The Secretary to the National Assembly presented a document on the Establishment of Joint Structures and their composition for the Sixth Parliament which formed the basis of discussion and decisions taken in the meeting.
The Committee agreed to establish the: Joint Constitutional Review Committee, Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests, Joint Parliamentary Group on International Relations, Joint Standing Committee on Financial Management of Parliament and the Joint Standing Committee on Defence.
During the discussion, a Member stated that the Ethics Committee was simply too big and often battled to get a quorum during the Fifth Parliament. As a resut, it was not an effective oversight body. In order to deal with this, he proposed that parties assign Members to the Ethics Committee who had the time commitment available and maintained again that the current formula as it stood was impractical and would hamper the work of the Ethics Committee. In addition, Members asked about the establishment of the Mediation Committee, how alternate members would be accomodated and representation by smaller parties.
In respect of the Committee Legacy Report, Members noted that the issues had also been highlighted in Parliament’s Legacy Report. They noted that many policies had been passed over from one Parliament to the next and a time frame needed to be established to have unresolved matters addressed.
The Committee also noted the process of harmonisation to get consistency between both Houses and in the Joint Rules in order to be efficient.
co-Chairperson Masondo welcomed the Committee and stated the Agenda.
Apologies were noted.
Establishment of Joint Structures and Other Matters Before Joint Rules Committee
Mr Masibulele Xaso, Secretary to the National Assembly, explained that in terms of the Joint Rules of Parliament, the Joint Rules Committee plays a crucial role in the establishment
of some joint structures of Parliament. The Joint Rules Committee may, in terms of Joint Rules 56(1)(g) and (i), regulate its own business and that of any other joint committee or any joint subcommittee and perform any other functions assigned to it by legislation, the other provisions of the Joint Rules or resolutions adopted in the Assembly and the Council.
Composition of Joint Structures
1. Constitutional Review Committee
Joint Rule 98 provides that the composition of the Joint Committee consists of 14 Assembly members and 9 Council members. The Joint Rules Committee determined the composition of the Constitutional Review Committee for the duration of the Sixth Parliament as follows: NA Component - ANC 8, DA 3, EFF 2 and Other Parties 1 and NCOP Component – 9.
2. Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests
Joint Rule 122 provides that the Joint Committee consist of 14 Assembly members and 9 Council members.
The Joint Rules Committee determined the composition of the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests for the duration of the Sixth Parliament as follows: NA Component - ANC 8, DA 3, EFF 2 and Other Parties 1 and NCOP Component – 9.
3. Parliamentary Group on International Relations
Joint Rule 129 provides that the Parliamentary Group on International Relations (PGIR) consists of the number of Assembly and Council members that the Joint Rules Committee may determine. The Joint Rules Committee determined the composition of the Parliamentary Group on International Relations for the duration of the Sixth Parliament as follows: NA Component - ANC 5, DA 2, EFF 1, Other Parties 1 and NCOP Component – ANC 3, DA 1.
4. Joint Standing Committee on Financial Management of Parliament
Joint Rule 96B requires that the composition of the Joint Standing Committee on Financial Management of Parliament be determined by the Joint Rules Committee. The Joint Rules Committee determined the composition of the Joint Standing Committee on Financial Management of Parliament for the duration of the Sixth Parliament as follows: NA Component - ANC 5, DA 2, EFF 1, Other Parties 1 and NCOP component - ANC 3, DA 1 and EFF 1.
5. Joint Standing Committee on Defence
Joint Rule 120B provides that the Joint Standing Committee consists of the number of Assembly and Council members that the Joint Rules Committee may determine, subject to the provisions of section 228(3) of the Constitution, 1993 read with item 24(1) of Schedule 6 to the Constitution, 1996. The Joint Rules Committee determined that the composition of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence for the duration of the Sixth Parliament be 15 members, as follows: NA component - ANC 6, DA 2, EFF 1 and IFP 1 and NCOP component - ANC 3, DA 1 and EFF 1.
Mr Xaso explained that a structure such as the Muti-Party Women’s Caucus would not require a decision by the Rules Committee, as it had already been established in terms of the Rules and therefore could simply be convened. It was made up of all female members of Parliament and once it had met, it could establish its own steering Committee in terms of the relevant joint rules.
