday, 18 September. If the Committee pushes the meeting to Thursday, it gives the service provider more time.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee would meet on Thursday, 20 September to receive presentations from the service provider and Parliament. It would determine the time frames on discussions and the programme.

The meeting was adjourned.

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