Timeline & schedule for appointment of Western Cape Commissioner for Children; Committee Reports

Social Development (WCPP)

08 October 2019
Chairperson: Mr G Bosman (DA)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met with the purpose of considering the nominations for an appointment of a Western Cape Commissioner for Children. The list all the nominees were due to be published on October 9th 2019 on the Western Cape Provincial Parliament (WCPP) website. A decision had to be made on how many of the 59 applicants would be shortlisted, how the Committee would deal with the public’s objections, and what criteria to adopt when doing the shortlisting. The Committee proposed to look at Section 3: Qualifications of the Western Cape Children’s Commissioner Act, 2019 as a guide to assist in the process.

Members were clear that all this could not be achieved in a single day; therefore this meeting was merely starting the discussion. The Committee needed to decide what criteria to use with shortlisting, how to handle objections from the public, and the interview process. Because members of the public had not read the Act as yet, so the Committee could take its time to consider the criteria and process of elimination. The Committee asked for clarity about the criteria expressing concern about time considerations and called for optimum use of legal advice. Members decided to use an Excel Spreadsheet with all the objections and all the names of Applicants with accompanying qualifications. This list could be handed to the Premier in line with Section 2(2) of the Act. On the issue of vulnerable groups Members decided to adopt an on the ground approach.

The Committee discussed and reviewed the Report on the NGO visit to Kayamandi Women and Children Development Project and the Rusthof Old Age Home Paarl on 17 September 2019. Members made an explicit request that the municipality provide facts showing whether all the families in need of rehoming were all victims of the fires. The Committee discussed a site visit report to the Kayamandi Women and Children Facility, Rusthof Old Age Home and JJ Du Preez Clinic, and proceeded to adopt resolutions that would aid in advancing those programs. Members decided to engage the Department of Public works about finding suitable premises for the Rusthof Old Age Home.

The Minutes of 02 October 2019 were adopted without amendments.

Meeting report

The Chairperson said that the business of the day was to consider the nominations for an appointment of a Western Cape Commissioner for Children. The list of all the nominees was set to be published in the Sunday Times, Die Burger, The Cape Times, the George Herald and The Bolander. The due date for objections was set to October 23rd and the Committee would meet thereafter to discuss the method of shortlisting. 

The Chairperson asked the Committee for suggestions for the process of shortlisting for the Commissioner for Children.

Discussion
Mr R Mackenzie (DA) said that he was under the impression that the Committee would be discussing the timeline and the schedule.

The Chairperson responded by stating that the time line would depend on an understanding of the process of shortlisting, since the Act does not provide the necessary guidelines.

Ms R Windvogel (ANC) asked under what conditions objections would arise.

The Chairperson responded by saying that that is the exact question the Committee was assembled to discuss, to decide on the number of applicants to be shortlisted. Members of the public had not read the Act yet, so the Committee could take time to consider the criteria and process of elimination.

Ms Windvogel asked the Chairperson for clarity in terms of how the Committee would deal with any objections.

The Chairperson said that it was the Committee’s prerogative to develop the criteria.

Ms W Philander (DA) asked whether the advertisement of the post provided any requirements which would assist in arriving at the criteria.

Ms A Bans (ANC) was also unclear regarding the criteria and made mention of the pressures of time emphasising that the matter required enough time for consideration so as to avoid any loopholes. She also implored the Committee to familiarise themselves with the Act, expressing that she had engaged with the document, but clarity was still needed.

The Chairperson said that the Act was in circulation for some time giving Members sufficient time to familiarise themselves and formulate their opinions on the criteria and the selection process. The Committee was discussing a public position which required public engagement for the purposes of accountability. He proposed that Members read Chapter 2 under Section 3 and develop criteria around it similar to the ones used to shortlist Members for Heritage Western Cape. Using those tools the Committee would be guided when deciding on the criteria taking into consideration what the Act called for, the presentation at the initial briefing, discussing the interview process and how many candidates to submit to the Office of the Premier.

Ms Bans suggested that the Committee make optimum use of legal advice immediately accessible to it. The Committee was under Adv R Maasdorp’s advice in deciding to hold objections within a two week time frame. With the permission of the Chairperson, Ms Bans directed the question to Adv Maasdorp for advice.

