Government Departments & Entities 2019/20 Annual Performance Plan (APP)
The Portfolio Committee received a briefing from the South African Human Rights Commission on its 2019/20 Annual Performance Plan.
The Commission informed Members that it was most concerned about socio-economic rights in South Africa, especially relating to the elderly and disabled, as well as access to education. Other areas of concern were the increase in crimes and violent protests and dysfunctional municipalities, which were responsible for denying human rights to their residents.
Challenges faced by the Commission included resource constraints and the lack of implementation of the directives issued by the Commission by all levels of government. Some of the directives issued in 2008 still had not been attended to and people came back to the Commission and theirresources were then spent re-visiting issues that had already been resolved, but government had not implemented the directives. Implementation of those directives would resolve many of the issues. The Commission appealed to the National Assembly for support in that matter as the National Assembly was obliged to maintain oversight over the Executive and state organs. 10 000 complaints were received from the public annually, but the Commission could act without receiving a complaint. The findings of the Commission were binding and so it was litigating far more frequently but there was a need to ensure that recommendations were implemented.
The Committee was informed that South Africa had signed the National Preventive Mechanism for the United Nations Optional Protocol Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Commission had been mandated to monitor the commitment. Only independent institutions could monitor the implementation and so the HRC was currently co-opting people from the Departments of Social Development, South African Police Service and Correctional Services to serve on the Commission’s monitoring team. It was a huge undertaking as every place of detention in the country had to be monitored.
The National Treasury grant to the Commission for 2019/20 had been cut by R4.5 million from R193.7 million to R189.2 million. A significant portion (69% or R130.9m) of the budget was allocated to cover personnel costs, reduced from 72% the previous year. About a quarter of the budget was allocated to cover Corporate Support while only R13.2 million of the budget was allocated to the core operations. However, one had to remember that the core work was actually done by what National Treasury called ‘human resources’.
Members had many questions for the Commission. They wanted to know how the Commission planned to monitor implementation of findings, given that funds had not been allocated by National Treasury. How could the Equality Courts best be utilised? Could the HRC elaborate on the mechanics of the systemic violence investigation and the terms of reference of the investigation? What progress had been made in trying to thrash out an operational protocol in terms of visits to detention centres.
Members asked about the Life Esidimeni report that the Commission had prepared in March 2019. Was it involved in other litigation on behalf of those families that had suffered in that tragedy? Members had seen complaints about the statements made by the leader of the EFF who said he was not calling for slaughter of white people, at least not for the moment. The HRC had said that technically it was not hate speech although people might find it offensive. Was the Commission satisfied that its finding adhered to the promotion of a culture of human rights? Some Members saw it as a lost opportunity to call out a political leader who could be seen to be inciting hatred and violence. Did the HRC not have a duty to assist South Africa in developing a human rights culture in a broader way?
Members wanted information on what had been done in each sector of the Commission and what was being done, what the results were and what the research said? What work did the Commission do with the Department of Basic Education? How was the Commission going to cope with the implementation of the programme to enhance its IT systems? Members were glad that the Commission had met with the City of Cape Town regarding the fact that the City might be trampling on people’s human rights (in respect of fining vagrants). Was the Commission formally investigating the potential deprivation of human rights?
The Chairperson welcomed everyone and stated that the Human Rights Commission (HRC) would present in the morning and the Public Protector of South Africa would be making a presentation that afternoon.
The Chairperson welcomed the Human Rights Commission. Because the Committee was new and had not met the Commission before, he suggested that both the Members and the Commission introduce themselves.
The Chairperson of the Commission, Adv Bongani Majola, introduced the three Commissioners who were accompanying him: Commissioner Adv Andre Gaum, Commissioner Adv Mohamed Ameermia and Commissioner Chris Nissen. He apologised that Chris Nissen would be leaving at 11:00 because he had a meeting with the Commissioner of Correctional Services. Also part of the delegation was Commission’s CEO, Adv Tseliso Thipanyane, and Ms Fadlah Adams, Senior Researcher: Parliamentary and International Affairs Unit.
Introductory remarks by the HRC Chairperson
Adv Majola congratulated the Chairperson and Committee Members on their appointment. He explained that not all the Commissioners were in attendance as the HRC did not have the resources to bring all of them to Parliament.
