The Committee discussed a draft of its report on the Department of Trade and Industry and the Economic Development Department’s 3rd Quarter Financial and Non-Financial Performance. Contributions to the conclusions and recommendations were submitted by the ACDP, DA and ANC. Editorial changes to these submissions by the committee secretariat were discussed. There were no major changes or disagreements among committee members. The secretariat would present a final draft of the report for adoption by the committee at a future meeting.
The Committee discussed and adopted its programme for the upcoming weeks.
The Chairperson accepted the apology of Mr S Mbuyane (ANC) and asked committee members to comment on the meeting agenda.
Mr J Mulder (FF+) asked for further information sessions on Covid-19 to be planned.
The Chairperson replied that this could be considered when the Committee discussed the draft programme.
Mr D Macpherson (ANC) wanted the Committee to add a discussion of media statements to the agenda.
Ms J Hermans (ANC) said it would be difficult to agree to this addition without knowing what it pertained to. Could Mr Macpherson give some background?
Mr Macpherson explained that he wanted to discuss the manner in which media statements were issued on behalf of the Committee when the Committee may not have discussed them or signed off on them. For example, on 1 May a statement commending government for its decisive response to the Covid-19 pandemic was issued, but the Committee had never resolved to take this position. It was fundamentally wrong to issue a statement on behalf of the Committee if it had not been consulted on the matter. In future, statements on behalf of the Committee should be approved by the Committee.
Ms Hermans agreed, and suggested that the matter be put on the agenda for the next meeting.
Ms P Mantashe (ANC) supported Ms Hermans, adding that Mr Macpherson should not be selective when it came to statements issued by the Chairperson that are based on committee discussions.
Ms R Moatshe (ANC) and Ms N Motaung (ANC) also supported Ms Hermans.
Committee Report on the Department of Trade, Industry Competition and the Economic Development Department’s 3rd Quarter Financial and Non-Financial Performance
Mr Andre Hermans, Committee Secretary, said that submissions on the draft report had been received from the ANC, DA and ACDP. He took the Committee through the submissions from each party and the Content Advisors’ suggestions as to incorporating them into the report.
Submission from the ACDP
Mr Hermans asked if the ACDP accepted the re-wording of its submissions to the report’s conclusion on the support and prioritisation of labour-intensive economic initiatives and sectors such as agriculture, mining and manufacturing.
Mr W Thring (ACDP) accepted it. He reluctantly accepted that reviewing labour laws acting as inhibitors to employment fell outside the committee’s scope. He asked for the inclusion of a broad statement that the Committee would work to remove impediments to employment in labour-intensive sectors.
Ms Hermans supported this addition with the further addition that the Committee would work within its mandate.
Ms Mantashe said she would not support the review of any existing labour law.
Mr Hermans confirmed that the review of labour laws was outside the Committee’s scope.
With reference to the ACDP’s submission to the report’s conclusion calling for an investigation into overspending at the Economic Development Department (EDD), Ms Margot Sheldon (Content Advisor, Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry) explained that an investigation would only be warranted if the Committee felt that the explanation given in the body of the report was insufficient.
The Chairperson asked Mr Thring if he thought it was insufficient.
Mr Thring replied that there were only two comments from the EDD on its overspending and the explanation was insufficient. He added that he might have missed a meeting where the matter was discussed and he wasn’t sure he had access to the latest document, so he reluctantly conceded that the committee should decide the matter based on the documents available to it.
Ms Hermans said that as an explanation had been given, an investigation should not be called for.
Mr Hermans asked if the ACDP agreed that its submission to the report’s conclusion calling for the immediate lifting of restrictive regulations in response to the Covid-19 pandemic fell outside the scope of the report.
Mr Thring reluctantly accepted the exclusion of this submission.
Mr Hermans asked if the ACPD accepted the re-wording of its submission on widening the scope of beneficiation to leverage the country’s comparative and competitive advantages.
Mr Thring accepted the rewording.
Ms Hermans questioned the necessity of including this comment in the recommendations section, since it had been discussed thoroughly in the body of the report. Perhaps it should be put in the conclusion section?
Mr Thring accepted moving it to the conclusion of the report.
Mr Hermans asked if the ACDP accepted re-wording and moving its recommendation on supporting local manufacturing and value chains to the conclusion section.
Mr Thring accepted this.
Submission from the DA
Mr Hermans asked if the DA agreed that the report did not need to include recommendations to schedule meetings disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, as the Committee had the power to determine its own programme.
Mr M Cuthbert (DA) agreed, but asked the Chairperson to ensure that meetings to discuss the crisis in the steel industry and the Steel Master Plan were scheduled.
Mr Hermans asked if the DA was satisfied with the re-wording of its recommendation on the processing of Section 121 tax incentives and Automotive Investment Scheme applications.