He further explained that paragraph 2.3 of the report dealt with the composition of International Delegation but he would not deal with that section.
co-Chairperson Masondo stated that he was not sure whether or not, to look at sections first and then discuss but decided that the Committee would look at the report in its entirety.
Mr J Steenhuisen (DA) stated that he would like to comment on paragraph 2.1.2 which related to the composition of the Joint Committee on Ethics. He explained that out of practical experience and despite knowing it was something that most probably could not be fixed right away, the Ethics Committee was simply too big and often battled to get a quorum. As a result, in the Fifth Parliament, it was not an effective oversight body, designed to hold Members of Parliament accountable. Due to the different House meetings times and various other factors, the Committee struggled to get a quorum, which led to the Committee not being able to meet when required, as well as not being able to execute its mandate in holding Members to a higher standard. The formula consisted of 14 National Assembly Members and 9 Council Members, which needed a quorum from both Houses in order to proceed with meetings. He emphasised that the issue was one of practicality which would bring future problems if not addressed. In order to deal with this, he proposed that parties assign Members to the Ethics Committee who had the time commitment available. He maintained again that the current formula as it stood was impractical and ended up hampering the work of the Ethics Committee in the Fifth Parliament.
Mr N Singh (IFP) stated that he had no problem with the way in which Full Members were going to be composed. However, he sought clarity on whether the principle of Alternate Members would apply. Secondly, he wanted to know whether or not, in terms of section 78 of the Constitution and Rule 15 of the Joint Rules, the composition of the Mediation Committee was going to be considered and how it would be it would be constituted.
Mr L Tsenoli, NA Deputy Speaker (ANC), pointed out to Mr Xaso that the current meeting was a public one. There were many new Members that would need clarity as to why the Interim Constitution, 1993 Rules were being referred to when a Final Constitution,1996 had superseded it.
Dr C Mulder (FF+) wanted to know what the NCOP component was in terms of parties in the Constitutional Review Committee. He explained that the proposal made provision for one Member of the other parties, which meant that there would be 1 representative that represented 11 different parties on the Committee whilst in other Committees there were at least 2 Members representing 11 different parties. He asserted that such composition could not be entertained.
Ms D Dlakude (ANC) agreed with Mr Singh regarding Alternate Members in the Joint Committees and did not see a train smash regarding that. The ANC was happy regarding the composition of the Ethics Committee. She informed Mr Steenhuisen that the problem regarding the Ethics Committee
was due to meeting time slots and provincial weeks when the NCOP was not around and stated that if they could agree on appropriate meeting time slots then the Ethics Committee would survive. She emphasised that it the responsibility of party whips to make sure their Members attended their relevant meetings. She was well aware that the interest –by Members and in general - of the Constitutional Review Committee was at an all-time high. While Members were allowed to attend, participate and give input in any meeting, voting was not allowed if you are not a full member.
Ms Dlakude informed Mr Singh that the Mediation Committee did not need to be established by the Joint Rules Committee. The Mediation Committee dealt with specific matters and could be left for another day.
Mr Xaso explained that the size of the Committees was a result of prescribed rules and in order to change them, it would need a rules amendment. The rules were made in a different era and many had never been amended since their inception. The Joint Rules Committee would need to establish consensus on the rules needing to be reviewed and could propose that each Parliament would make a determination on the size of the Committees. There were various options that they could explore.
He sought clarification on Mr Singh’s question, as he may have misunderstood it. Ordinarily if there was an IFP Member, there would be an IFP Alternate Member. He explained that the Mediation Committee was per event. He explained, using the example of a Labour Bill, that it could require a Mediation Committee for that. What was ordinarily done, was to draw Members from those specific Committees which needed a mediation on something, there would then be a resolution of the House establishing a Mediation Committee for a specific purpose only.
Mr Xaso clarified that the Joint Standing Committee on Defence’s Rules were contained in the Interim Constitution of 1993. In essence, some of the provisions contained in the Interim Constitution were allowed to be taken beyond 1994 and the Final Constitution of 1996. He further explained that wherever references were made to 9 Councillors in the proposals, the composition would reflect that of Provincial representation.
Dr Mulder sought clarity whether Provinces decided who the Member would be.