He believed that the HRC could benefit enormously from the support of the Portfolio Committee when it came to oversight and the Amendment of the HRC legislation, as well as the implementation of some of the current legislation.
The Commission was most concerned about socio-economic rights in SA, especially relating to the elderly and disabled, as well as access to education. The increase in crimes of all types, which violated the rights of ordinary vulnerable people, was a major concern to the Commission. The dysfunctional municipalities were responsible for denying human rights. The HRC wanted to introduce a Multi-Party Children’s Caucus in the country to address the needs of children.
Many people did not understand that rights came with responsibilities. The Commissioner presented the example of the Zebediela community that did not allow children go to school because they were demanding that the roads be tarred. Such situations presented a huge challenge.
Challenges faced by the HRC included resource constraints and the lack of implementation of the Commission’s directives at all levels of government. Some of the directives issued in 2008 had still not been attended to and people came back to the HRC and so resources were spent re-visiting issues that had been resolved but where government had not implemented the directives. Implementation of the HRC directives would resolve many of the issues. The HRC appealed to the National Assembly for support in this matter as the National Assembly was obliged to maintain oversight over the Executive and state organs.
The Commission appealed to the Portfolio Committee to review the pieces of legislation that had been raised in the Fifth Parliament. The Commission would shortly be meeting with the Minister of Justice to discuss the situation regarding the Equality Courts which were not functioning optimally.
Briefing on Revised HRC Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan for 2019/20
Adv Thipanyane presented the strategic plan and the Annual Performance Plan (APP).
Revised Strategic Plan
The strategic plan was informed by the need to address the key challenges of poverty, unemployment, inequality and violence. Priority areas included: business and human rights; corruption and human rights; violence against vulnerable groups; equality and social cohesion and protests, local government and service delivery. There were 14 000 protests a year in South Africa and they were becoming increasingly violent.
Annual Performance Plan
Adv Thipanyane was very pleased to announce that in terms of delivering on the key mandate of promoting human rights education and awareness at schools in marginalised areas, all Grades 10 and 11 learners in the country would take part in an annual Human Rights Essay competition as part of the curriculum. It was a combined venture of the HRC, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJ&CD) and would hugely raise the profile of human rights in the country.
10 000 complaints were received from the public annually, but the Commission could act without receiving a complaint. The findings of the HRC were binding and so the HRC was litigating far more frequently but there was a need to ensure that HRC recommendations were implemented.
South Africa had signed the National Preventive Mechanism for the United Nations Optional Protocol Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the HRC had been mandated to monitor the commitment. Only independent institutions could monitor the implementation and so the HRC was currently co-opting people from the Departments of Social Development, South African Police Service and Correctional Services to serve on HRC monitoring teams. It was a huge undertaking as every place of detention had to be monitored.
Adv Mohamed took over as the Acting Chairperson.
The National Treasury grant to the Commission for 2019/20 had been cut by R4.5 million from R193.7 million to R189.2 million. A significant portion (69% or R130.9m) of the budget was allocated to cover personnel costs, reduced from 72% the previous year. About a quarter (24% or R45.6m) of the budget was allocated to cover Corporate Support Committed Costs while only 7% or R13.2 million of the budget was allocated to the core operations. However, one had to remember that the core work was actually done by what National Treasury called ‘human resources’.
As a result of the budget cut, the Commission had to reprioritse its budget and devise some stringent measures, including freezing some of the vacant posts, reviewing the organisational structure, and subleasing a portion of the HRC office space. The mandate for the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) was to be handed over to the Information Regulator that was currently renting a floor in the HRC building.
The Chairperson returned to the chair and invited questions and comments.
Adv H Mohamed (ANC) thanked the Commission for the presentation. He stated that the issue of human rights was deeply rooted in the South African conscience but implementing human rights was a daily challenge. He asked what funding opportunities there were and how best the HRC could promote human rights in conjunction with the public and private sector. The promotion of human rights was more important than ever, but the Commission could not abdicate responsibility to communities. Unfunded mandates included the obligations to monitor the implementation of court orders. He wanted to know how the HRC planned to monitor implementation of findings, given that funds had not been allocated by National Treasury?
