The Committee, established to initiate and introduce legislation amending section 25 of the Constitution, discussed its programme until May 2020. As the work of the Committee was of considerable public interest, Members proposed various ways the programme could be condensed and its work sped up, while avoiding scheduling clashes with other committees. It was also suggested that the two days set aside for public hearings were not sufficient. The Committee decided to start its activities the following week, instead of waiting until November.
The Chairperson welcomed everyone and accepted apologies from three absent Members.
He confirmed that the deadline for the Committee’s work was the end of March 2020 and asked the Committee Staff to present the progtamme.
Draft Committee Programme
The Committee Secretary read through the draft programme item by item. The programme started on 1 November 2019 and ran until 11 May 2020. In summary, the Committee would hold a two-day workshop on the draft Bill in November 2019, and would be briefed by Legal Services in January 2020 and develop a report on the Bill, which would be tabled in the House in mid-February 2020 and then presented to the public for comment on 17-18 March 2020. The Committee would then deliberate on the Bill in April and it would be submitted to the Speaker of the National Assembly on 11 May 2020. He clarified that the March 31 deadline was for the Committee to report on its work, not necessarily for the whole process to be complete.
The Chairperson proposed that the scheduled activities up to 7 February 2020 could feasibly be brought forward and completed by 15th December 2019. The Bill was a matter of considerable public interest, and the Committee should not keep the public waiting. He also said the dates for the workshop in November should be finalised as soon as possible.
Mr N Gumede (ANC) suggested that the ad hoc committee note the draft programme as presented, and the management committee could be mandated to finalise the dates, ensuring that they did not clash with the work of other committees.
The Chairperson replied that the committee needed to decide on its programme itself.
Mr P Moroatshehla (ANC) proposed that the draft programme be adopted in principle, and the dates be finalised later.
The Chairperson replied that it was important to be decisive and certain. He was concerned that time would be wasted if the programme was adopted in principle.
Ms R Lesoma (ANC) proposed that the administrative support staff be given responsibility for setting precise dates. It would be tedious to decide on dates as a committee. The most important thing was not to exceed the 31 March 2020 deadline.
Adv G Breytenbach (DA) agreed that the scheduled activities could be brought forward. She was concerned that the meetings of the ad hoc committee were going to clash with the meetings of other committees. She asked that the dates of the workshop be finalised and that, if possible, the workshop be held in Cape Town, so that members who were part of other committees could attend those committee meetings too.
The Chairperson assured her that the programming committee would do its best to avoid clashes.
Ms N Ntobongwana (ANC) suggested that Fridays could be set aside for the ad hoc committee meeting, to make planning easier.
The Chairperson agreed.
Adv Breytenbach suggested that two days was too short for the public hearings.
Mr E Buthelezi (IFP) also thought two days were not enough.
Mr G Godree (EFF) thought that two days would be enough, since public hearings had already been held before.
The Chairperson agreed that two days were not enough. The hearings that had taken place previously had considered the question of amending the Constitution, but the process was now at a new stage. If the public hearings were inadequate, the Supreme Court could object, he added.
The Chairperson proposed that the Committee should not wait until November to start its work; it could begin right away.
Mr Godree agreed. He suggested that the two-day workshop and the activities scheduled for 22 and 29 November 2019 were not necessary, and could be removed from the programme to save time. Similarly, did the Committee need the three sessions of deliberations in April 2020?
Adv BT Bongo (ANC) also agreed.
The Chairperson replied that the workshop could not be cancelled, but agreed that time could be saved by combining some other activities. The most important thing was that the public had confidence that the Committee would do its work thoroughly.
The meeting was adjourned.