Filling of vacancies at Western Cape Rental Housing Tribunal: Department of Human Settlements briefing

Human Settlements (WCPP)

03 June 2020
Chairperson: Ms M Maseko (DA)
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Meeting Summary

Video: Filling of vacancies at Western Cape Rental Housing Tribunal: Department of Human Settlements briefing 

The Committee met with the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements to discuss shortlisted candidates for vacancies in the Western Cape Rental Housing Tribunal (WCRHT).

The Committee raised a concern regarding the time when advertisements were posted, being December. The Committee felt this was not an ideal time as people were on holiday.

The Department said the advertisement closed on 24 January 2020. Interviews were arranged because due process must be followed. One of the concerns raised by the Committee in previous meetings is having a wide pool of experts on the Tribunal. There is a small pool of candidates to choose from, and all the candidates are based in the Western Cape. The current Board has legal, property and consumer matters backgrounds between it. The Department also said it is confident of the candidates it interviewed.

Members, having read the Curriculum Vitaes, agreed with the Department’s proposals, although the issue of gender representation of the candidates came up. There is only one female in the top four candidates, meaning the Board will be male dominated.

Members agreed to the structure of the top four shortlisted candidates and agreed the process was fair. The candidates shortlisted are fit for the Tribunal, and the Committee must make recommendations to the Minister.

Meeting report

Presentation on Vacancies in the Western Cape Housing Tribunal
Mr Nathan Adriaanse, Head of Communication, Western Cape Department of Human Settlements,
said the presentation is mostly based on the vacancies in the Western Cape Rental Housing Tribunal (WCRHT). It noted four vacancies for ordinary members and two for alternate member positions. The vacant positions will be filled within three months.

The Tribunal consists of not less than three and not more than five members who are fit and proper persons. The Tribunal must comprise of a Chairperson who is suitably qualified. It must have not less than two and not more than four members, and at least one and not more than two must have expertise in property management or housing development. The Department always makes sure it asks for experience in property management, housing management, and also asks for consumer experience.

Advertisements were posted in the Cape Argus and Die Burger on 20 December. Vukani was posted on 10 January 2020 and published in the Government Gazette. In total the Department received 11 applications.

The panel making the shortlist of candidates included the Director of Land and Asset Management. It also included the Chairperson of the Rental Housing Tribunal. It considered the recommendations made by the Committee last year about interviewing candidates. All 11 candidates were invited, but only ten pitched up. One of the candidates did not pitch up for the interview without giving a reason.

The Department said it conducted the interviews and came up with a shortlist for the Committee.

The Chairperson thanked the Department and allowed for Members to ask questions.

Discussion
Mr B Herron (GOOD) was concerned about the time the advertisements were placed, because in his view the government does not advertise in December. It is an inappropriate time to advertise as people are busy with holidays. An advertisement cannot be posted on the 20th of December, and even if the application process is extended, it means only those who saw the advertisement will be in a position to apply.

Mr D America (DA) agreed with Mr Herron on the issue of receiving the curriculum vitae’s late via email. However, he was of the view the information received was enough to make recommendations. The advertisement period did not disqualify it from making recommendations to the Minister.

Mr A van der Westhuizen (DA) said he felt there was pressure to make recommendations, although it was looking better at the moment. He said the relevant parties read curriculum vitaes of three candidates before, and the Committee was satisfied and willing to support the nominations. However, there are new names and it is important to get more details before proceeding to make recommendations. There could have been more candidates and not only 11. He asked if the festive season had an impact on the number of applications received.

The Department said the documents were sent to all Members on the 18th of May, so all the Members received the required information. Regarding the advertising period, even in previous periods the number of applications received was between 12 to 16 applications.

Mr Herron said he did not receive the information, and placing an advertisement in December is inappropriate because people are on holidays. It is a wrong time to make advertisements and there are many public participation methods which are challenged because of advertising in December. He named the example of the Expropriation Bill.

Mr America said he received the information on the 27th of May, and the call for the day was to make recommendations to the Tribunal. He asked about the numbers to be appointed, and if there is a need to consider the performance of the existing candidates in the past term.

Mr van der Westhuizen thanked the Chairperson for sending the email with the information on the meeting. He asked about the closing date of 24 January and asked about a curriculum vitae received on the 6th of February.

The Department said the administrative process of advertising is complete but it is not involved in the extension of dates. He could not give information as he is not involved in the process.

Mr Herron said he was of the view the candidate’s past performance was relevant to the application process. He repeated earlier point about the advertisement period not making sense. It was not a legal issue but rather to make sure the process is inclusive, as most people are not going to read newspapers during the festive season.