Adv Mohamed noted that the presentation had informed Members of the PAIA issue which was stuck somewhere. He asked for an update. The Equality Court had not been effectively utilised. Had there been an engagement with the National Efficiency and Enhancement Committee (NEC) chaired by the Chief Justice about how best to utilise them effectively for clients as well as awareness. DoJ&CD had declared every court a sitting place of the Equality Court but how could the HRC and the DoJ&CD best use the courts?
Coming from the Western Cape, he had an interest in the systemic violence investigation that the HRC intended doing. Could the HRC elaborate on mechanics of the investigation and the terms of reference of the systemic violence investigation?
Adv S Swart (ACDP) thanked the HRC for the report and the hard work done by the Commission under very difficult circumstances, some relating to the budget. Some of the perennial issues had come up, and the new Parliament and the new Committee would have to deal with those that related to non-compliance and a lack of remedial action by departments, non-compliance with PAIA and those issues. There had been an agreement in the Fifth Parliament that HRC could liaise with the Institutions Supporting Democracy (ISD) unit that is housed in the Speakers’ Office regarding those departments and executives that were not compliant. The problem of non-compliance had been ongoing for a long time. He was aware that all the findings were not binding, but there had to be some form of implementation. It was a similar situation with PAIA issues.
Adv Swart suggested that the HRC provide the Committee with a list of the recommendations not implemented by the Executive over the years. He noted that the HRC had only been looking at implementation since 2016 but it might be that the Committee could start looking into the general reports and the PAIA report.
Adv Swart was glad that the Commission was giving attention to crime. Everyone was concerned about the high levels of straight-forward crime. It was a massive concern. It affected basic human rights in a very basic way. The NPA had said that crime was going through the roof and if the NPA admitted that, then it was clearing a major problem. He also thanked the HRC for its attention on social cohesion. Social cohesion was another important issue where the HRC could play a crucial role, especially in the light of racial utterances and so on.
Adv Swart addressed the unfunded mandates of the HRC. Was the HRC monitoring the findings of various court orders? He was not sure if the entity was participating in such litigation or whether it was being given monitoring duties in hindsight. He suggested that at the time the court gave HRC the order to monitor, the Commission needed to give the courts an indication of its financial constraints. Vast monitoring obligations had been placed upon the HRC and it was difficult given the limited resources.
Adv Swart asked about the Life Esidimeni report that the HRC had prepared in March 2019. Was the HRC involved in other litigation on behalf of those families that had suffered in that tragedy? The Portfolio Committee should have insight into that report as well. Of interest to him was the trafficking of persons and he appreciated the good the work done by the HRC. The Committee had, in previous Parliaments, argued for an increased budget for the HRC and it had to continue to do that.
Mr W Horn (DA) asked about the duties that the Commission had taken up regarding the National Preventive Mechanism for the Optional Protocol Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. He knew that Commissioner Chris Nissen was meeting with the Commissioner of Correctional Services that day but it could be helpful to hear about what progress had been made in trying to thrash out an operational protocol in terms of visits to detention centres.
In relation to the HRC’s broad mandate, Mr Horn noted that on 8 July 2019, City Press had published an interesting article about a medical student who had approached the HRC after she had failed and was not re-admitted by the University of the Witwatersrand. She had called it a discriminatory practice given the fact that she came from a disadvantaged background. The University had apparently questioned the right of the HRC to get involved. The University had said that the matter should be overseen by the Council for Higher Education that oversaw academic standards and monitored how the University applied its policies. Had the HRC applied its mind and answered the University and, if so, what was HRC’s answer?
On Goal 2, the promotion of a sustainable culture of human rights, Mr Horn said that if one reflected on a culture of human rights, his research said that it was a culture in which people actively and positively reflected on fundamental rights such as dignity, equality and freedom, but academics said that one had to distinguish between human rights law with its vertical application and human rights culture which had a horizontal structure, a socially-constructed feeling or habits of the heart, such as a culture of tolerance. It was on that premise that he questioned the HRC in respect of the report released towards the end of March following complaints about the statement made by the leader of the EFF who had said he was not calling for slaughter of white people, at least not for now. People were upset and aggrieved. The HRC had said that technically it was not hate speech although people might find it offensive. It might not have been hate speech according to the law and he was not disagreeing, but a culture of human rights was not only about the law and it was the duty of the HRC to promote a culture of human rights. Was the Commission satisfied that its finding adhered to the promotion of a culture of human rights? He, and many South Africans, saw it as a lost opportunity to call out a political leader who could be seen to be inciting hatred and violence. Did the HRC not have a duty to assist South Africa in a broader way to promote a human rights culture?
