Non-completion of trade agreement; farewell

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Trade, Industry and Competition

19 March 2019
Chairperson: Ms J Fubbs (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee held a brief meeting to deal with the final minutes and for Members to say farewell to colleagues.

The presentation on the trade agreement between the Southern African Customs Union, Mozambique and the United Kingdom was cancelled as an agreement had not been reached as had been hoped. The matter would not be tabled for the Fifth Parliament. Brexit had still not gone in either direction in the British Parliament which meant the Minister had been unable to sign a Memorandum of Understanding. Should the House of Commons vote for a delay, it would not affect South Africa. If there was an agreement that the United Kingdom would leave the European Union, which was highly unlikely, then the President would sign a Minute agreeing to a temporary continuation of the current trading conditions. The Presidential Minute would have a moral authority but not the authority of law, which meant that it would have to go to the Sixth Parliament to be ratified.

Several ANC Members of the Committee, including the Chairperson, would not be returning to Parliament and Members spent some time on leave-taking, expressing the belief that the Committee was the hardest working Committee in Parliament and noting that the robust debate between parties had always been in the best interest of the country. Members expressed their profound respect for the Chairperson and wished her well in the future as she would not be returning to Parliament.

The Chairperson noted that some important legislation had been addressed but recognised that there was unfinished business which the Sixth Parliament would have to take forward.


Meeting report

Opening remarks
The Chairperson stated that it had been a very eventful five years in the Fifth Parliament and the last of the Bills had been through the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) processes, including for further public comment. The Bills would be tabled in the relevant NCOP Committee the following day for final approval before adoption by the NCOP.

The Chairperson personally thanked all Members for their dedication and hard work as public representatives. For 98% of the time, Members of the Committee had been extremely collegial in the Committee environment; the House, of course, was much more robust and parochial. She thanked the Members and staff. She informed the Members that, on their behalf, she had written letters of appreciation to all staff who had been there for five years, except the Committee Assistant who had been with the Committee for less than one year but to whom she had also written.

The Chairperson had, on behalf of the Committee, had to convey to the Programme Committee Whip and the Chief Whip, the reality that Brexit had still not gone in either direction in the British Parliament which meant the Minister had been unable to sign a Memorandum of Understanding. Should, by some miracle, the House of Commons agree on something and vote for a delay, it would not affect SA. If there was, by some remote chance, an agreement that the United Kingdom would leave the European Union, which was highly unlikely, then all SA could do is for the President to sign a Minute, which would have a moral authority but not the authority of law. That meant that it would have to go to the Sixth Parliament for ratification. The Committee had not delayed anything, but everyone knew what was going on in the House of Commons.

The Chairperson wished to publicly convey her appreciation to her executive secretary because she had worked very long hours. She also wished to thank the staff members.

The Chairperson presented the agenda. Mr D Macpherson (DA) proposed the adoption of the agenda and his proposal was seconded by Mr A Williams (ANC).
The Chairperson noted that Members were coming late because of the transport problems and hoped that that was something that the Sixth Parliament would address.

The Chairperson noted:
-that the Department of Trade and Industry would follow the processes necessary for presenting the Marrakesh Treaty to the Sixth Parliament.
- the Minister’s response to the Committee Report on Localisation.
- the Minister’s response to the Portfolio Committee’s Third Quarter Report.
- that the only outstanding piece of correspondence was from the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS).

The Committee Secretary explained that the correspondence from SABS had been received and would be distributed.

13 March 2019: the adoption of the minutes, with the amendment of the numbering, was proposed by Mr S Mbuyane (ANC) and seconded by Mr Macpherson.

The Committee Secretary explained that the numbering might seem unclear but some of the numbers indicated a reference to the Localisation Report.

Closing remarks
As it was the final meeting of the Portfolio Committee, the Chairperson invited Members to make a comment, but she requested that they avoid political speeches.

Ms P Mantashe (ANC) said that it had been a hectic term, but she was so proud to have been part of the Committee, including the staff. She had learnt a lot and she came out of the Committee a new person. It was very painful to be saying goodbye, because the Committee was like family, but there was always a time to meet and a time to go separate ways. She hoped that those who would not be returning to Parliament would find that there was life beyond Parliament and that they would use the experience that they had gained in Parliament.