Adv Maasdorp highlighted two key issues. The Act was sufficiently clear on the criteria. What was unclear was how the Committee would deal with the nature of the objections. Any objection arising from the provisions in Section 3 would make it easy for the Committee to disqualify a candidate. He continued to raise the issue of possible objections based on anecdotes like those which would be isolated and pertaining to personal experiences of the public regarding the candidate. Adv Maasdorp suggested a solution for the interview process whereby members formulated questions which would allow for fair opportunity for the Committee to enquire and receive responses to any objections. He reminded the Committee that they were at all times subject to review. In the event that anecdotal objections arose, the Committee was held under an obligation to engage the Applicant as well as to uncover the merits and the truth of such objections against the Applicant.

The Chairperson acknowledged Adv Maasdorp’s suggestions and agreed with him in terms of objections to the anecdotes. He reminded the Committee about the responsibility of formulating criteria. The Committee was not at liberty to consider the process suggested by Adv Maasdorp. He suggested using an Excel Spreadsheet with all the objections and all the names with accompanying qualifications. This could be handed to the Premier in line with Section 2(2) of the Act.

The Chairperson asked Members for permission to engage with the programming authority about the appropriate time to prepare the document. The Committee was in agreement with this step.

A summary was given by the Chairperson of his discussion with the Senior Procedural Manager regarding how the Department deals with vulnerable groups like children, people with disabilities and the elderly.

Upon his request Adv Maasdorp was excused and the Chairperson thanked him for his advice.
 
The Chairperson continued to ask the Committee for any suggestions going forward and whether there were any items Members wanted highlighted in the discussion.

Mr MacKenzie said he would respond via an email.

Ms N Bakubaku-Vos (ANC) expressed her desire to adopt an on-the-ground approach for evaluating progress in the communities. There was a disadvantage to only relying on reports from those communities because they often reflected a tendency to mislead. Site visits performed by Members normally sorted this out.

Ms Bans wanted to highlight the issue of substance abuse in communities and asked the Committee to prioritise it especially going into the festive season when crime is at a record high.

The Chairperson thanked Ms Bans and Ms Bakubaku-Vos for their contributions.

Ms Bakubaku-Vos also addressed the prevalent issue of Gender-Based Violence and warned the Committee against the palliative approach in merely discussing the issues surrounding it. She called for active engagement on the topic and said that she looked toward to finding solutions for redress.

Ms Windvogel reminded the Committee to involve the stakeholders that it has engaged with, and the need to develop a program to engage those stakeholders.

The Chairperson summarised the approach to the contributions and stakeholders. The Committee would send out invitations when the Department presents the annual report to those stakeholders. The Committee was encouraged look to the legislative mandate of the Department. He raised the matter of budget cuts; how they continued to impair its important work, and the dependence on NGOs who are also expected to perform with very few resources. The Chairperson highlighted the need to assess the root causes of the impact of substance abuse and gender based violence. In addressing these, Members should look at how to process information gained on the ground into legislative tools to assist the Department to achieve their goals. Being on the ground regarding matters related to vulnerable groups was stressed as an important approach.

Report on the NGO visit to Kayamandi Women and Children Development Project and the Rusthof Old Age Home Paarl on 17 September 2019

The Chairperson asked the Committee to review the report on the NGO visit for any reports or omissions.

Ms BakuBaku-Vos said that she found that there was a difference in terms of the monthly stipend received by the members of the Kayamandi Project. The co-ordinator of the NGO was receiving R3500, the cooks received R2500 and the other four members received R2000 per month each.

Ms Philander asked the Committee to incorporate a provision in the report to request information from the Stellenbosch Municipality which could help to establish whether all the 23 families residing in the relief centers were all affected by the fires.

She suggested further that the Committee make an explicit request that the municipality provide facts showing whether all the families in need of rehoming were all victims of the fires.

Ms Bakubaku-Vos said that when she contacted the councillor, she was made aware that bungalows and electricity meters were made available as assistance for the 23 families. She was told that the councillors could not provide the land for these structures to exist.

The Chairperson said that he did not have the authority to instruct the municipality. He gave the assurance that he would write to the municipality after the Committee had agreed and adopted the Report. The Committee resolved to write to the municipality and present them with an opportunity to respond to the Report. Before the request from the municipality could be completed, the Committee first needed to agree on adopting certain conversations which took place on the ground as part of an official report. The report was to be sent to the municipality in anticipation of a response on those matters.