Ms W Newhoudt-Druchen (ANC) thanked the HRC for its presentation. She asked for a copy of the detail presented by the HRC Chairperson which was much more than in the PowerPoint presentation. She also saw that each Commissioner had a specific focus area. She was new in the Committee and she would like information on what had been done in each sector, what was being done, and what the results were and what the research said? What would the HRC like to see being done in each area? She wanted more detail.
Relating to its work with the school curriculum and the DBE, she asked what was in the curriculum or what feedback did the HRC give into the curriculum. The disabled children in special schools faced a lot of discrimination, even in the schools, from teachers etc., but because they were disabled, they could not voice their concerns. What work did the HRC do with the DBE? Secondly, the CEO had said that, unlike other Chapter Nine Institutions, the HRC worked both with the public and private sector. However, the HRC had said that it only worked with public schools and not the private schools. Why not both? The HRC should work with the private schools as well because they were insensitive and did not respect human rights.
In the presentation, the HRC Chairperson had spoken about collaboration with the United Nations in the 200 cases of torture in the prisons and rapes in South African detention centres. How did the HRC work with the police sector to reduce the number of rapes and cases of torture? She was happy that the HRC was monitoring the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. People had forgotten that Parliament had ratified the Convention and the staff in local and provincial government did not know what was contained in the Convention. What was the HRC doing to ensure that all government officials knew what was in the Convention? How could the HRC assist in that way? The Convention had been ratified twelve years earlier and she wanted to know what the HRC could do so that South Africans did not forget about the Convention and forgot that disabled people were vulnerable.
The Committee Chairperson noted that some questions were very detailed, and he advised that the HRC submit written responses to those questions.
Ms N Maseko-Jele (ANC) said that she could hear that the HRC had a serious issue of budget constraints when it came to the monitoring of the detention system and disability. How was the Commission going to cope with implementing its proposed plans, particularly that of enhancing ICT and increasing its work in education?
Mr X Nqola (ANC) noted a dire need to legislate to assist the Commission to manage its work. The HRC had raised the matter of the rising revolution of protests that might be an indication of the country’s instability or of weaknesses in spheres of government because the protests were firstly about education, a constitutional obligation, and secondly about houses, which was also in the Constitution as human settlements. That said, there was a role that HRC had to play in respect of government departments that were supposed to provide those services. The HRC should bring synergy between government and the people when there were protests. Correctional Services fell under the auspices of the Portfolio Committee and there was a fundamental contravention of human rights in correctional centres. The Commission should work closely with Correctional Services to ensure that human rights abuses were curbed and reduced.
Lastly, Mr Ngola had noted a common challenge of budget constraints by all presenters to the Committee. He suggested the Chairperson should see how the Portfolio Committee could assist with the budget.
Adv Mohamed asked about the effect of the binding status of HRC findings. The HRC recommendations affected multiple departments and institutions: what was the mechanism for feedback on implementation? He was glad to see that a Commissioner had met the City of Cape Town on concerns that it might be trampling on people’s human rights (in respect of fining vagrants). Was the Commission formally investigating the potential deprivation of human rights?
Adv Majola asked for a brief caucus of HRC members to determine how they could efficiently address all the questions.
Response by HRC
Adv Majola indicated that the HRC would take questions in the order that they had arisen.
Adv Majola concurred that the Equality Courts had not been optimally utilised. He had discussed the matter with the DoJ&CD since 2017 when the Commissioners had come into office. Part of the problem was that the mechanism designed to look after the Equality Courts, i.e. the committee of which the HRC was a member, had not met for a long time as there had been no quorum. DoJ&CD had appointed new members but each time a meeting was arranged, members were not available to attend. DoJ&CD had finally suggested a revision of the Equality Court Act itself because the meetings were not happening. The HRC had mentioned that it did not have the money to publicise the courts, but the Commissioners had taken a lot of work to the Equality Courts, which had done good work, and the HRC had tried to engage the media to publicise what it was doing. The HRC had not discussed the matter with the Chief Justice as it might not be in his ambit and he might throw the Commission back into the hands of the committee that was not functional, or to the DoJ&CD. The HRC had written to the new Minister of Justice because that was one of the issues that it wished to raise with him, but the Commission had not yet had a response. Equality Courts were cheaper, quicker and less formal than full courts, and so the Commission was keen to work with them.