Mr Xaso replied that each provincial delegation would be represented by one delegate. The NCOP consisted of delegates from each province, one of those delegates per province would represent the province.
Dr Mulder said his concern was that in other Committees where the NCOP was represented, composition was not being done in the way mentioned but through allocation of seats to parties.
Co-Chairperson Masondo felt that Dr Mulder’s query was not being responded to and assured him that he would get a response to the issue raised.
Ms P Majodina (ANC) said that the interchangeable use of the Interim and Final Constitution must be looked at again in order to get clarity. She explained her uneasiness with utilising the Interim Constitution one moment and the Final Constitution the next. She asked that submissions be made to discuss it at later stage after feedback had received.
Mr Steenhuisen wanted it to be placed on record that he knew the principle of Alternates was being utilised for the Ethics Committee; however it was more complicated in that Committee than just saying Alternates could fill in. Once Members started hearing a matter and there were decisions to be taken at a larger stage based on those hearings, it would be unprocedural for a Member who had not heard the case in its entirety to be expected to make a rational and well-informed decision at the end of it. He believed that Alternates were not the solution to the Ethics Committee problem, however, he proclaimed himself to be an optimist and would keep an eye on the Committee. Notwithstanding this, he was certain that they would be back in a few months at the Joint Rules Committee to try and deal with the issue of no quorum he had mentioned earlier. He emphasised once again that the practical problem was a reality.
Mr Singh noted that Mr Xaso wanted him to explain what his question was. He explained that according to his knowledge on Alternates, if the IFP had a slot written down then the Alternate needed to come from the IFP, however, if other parties had a slot, then the Member and the Alternate could come from amongst the other parties.
Co-Chairperson Masondo stated that since no one had any other questions to raise, he would take it that Members had exhausted their questions and they could move on.
Mr Xaso stated that he needed consensus on the Joint Standing Committee on Defence and wanted to know if the Committee was in agreement with the proposal to increase the number of Committee Members from 13 to 15. This would also increase representation to 4 parties unlike in the Fifth Prliament where only 3 parties where represented on this structure.
Co-Chairperson Masondo stated that it seemed nobody objected to this proposal. The proposal regarding the 15 Members for the Joint Standing Committee on Defence was agreed to.
Co-Chairperson Masondo stated that they would move on to the Legacy Report.
Committee Legacy Report
Mr Steenhuisen stated that the Legacy Report was noted and the matters outstanding in it, to his knowledge had found landing ground in the Legacy Report of Parliament as a whole and therefore he found it pointless to apply his mind or comments to it.
On Item 4, which referred to the Review of the Joint Rules of Parliament, he emphasised that the Committee found itself in a situation where the National Assembly embarked upon a process to review its rules and the National Council of Provinces had done the same at an earlier stage, however, it left the NA and the NCOP out of sync now. He appreciated the progress and innovations that had been made by both those processes which could enrich the Joint Rules Committee greatly. He urged that the Committee be established swiftly in order to avoid delaying the review process. The sooner the Houses were aligned the better it would be. It could take two years or less as a result of the other two processes by the Houses but the quicker they got started the better.
Mr Singh occurred with Mr Steenhuisen and raised the issue that many policies had been passed over from one administration to the next. He stated that the Language Policy had been passed over from the 4th Parliament to the 5th Parliament and now to the 6th Parliament. It needed to be addressed to avoid being passed to the 7th Parliament. A legitimate time frame need to be established to get those unresolved matters addressed.
Mr Tsenoli stated they respected the process of harmonization to get consistency between both Houses and in the Joint Rules in order to be efficient, that was essentially the main objective.
Mr Xaso stated that all that was needed was for two Sub-Committees on the Review of Rules to sit together: the NA had established a Sub-Committee and advised that the NCOP establish one within the forthcoming day. He advised that the current meeting be referred to that structure once it had been established in order to commence or resume the process of the amendment of the joint rules.
Ms Dlakude stated that she wanted to bring it to the attention of the meeting that they should bear in mind that Sub-Committees use to sit during awkward hours, even during parliamentary constituency periods. No party should state that their Members were unavailable.
Co-Chairperson Masondo stated they would move onto item five which was the closure. He thanked all for their attendance.
The meeting was adjourned.