Ms Philander, although in agreement about whether the response they would receive would be satisfactory, was apprehensive and doubtful about whether a response would be given at all.

The Chairperson reassured her and the rest of the Committee that he was fully capable of eliciting important responses via email.

Ms Philander pointed out that the Stellenbosch Municipality – in Section 8.11 of the document - was quoted erroneously. It was actually the Drakenstein Municipality that the report was referring to.

The Chairperson welcomed the correction.

Ms Philander pointed out that a decision to visit the JJ Du Preez Clinic was not made part of the report.

The Chairperson responded that that decision was a part of a previous meeting.

Ms Windvogel asked for clarity on whether this decision was to be added to the     Report. She cited the Chairperson’s earlier response to Member Bakubaku-Vos wanting to add an item to the report.

The Chairperson corrected her by drawing on the distinction between Ms Bakubaku-Vos’ request, which was for a letter to be written to the municipality, and the addition of a resolution which took place on the ground. He reminded the Committee that the decision to perform site visits came about in a presentation on Old Persons where Ms Philander raised the issue of the Rusthof Old Age Home. The Rusthof centre needed assistance with obtaining a building (the JJ Du Preez Clinic) which, according to a response from the Department of Health, was said to be the property of the Department of Public Works. The issue at hand was assisting the Rusthof Home with communications with the relevant state authorities.

Ms Bakubaku-Vos said that she could not recall the decision and contended that the rest of the Committee was not part of that decision. She requested further clarity from the Chairperson.

The Chairperson reminded the Committee about the meeting which took place on the day of the visit to the JJ Du Preez Clinic. He referred to the outcome of the letters written to the Department of Health which was that the building was the property of Public Works. Upon writing to the Department of Public Works the Chairperson had received an unsatisfactory response from them citing their vague plans for the building. He had argued that the business of that day was to perform three site visits, the Kayamandi facility, the Rusthof Old Age Home and the JJ Du Preez Clinic. During lunch at a restaurant on the day, it was decided to visit only the Rusthof Home. Since there was no response from Public Works for a site visit to JJ Du Preez as the Kayamandi facility was closed.

Ms Bakubaku-Vos objected to the information presented by the Chairperson being added as part of the report. She stated that the conversation at the restaurant about the site visit was not an official Committee meeting, and therefore could not be added to the report.

The Chairperson acknowledged Ms Bakukaku-Vos’s objection. He added that the conversation was indeed part of a previous meeting which existed within the Committee’s resolution tracker.

He asked if the Committee was in agreement with adopting the change of the ‘Stellenbosch Municipality’ to the ‘Drakenstein Municipality’, on page 6 of the report.

Ms Philander said that she disagreed since it would not be a true reflection of that day’s events. She recalled a conversation with the Matron of the Old Age Home wherein the Committee had agreed to take note of the challenges the Rusthof Home. Therefore to disregard what is perceived as a formal Committee meeting would be incorrect.

Chairperson called on the Committee Co-ordinator Ms N Jamce to give further clarity on the matter.

Ms Nomonde gave an account of a meeting held on January 31st. This meeting was in fact a briefing by the Department of Social Development on the program for the elderly. Ms Philander and Ms Bakubaku-Vos raised the issues of the Kayamandi Project and the Rusthof Old Age Home respectively. The Committee resolved to visit both the Kayamandi Women and Children Development Project and the Rusthof Old Age Home Paarl after the Minister’s efforts to perform the visitation fell through. The Rusthof Home needed a building and had identified the JJ Du Preez building as a suitable alternative building for the program. The building was discovered to belong to the Department of Public Works. The Department of Public Works was reported as having plans for the building which meant that the building was not available.

On a point of clarity, the Chairperson asked for any objections to assisting the Rusthof Old Age Home with its conversation with the Departments of Health, Public Works, Social Development, as well as the Drakenstein Municipality in securing suitable premises.

Mr Mackenzie responded that there were no objections.

Chairperson asked for a proposer and a seconder for the adding in of the decision to engage the Department of Public works. Mr MacKenzie made the proposal.

The Chairperson thanked the Committee for their work and reported having received a positive response and commendation of their work. He once again reminded the Committee that the list of candidates for the Children’s Commission would be published the following day 09 October 2019 on the Western Cape Provincial Parliament (WCPP) website.

The Minutes of 02 October 2019 were adopted without amendments.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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