Ms Adams said that the Commission was acutely aware of the scourge of violence on the Cape Flats and, about eight years ago, it had conducted an initial inquiry on crime and human rights. One result was the establishment of a Focus Commission to look at civil and political rights. That fell under the ambit of Commissioner Chris Nissen who had done a lot of work on the ground in the Cape Flats, Overberg and Boland areas. Violence was spilling over from the Flats into the Boland. Engagements had included being part of the peace marches, searching for victims such as the young girl who had been raped and murdered, and working with mothers who came to the HRC offices. In June 2019, the crime statistics showed that 900 people had been killed on the Cape Flats as a result of gang violence.
After 14 people were killed on the Cape Flats in one weekend in early July 2019, the HRC had decided to commission a human rights inquiry into the implications of human rights violations in the associated areas. The HRC had scheduled the inquiry for the end of August, funds permitting, to document the experiences of people living in the communities, to attempt to determine what fuelled the violence, determine the human rights and civil rights implications and to bring in a human rights perspective. The Commission would also engage the relevant stakeholders such as the local, provincial and national governments as well as the law enforcement agencies that had been dispatched to quell the violence. The Commission would share the findings in a report with the Committee, but it was an ongoing project.
Adv Thipanyane stated that the HRC was doing quite a lot in respect of funding. The Commission had a number of Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with the public or private sector, such as the Safer South Africa Foundation which dealt with issues of crime prevention in schools. The HRC was finalising an MoU with Kagiso Trust for issues around development. The HRC had worked with a number of universities in that regard and that helped the Commission to do promotional work without paying for it.
Adv Thipanyane added that the project with the DBE would definitely be a major one in all schools. The Commission had put R1 million into the schools essay project. The Commission had also been funded by the European Union in the previous year to study the Optional Protocol Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). In the current year, the European Union was funding a study tour on disability costing about R800 000. The Commission took its partners from NGO’s with it on study tours so that they could work together on their return.
Adv Thipanyane stated that the monitoring of the Lindela Detention Centre would be taken over by OPCAT functions. The challenge with PAIA was that the Commission had been waiting for three years for the President to put into operation sections of the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA). The Commission had only one staff member working on PAIA which was wholly inadequate. The Information Regulator was also waiting for the implementation and the Commission was committed to assisting with the transition of the responsibility to the Information Regulator. It was affecting labour relations as the HRC had to continually provide an extension of the employee’s contract, etc. while the Regulator had to hold off making appointments. Everyone was in limbo and both organisations needed to know when the signing would take place. It would be very helpful if the President could sign the necessary documentation.
Adv Majola noted that the Commission had been requested to forward a list of the recommendations not attended to and that would be done. He thanked Adv Swart for his compliments. On trafficking in persons, DoJ&CD had a programme and the HRC had plugged into that programme and had started to work with the Department on that issue. They had begun with a seminar organised by the Department. Commissioner Makwetla was the Commission representative on that structure. It was an area of concern and, recently, the media had reported on children in Limpopo who might have come from other countries without their parents.
Adv Thipanyane stated that the Esidimeni matter was back with the HRC after it had been addressed by the Committee Against Torture in Geneva which, in its concluding observations, had also noted the slow pace around Marikana. The Commission would be looking into both Esidimeni and Marikana and would advise the Committee Against Torture (CAT).
Adv Thipanyane informed the Committee that the HRC had been given R1.6 million for the setting up of the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) which would consist of the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS), the military ombudsman, a health ombudsman, and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID). The challenge was that the body had to be independent or it could be challenged by CAT. There were questions about the independence of JICS, IPID did not have a mandate to monitor the cells at the 1040 South African Police Service (SAPS) stations, the military ombudsman did not have a mandate to monitor military prisons, and so the Commission was currently monitoring all police station cells and had an MoU with SAPS to do so. The Commission was working towards a mechanism including all the departments - DoJ&CD, SAPS, Correctional Services and Home Affairs as well as NGOs - in designing a monitoring tool following the guidelines of the United Nations on how to monitor.