Mr Cuthbert was satisfied with it. He stressed the large role played by the automotive industry in the economy of the country.
Ms Hermans supported the inclusion of this recommendation on behalf of the ANC.
Submissions from the ANC
Mr Hermans asked for committee members to comment on the ANC’s submissions on the contraction of the economy and its concerns about the unintended consequences of establishing malls in rural areas and townships for small businesses.
Committee members accepted the inclusion of these submissions.
Mr Cuthbert argued that welcoming the Minister’s engagement on challenges facing the steel and mining industries was an internal committee scheduling matter. The same reasoning that had applied to the DA’s submissions should apply in this case.
Ms Mantashe asked for the submission not to be changed.
Mr Hermans proposed that part of the submission related to scheduling and could be removed from the report.
Ms Hermans agreed.
Mr Cuthbert suggested mentioning China as an example of a country with which South Africa had a significant trade deficit.
Ms Hermans asked why China should be the example, since there were several other countries discussed in the body of the report with which South Africa had a trade deficit. These countries should also be mentioned.
The Committee agreed to mention China, India and Russia.
Mr Hermans asked if the ANC agreed to move two submissions on the amalgamation of the Department of Trade and Industry and the EDD from the recommendations section to the conclusion.
Ms Hermans agreed on behalf of the ANC.
Mr Hermans said that the recommendation on fast-tracking the sugar, steel and metal manufacturing Master Plans had been included in the 2nd Quarter report.
Ms Hermans asked if it could be moved to the conclusion section, given the seriousness of the problem in these sectors.
Mr Hermans replied that this could be done. He said that the recommendation on improving the ease of doing business should rather be included in the Entities report, and the recommendation on monitoring the stabilisation of the South African Bureau of Standards and the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications should rather be included in the Gauteng Oversight Report.
Ms Mantashe accepted the changes on behalf of the ANC.
Mr Hermans suggested re-wording the submissions on inter-departmental coordination and incentives for companies operating in industrial parks.
The ANC agreed to these changes.
Mr Hermans suggested that the recommendation to fast-track amendments to the Downstream Steel Industry Competitive Fund be moved to the conclusion.
Ms Hermans asked why it shouldn’t be a recommendation, given the state of the steel industry.
Ms Sheldon explained that the body of the report indicated that amendments had already been made, so the Committee should be welcoming the amendments rather than requesting them.
The ANC accepted this explanation. The ANC also accepted the rewording of its submissions on illicit scrap metal trading, the finalisation of the Social Economy Policy Framework and the protection of small businesses in areas where malls were established.
Mr Cuthbert said that some of these recommendations duplicated some of the concluding remarks.
Ms Hermans replied that the recommendations referred to the actual governmental support necessary to get these things done.
Mr Hermans said that all the changes discussed would be incorporated into a final draft of the report to be adopted at a future meeting.
Consideration of the draft committee programme
Mr Hermans asked committee members to be aware that meeting times were subject to revision due to the lockdown. He reminded the Committee that a time to include a discussion of media statements, as requested by Mr Macpherson, needed to be found.
Mr Macpherson asked why it was necessary to have so many joint meetings with the Select Committee on Trade and Industry. It was cumbersome and limited the time available to committee members for engagement.
Mr Mulder also wondered about the reason for having joint meetings.
Ms Mantashe thought that the joint meetings were a cost-saving measure.
Ms Hermans suggested that the chief whips of the various parties had come to some agreement on joint meetings.
Mr Hermans confirmed that there had been a multi-party agreement to hold joint meetings where possible as a cost-saving measure.
Mr Macpherson called for further engagements with the Minister of Trade and Industry.
Mr Mulder also wanted to hear from the Minister more often.
Ms Hermans said that the Minister or at least a Deputy Minister should be requested to brief the committee on Covid-19-related matters.
Mr Hermans confirmed that a Minister or Deputy Minister were scheduled to be present at joint briefings on Mondays.
Mr Macpherson was relieved that the Minister would be briefing the committee, and asked if the Minister could be asked to comment on the regulation of e-commerce on Monday 11 May.
The Chairperson did not want to determine the agendas of meetings in advance.
Mr Cuthbert asked the Secretary to look for a time to consider the Steel Master Plan and receive a briefing from the Minister on the steel industry.
Ms Hermans added that a briefing on the sugar industry should be included with the steel industry.
Mr Hermans replied that a date would be found for these briefings when the Master Plans were finalised.
Mr Thring called for clear communication on when members would be returning to Parliament.
Mr Hermans replied that it was the prerogative of the National Coronavirus Command Council to decide when Parliament would reopen.
The programme was adopted and the meeting was adjourned.
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