Mr Macpherson stated that he really did think the Portfolio Committee for Trade and Industry was, without doubt, the hardest working Committee in the Fifth Parliament. He knew that the Finance Committee would like to claim the title, but that Committee fell short on a couple of issues. He concurred with Ms Mantashe that at times it did feel like the Members were family, simply because they spent so much time working together. Like all families, not everyone always get on all the time. Brothers and sisters fight, there is a crazy uncle who comes in and goes out, but at the end of the day sitting around Christmas table, everyone is happy to be together.

Mr Macpherson recalled coming to the Committee in 2014, when he was only 29 - and five years later, he felt like he was 49 - and he had specifically requested to be a Member of the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry because he had felt that it matched his skills set. What he didn’t expect was coming across the Chairperson, Ms Fubbs, but that had been an added bonus. He had met some extraordinary people in his life but Ms Fubbs would rank as one of the top people that he had met, for a number of reasons. While they did not agree politically or ideologically on a number of issues, on a human basis, he felt a strong connection with her as someone who loves her country, loves the people in the country and had spent most of her life fighting for that, literally putting her own body on the line at times. 

He and she were lucky enough to have travelled a number of times, and he had got them into trouble on one of the trips, but not once had she treated him with disrespect or as younger than her. She had often deferred to him for information and opinion and called him, quite bizarrely, an economist, which he was not, but he did not dare correct her, and he quite liked being considered an economist. One of the biggest losses to the next Parliament was Ms Fubbs and he would miss her, and the Committee would be poorer without her. He would carry the many, many memories made in that Committee. He quoted:

What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.- TS Elliot

His prayer was that wherever she went, and he knew that it would be in continued service of her party and her country, that would be the real beginning for her. He wished her well and he wished all of the Committee Members well.

The Chairperson agreed that the Committee was actually a team of many hardworking colleagues and a Chairperson was simply the leader of that team.

Ms L Theko (ANC) thanked the Chair for being hard on her when she had arrived there. She had been deployed by the ANC and she had been pleased to be going to Parliament but when she had arrived, she was blank, and she had to chair a subcommittee on copyright, and it was a marathon. She had spent five years in a municipality so when she was to chair the subcommittee, she said that she could not do it, but the Chair had said she could, and she did. She had gone to Paris because the Chair believed in her and there, she had represented her country at an economic cluster meeting. It had been a wonderful experience.

She was in a better position to face whatever might come. She was not coming back but she would contribute outside of Parliament. She had arrived in 2017 and it had been like a marathon as she was given two Committees. It was tough, but she had learnt, and she was confident. She and the Chairperson had fought and after an hour they had both apologised. The Chair was like a mother, a leader and a veteran. The ANC had invested in her and she had invested in them. Ms Theko said that she had learnt so many skills in the last two years because of the Chair’s belief in her and because the Chair was a real leader. Looking at where she had come from to where she was now, she had come a long way. From the issue of sugar farms to localization, she had been involved in a lot.

Ms Theko promised to meet Ms Fubbs on Facebook. To the staff, opposition and PMG and to each ANC Member, she said thank you and goodbye.

Mr Williams thanked the Committee staff for all their assistance and for putting up with him being hectic at times and thanked the Chairperson for teaching him. In the Fourth Parliament, he had not enjoyed the Trade and Industry Committee and had known anything about treaties and so on and had managed to get himself out of the Committee, but in the Fifth Parliament, he had found himself right back in Trade and Industry. Like Ms Theko, he had been blank when he had arrived and he thanked the Chair for guiding him, teaching him and showing him where to look for information. He really appreciated the responsibility of chairing a sub-committee and had quite enjoyed it.  The Committee had done an excellent job for SA in the past five years and no one should underestimate the value of what the Committee had done for SA. The debate was vigorous and robust but never had the Committee completely lost it and he appreciated that.

Mr Mbuyane indicated that he just had a word of appreciation for the opportunity to engage in the processes. He had been a shop steward and chief whip in his council but in Parliament he had been dealing with policies. He had learnt a lot and he was still learning. The Chair, especially, had understood his background and had taught him. He thanked Mr Cachalia, and Mr Macpherson, with whom he always fought with, but neither of them were fighting on their own, they were both fighting for the people of SA and trying to make things better for them.  He thanked his comrades from the ANC.

Mr D Mahlobo (ANC) thanked the Chair, stating that it had been an honour to serve with the team and to serve the people of SA. The Committee Members were not necessarily the best of best, but they were the ones who had been sent there and they had done their best. They had shortcomings because they were human. He thanked the Committee staff who had done a very good job and they had done well to cope with the wide scope of the Committee.