The new function might require an amendment of the HRC Act or a new Act that might be called the South African National Preventative Act. The NPM would be launched on 20 July 2019 by the Minister of Justice. The Commission was working with the African Community of Practice on Managing for Development Results (AfCoP) to design a monitoring tool based on the OPCAT guidelines. Monitoring had begun and all provincial offices had to monitor cells. The Commission hoped to help the other organisations to become independent monitors. If that was not possible, the HRC would continue to monitor and those organisations could become part of a substructure below the level of the NPM to assist the HRC. The New Zealand model was being followed where the NZ Human Rights Commission monitored, and the relevant bodies worked together.
Commissioner Gaum responded to Adv Mohamed about the binding nature of findings: following the EFF judgement in the Nkandla matter, the Commission had studied the court judgement and had found it applicable to the Commission’s findings. Inter alia, the court had indicated that when public resources were utilised, the government department, or whoever was involved, could not decide whether or not to implement the findings. The wording used in the case of the Public Protector was ‘taking remedial actions’ and in the case of the Commission, it was ‘taking steps to secure redress’. If one examined the court case, one would see that it applied to the Commission as well as to the Public Protector. Not all the findings of HRC would be binding as it would be dependent on the particular circumstances, so in some cases, the HRC was already issuing directives.
Commissioner Gaum said that as far as the Equality Courts were concerned, the HRC could also play a supplementary role there but the Commissioners had asked the HRC Secretariat to look at the sanctions that could follow from, for example, a finding of hate speech as it did not really help if someone was found guilty of hate speech and the HRC simply asked the person to apologise and not to do it again. There had to be sanctions.
Commissioner Gaum added that investigation into the public violence would also look at violence in schools in the Western Cape and he was working closely with Commissioner Nissen in that regard.
The Portfolio Committee could play an important role in dealing with recommendations that had not been implemented and he believed that that options should be explored. Collaboration with other Portfolio Committees could also be important in supporting the HRC. Issues such as those relating to the right to a basic education were tabled at the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Security Services, but the Commission was not sure whether it came to the attention of the relevant Portfolio Committees, for example the Committee on Basic Education in such a case. The Committee could really assist by ensuring that the matters raised in the Committee were brought to the attention of the other Portfolio Committees. The Committee could also play a crucial role in assisting with the HRC directives that were not being implemented.
Commissioner Gaum informed Mr Horn that when the HRC received a complaint, such as in the case of the medical student, the case was assessed and if there were prima facia indications of human rights violations, it fell within the mandate of the HRC and the University could not say that it did not. All cases relating to human rights violations fell under the HRC, but the Commission would have to investigate first. The HRC sometimes allowed internal investigations to first be concluded and then the Commission would see what intervention it could make.
He wanted everyone to know that HRC had been quite careful about the Malema case. There had been a number of complaints from various provinces. The Commission was not very happy with the conclusions reached in the case and had received an internal legal opinion. As the Commission was still not happy, through the intervention of the chairperson, it had obtained a legal opinion from a prominent Senior Counsel who gave the same opinion as the internal advisors. However, he understood, as Mr Horn was saying, that the matter went beyond the legality of human rights and impacted on the culture of human rights. During the release of the report, the HRC Chairperson had made it very clear that the Commission regarded the remarks by Mr Malema as unacceptable. It was not hate speech, but it was unacceptable speech. The chairperson had also referred to social cohesion and so on. Commissioner Gaum agreed that when the HRC had to deal with hate speech in the future, it should make remarks that deal with the impact of such a statement on the human rights culture in the country.
In response to Ms Newhoudt-Druchen, Commissioner Gaum stated that the HRC was working on human rights in special schools. An investigation was ongoing, and he was working with Commissioner Malatji (Disability) and Commissioner Makwetla (Children’s Rights) to look into disability matters in public and private schools. They were not only looking into public schools, but they also looked into matters in private schools.
