Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal Matters Treaty & Extradition Treaty with Republic of Bangladesh

NCOP Security and Justice

12 February 2020
Chairperson: Ms S Shaikh (ANC, Limpopo)
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Meeting Summary

Documents awaited: 
The ratification of the extradition and mutual legal assistance in criminal matters treaties with the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.
Treaty between the Government of the Republic of South Africa and the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.
National Council of Provinces Resolution.Notes on the extradition and mutual legal assistance in criminal matters between South Africa and Bangladesh, entered into on 1 October 2019.

The Department of Justice was denied an opportunity to make its presentation on two treaties with Bangladesh dealing with extradition, as well as mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, because senior members of the Department were not present.

After Members of all political parties serving on the Committee had discussed the repeated absence of the Minister and Deputy Ministers at its meetings, and with the need for political guidance to deal with the issues on the agenda, they decided to defer the meeting to a later date as a sign that it wanted its proceedings to be taken seriously by the Department’s leadership. The meeting would be arranged for a time when either the Minister or Deputy Minister was available.

The Committee also raised the issue of unnecessary costs being incurred by having a meeting with no senior members being present. It recommended that in future, the ministers should be penalised and pay for the travelling costs incurred by the Committee Members. It said that sending the Department back was a clear sign that they demanded that the Executive be held politically accountable.

Meeting report

The Chairperson said the Committee was expecting to receive a presentation by the Department of Justice on two treaties with Bangladesh. The treaties were concerned with extradition, as well as mutual legal assistance in criminal matters.

It was the first time in the sixth Parliament that this Committee was receiving a presentation on such matters from the Department. The Committee was considering the two treaties with what was in line with the Constitution. In section 231(2), the Constitution states that any international agreement binds the Republic only after a resolution by Parliament, being the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). As a Committee, it was their responsibility to apply themselves to what was being presented and take a decision on whether to approve or reject such a treaty and report to the NCOP accordingly. The Minister and Deputy Minister had sent in apologies as they could not attend the meeting due to a Cabinet meeting that was taking place. The Chairperson proposed continuing with the briefing and then engaging with the content if there was no objection.

Ms M Mmola (ANC, Mpumalanga) raised a concern about the Ministry not attending their meetings. She asked the Chairperson to put pressure on the Chief Whip about this. Every time the NCOP held a meeting, the Minister was not present. Could this please be emphasised, because now it was becoming normal? Today the Committee was there working, but the Ministers were not present.

The Chairperson thanked Ms Mmola for raising her point, and said that the Committee would be taking it up with the office of the Ministry.

Ms Z Ncitha (ANC, Eastern Cape) said in light of the point Ms Mmola had raised, who had been delegated to present to the Committee? The Minister, Deputy Minister and Director General were not present. Was the Committee expected to interact with junior officials? Who was presenting to this Committee?

The Chairperson responded that Mr Herman van Heerden, Principal State Law Adviser: Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, would be representing the Department and doing the presentation.

Ms Ncitha said that they needed to be consistent as the NCOP, because sometimes they sent the departments packing because the Minister, Deputy Minister or Head of the Department was not in attendance. This was the work of the Department that the Committee was dealing with. The Department was expecting the Committee to help them pass their own work. If the Department did not take this Committee seriously, it was useless for the Committee to take its work seriously. The Committee did not need the Chief Whip -- it needed the Deputy President to state the Committee’s dissatisfaction on how it was being treated by the Ministers.

Mr G Michalakis (DA, Free State) was in agreement with his colleagues. He was not the biggest fan of the Deputy Minister, but the Deputy Minister was one of the most loyal in coming to account to the Committee. Since the Committee met on a Wednesday and Cabinet meetings were on a Wednesday, they would continue to run into this problem for the next five years. He agreed that it should be taken up with the leader of Government business. He also believed that once that step was taken, that it should not be a complaint from only one party as to why the Ministers were not being accountable. It should be a multi-party request. His previous experience was that they complained about this issue, but once it got into the open, the Committee Members were standing alone. This was serious, and it went to the heart of the mandate of the Committee. In six years of serving on the Committee, he had seen the Minister of Justice only twice at the Committee’s meetings.

Mr S Zandamela (EFF, Mpumalanga) supported what had been said by Ms Ncitha. The Committee needed to be consistent.

Mr A Gxoyiya (ANC, Northern Cape) said that it should be recorded that the issue was being raised not by parties, but as the Committee. The Chairperson needed to register the Committee’s concern to the Deputy President about the kind of treatment the Committee was receiving. The Committee’s understanding was that if the Minister could not make the meeting due to cabinet commitments, the Deputy Minister must avail him or herself. He agreed that they needed to be consistent where the NCOP has sent Departments back, because some of the issues discussed needed senior staff present.

There were two options. The first would be to send the Department back and arrange a meeting for another time where the Committee could expect the Minister or Deputy Minister to be present. He commented that this was also a waste of resources, because certain Members flew from Pretoria to attend. He did not think there was ever a case in the National Assembly where they called a department to be present at a meeting where not even a Director General was present. In the spirit of being consistent the Committee should send the Department back. That should be the Committee’s attitude.

Mr T Dodovu (ANC, North West) said that the rank of the delegate from the department should be noted, and if he was not a Director General or a Deputy Director General, then the Committee should send the department back.

The Chairperson said that the points were all noted. The Committee was advised that the DG was on his way. There were two views in the Committee. The one was for the meeting to continue, and the other was that the Committee ask the Department to recuse itself. 

Ms Mmola asked what time the DG would arrive, because that meant that the Committee would have to wait. The DG should know that the time of the meeting was 10h00.

Mr Michalakis said that even with the presence of the DG, there was still the question of political accountability. The Committee could not hold the members from within the Department politically accountable. It was unfair to ask them questions about policy of a political nature. The questions of that nature would remain unanswered. The reason for Deputy Ministers existing was for them to be present at Committee meetings while the Minister was at a Cabinet meeting. It was clear that the view of the Committee was that they needed to stand strong to defend the integrity of the NCOP.

The Chairperson asked the Members if they all agreed to recuse the Department. That should send a strong enough message to the leaders of the Department that the Committee demanded executive accountability. The Chairperson’s concern about the Ministers not being present was also due to it being the first time the Committee was being exposed to treaties.

Mr Zandamela said that there was an issue of the costs, which had been raised by previous Members. At some point, it must be the Ministers who carry those costs.

The Chairperson said that the Committee should raise the issue of costs with the Department, and say that if it was a continuous trend, the Committee would expect them to incur the costs.

The Committee took the decision to defer the meeting. Its concerns would be raised in writing and sent to the relevant departments and executive members.

The meeting was adjourned.


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