Mr Mahlobo thanked the Minister and the Department of Trade and Industry, who had made the work of the Committee much easier, and also all the stakeholders because many South Africans and foreign governments had taken a keen interest in the work of the Committee, the media and NGOs. He thanked the opposition with whom he had worked very well with and the ANC study group under Mr Radebe, and the Chair who had executed her task very efficiently and made the work of Members seem easy. The Members had drawn strength and wisdom from her as a senior member and veteran of the organisation. Even if she was taking a different assignment, the team would always look up to her because, thanks to her, they were better people in terms of advancing the national democratic revolution because their journey towards a non-racial, democratic and prosperous society continued. Those who were coming back had to be able to take the work forward. It had been an honour to work with the Chairperson and he hoped he had made his small contribution. He wished everyone well and hoped that his movement would do well, but he had been on the ground and was very optimistic that his organisation would be given a mandate to carry forward.

Mr G Cachalia (DA) commented that he was relatively new to formal politics and had only come into the game two years previously and had, almost immediately, been sent to that Committee. It was an important Committee, ably led by a sound, punctilious leader. He was grateful for that. He thanked all the staff for their assistance and for doing sterling work. He thanked fellow Members of the team.  They had really engaged, sometimes robustly, but always perfectly aware of the task before them to serve the country. He would see everyone in the future as they continued to contribute to the country.

Mr B Radebe (ANC) thanked the Members for their sterling work and the staff for their sterling work in supporting the Members. Sometimes one forgot that it is not the developmental state that created itself but the people who created it. The staff had made the cut. He also thanked the Ministry, Department of Trade and Industry and all the hardworking officials that had made a difference to the lives of the people and the men and women in DTI had done a sterling job in ensuring that the manufacturing industry developed and that the country gained access to the international markets.

Mr Radebe reminded the Committee that the ANC had said in 1955 that the country belonged to all who lived in it, black and white, and in that Committee, it was a reality and reaffirmed what was in the ANC coat of arms that said ‘diverse people meet’ so when the ANC Members were robust with the Opposition, it was never because they were enemies but because of their love for their country. The ANC and the Opposition came from different perspectives, but at end of day, they hoped to create a better country. The ANC appreciated the Opposition Members.

To his colleagues in the ANC, Mr Radebe noted that he had been a Member of the Committee from 2009 until 2014, at which time there had been change, and in 2018, he had been brought back to the Committee and he found that the more things changed, the more they stayed the same because it was the same old Chairperson that he knew. To his comrades in the ANC study group, he said that they all knew that they had leaders in the organisation, like David Mahlobo who was a member of the National Executive Committee, but everyone knew that, in the study group, there was only one boss and they did what he asked them, even at the weekends and at night. To all of those who were coming back and those who were not coming back, he thanked them because they had made South Africa a better place to live in.

The Chairperson thanked all stakeholders, PMG, and the Committee staff who worked at home and after hours. She had to say that it was hard to attract competent people to that Committee because there was so much hard work to be done. The Committee had a very demanding schedule, but she thanked all staff for the long, hard slog, their knowledge of public policy and rules and managing all the paper work. The Committee had paved the way for the new method of processing Private Member Bills. The Committee had done some excellent work but not all the work had been completed in things like gambling.

One thing, the Chairperson had learnt was that no one was irreplaceable. Someone would always replace those who moved on. Most people had forgotten that she had gone into the Gauteng legislature as a clinical psychologist and had come out as an economist. Most of her qualifications had been post-1994 and two of them had been attained in the past four years. If she could do it as a clinical psychologist, anyone could do it.

The Chairperson acknowledged the attendance of the DA whose Members had tried to attend most of the Committee meetings which was important because it was a multiparty Parliament that the ANC had fought for. It was a non-racial Parliament, free from genderism. Most important of all was the need to work towards an inclusive economy and bring about increased employment. The Committee hoped that it had contributed to the inclusive economy and job creation but in its journey, the Committee had not seen the sugar industry until it was in their faces, and she hoped that the Sixth Parliament would learn from that.

The Chairperson thanked the Department and the Committee staff, even the Committee clerk who was fairly new to the Committee but because she was more highly qualified than the job required, she had proved her worth and had managed the documents really well. She wished everyone well over the Easter period, noting that there were so many different faiths in the country.

The Constitution was there to be protected, but everything in life changes. She, personally, had learnt humility and to listen. She thanked PMG and the media person from Parliament.

The Committee Secretary informed Members that photographs would be taken of the Committee. He reminded Members of the Joint Committee meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Finance the following day.

The meeting was adjourned.



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