In respect of protest actions, he noted that there was a report on The Impact of Protests on the Right to a Basic Education. The Commission had engaged with the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education regarding the recommendations, etc. That Committee had subsequently engaged with the DBE on the matter. Commissioner Gaum stated that that was an example of how Parliamentary Committees could assist the HRC. The Commission reported to Parliament through the Justice Committee but there had to be liaison between Committees. For example, the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services could also hold the DBE responsible for human rights.
The Commission could not, at that meeting, give a detailed account of what was happening in each focus area and so that report would be submitted in writing. Commissioner Gaum said that the Commission had worked closely with DBE on curriculum reform and all Life Orientation textbooks had been re-written as the Life Orientation curriculum now also encapsulated a part dealing with human rights. There would be a launch of new textbooks for Life Orientation the following year. The second important collaboration with DBE was the School Moot Competition, which had been run in collaboration with DoJ&CD and HRC. The HRC was responsible for the competition for the very first time that year. It was an important vehicle for children to argue a human rights question from both sides. All Grade 10’s and 11’s would also write an essay, as part of the English curriculum, arguing a human rights question. That was a very important intervention on the promotional side of things.
Adv Thipanyane informed the Committee that the HRC had been dealing with disability matters for the past fourteen years and had played a major role in the drafting of the Disability Convention but it had asked the European Union to fund the latest research so that it could set up a proper monitoring unit, using modern technology, that would address both private and public sectors.
Adv Majola said he could send details regarding the functions of Commissioners in writing as it would be a very long response for which there was not really time at that stage. He would also send a copy of his remarks. The issue of budget constraints, as highlighted by Ms Maseko-Jele, was a very serious matter. One of the questions had been what the Commission had done on ensuring that government officials understood the details of the Disability Convention, but resources dictated what could be done. The HRC was working with SAPS regarding the reduction of torture. The HRC had an MoU with SAPS but they were still working on the details. For example, Commissioner Chris Nissen had been at Goedehoop Prison in Port Elizabeth and there were issues that he had to ask Commissioner Majola to attempt to resolve. So the finalisation of the system would take some time.
However, Adv Majola noted, an inordinate amount of money was paid out by government departments, such SAPS and Health, for civil damages and if the abuse of people’s rights in police stations and health facilities did not occur, that would free up money for houses, etc. That would also give the HRC resources to deal with more human rights issues. The HRC was involved in Alexandra in Sandton and that intervention showed that there had to be constant monitoring of human rights issues. He reiterated that the enforcement of the HRC recommendations would depend on the HRC’s relationship with the Portfolio Committee and the Committee’s ability to assist in the implementation with some of the uncontested matters.
Adv Majola added that, in October 2020, the HRC would be 25 years old and the Commission intended to mark the milestone in some way.
The Chairperson stated that the Committee was in the process of drafting a comprehensive programme and areas where the HRC needed support would be part of that comprehensive programme. One of the areas that the Sixth Administration and the Committee would be paying special attention to was the matter raised by Adv Swart with regard to the Kader Asmal Report, which had been outstanding for more than two terms. It would talk to the new kind of structures and the powers that Chapter Nine institutions would have. The Committee would need to take into consideration the amendments required by the HRC so that there was no duplication of work. There needed to be a holistic intervention in terms of the Kader Asmal Report.
The Chairperson added that the Committee would keep an eye on the relationship with the Information Regulator and ensure that whatever legislation was needed to transfer the functions of PAIA was speeded up. That was an important matter and the move had to be finalised. He had noted the proposals regarding interacting with other Committees on the HRC recommendations that were outstanding. The written responses would also be taken up in the effective oversight programme of the Sixth Parliament. It meant that the Committee would be meeting with entities more frequently. Sometimes the entities would meet with a Sub-Committee as most of the issues raised would be followed up by the Sub-Committee.
The Chairperson indicated that the Committee was very supportive of the work done by the HRC. All departments, committees, etc. had been forced to take a cut and while the Committee would fight for the cuts not to be too steep, everyone had to be innovative and establish relationships to work smarter as the budget cuts would be with the country for some time.
The Chairperson informed Members that Members of National Council of Provinces and the Parliamentary Legal Services would be meeting with the Committee at 13:00 for a joint meeting on the processes that needed to be followed to discuss the removal of Adv Jiba and Adv Mrwebi from the National Prosecuting Authority.
The meeting was adjourned.
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