The Chairperson said it is the task of the Committee to check if the process followed was fair. There must be different expertise on the Board. It must not only be a legal tribunal, consumers must also be represented. It is not up to the Committee to determine who the correct candidate is to get the job. The Committee has to concentrate on the process. She asked Members if they felt the process conducted was fair.

Mr P Marran (ANC) agreed the important issue is if the process is fair or not. Regarding past performance, it must be taken into consideration, as the outcomes will determine how the candidate will perform.

Mr America said in his view the process was fair because he received the documents. There was an advertisement and all the candidates went for interviews. There was a need of clarity on the issue of one candidate's curriculum vitae received after the closing date, but the information in front of the Members was sufficient to say the process was fair. He asked for clarity on the candidate whose documents were submitted after the deadline.

Mr Herron had concerns about not checking the past performance of the candidates who were shortlisted for the Tribunal. Previously issues were raised because not enough was done regarding consumer protection. Lastly he said his concern was he did not have the curriculum vitaes of candidates.

The Chairperson said it was unfortunate some of the Members did not receive the curriculum vitaes of the candidates, considering the current effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there will be necessary measures to make sure all the information is shared. Under normal circumstances Members would have received the files on time.

The Chairperson asked if the Department could elaborate on where the candidates were based and how many candidates on the shortlist are consumer and property management experts.

Mr Adriaanse said the advertisement closed on the 24th of January 2020. Interviews were arranged because due process must be followed. A decision to extend the term from March to June, to have an opportunity to present the report to the Standing Committee, was made. One of the concerns raised by the Committee in previous meetings is having a wide pool of experts on the Tribunal.

There is a small pool of candidates to choose from, all the candidates are based in the Western Cape. Ad hoc hearings can be taken to any District and for any sitting there must be a quorum of three members. The current Board has legal, property and consumer matters backgrounds between it. One of the candidates scored low but has worked extensively on consumer related matters. This means the candidate can be shortlisted for the position because there is a need to have all aspects covered on the Board. The Department also said it is confident of the candidates it interviewed.

Mr Roy Stewart, Western Cape Department of Human Settlements, said the Department does not make recommendations, because it is the Committee’s duty to make recommendations to the Minister.

Mr van der Westhuizen asked for an update on the backlog and the effects of COVID-19 on the Department.

The Department said, in April it received 159 enquiries related to unlawful notices to vacate, arrear rentals, termination of municipal services, unlawful evictions, and illegal lock ups. Under Level Four and Five no evictions are allowed. Under Level Three, evictions are allowed but not executed at the moment. For the month of May the Department received 106 enquiries. It has already done some work on most of the enquiries. The Department is busy preparing the Court roll dealing with emergency matters. There are over 900 backlog cases.

The Chairperson asked how many cases the Tribunal hears under normal circumstances.

The Department said the Tribunal sits on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. They are affected by the lockdown and will start resolving cases that were on the roll. For the first 2 weeks it will run as normal and more matters will be on the roll. It will be virtual hearings.

The Chairperson asked about the reasons for having a huge backlog.

The Department said it is because every complaint registered at the Tribunal does not result in a hearing. The Tribunal’s mandate is to mediate disputes between landlords and tenants. A lot of the work goes into mediation. Parties might not attend the hearings because sometimes landlords are outside the country and are not able to attend hearings.

The Chairperson asked if Members are allowed to sit in some of the hearings. The Department said it is a good idea and Members are always welcome.

The Chairperson said since Members did not receive the information in time it is going to be difficult to come up with one conclusion.

Mr America asked if it was not a good idea to re-advertise the vacancies. He is aware the process is fair at this stage and is happy to proceed as he also read the curriculum vitaes.

Mr Herron said he went through the curriculum vitas, and agreed with the Department’s proposals.
The Chairperson spoke of the gender representation of the candidates. There is only one female in the top four, the Board will be male dominated, but she said she is happy with the Department’s proposal. She asked if Members are satisfied with a journalist on the Tribunal.

Members agreed to the structure of the top four shortlisted for the appointment to the Tribunal.

The Chairperson read the drafted letter to be sent to the Minister, and asked Members for any recommendations or additions.

There was a proposal to include initials of the candidates on the letter.

Mr Herron seconded sending the letter to the Minister.

Mr van der Westhuizen recommended the Department must advertise earlier to give enough time and to have more applications. There is a need to consult and invite candidates for interview. He agreed with Mr Herron about advertisements not being posted during the festive season. Lastly he said the way in which the Act is written only caters for those with legal, consumer and property expertise. Some time the candidates chosen will sit in other meetings. This results in not being able to attend to matters of the Board. There is a huge need to look at the wording of the Act.

Mr Marran agreed with not posting advertisements during the festive season. He said it was not a good measure.

Mr Herron was satisfied with the recommendation regarding the time of advertisement.

Mr A Lili (ANC) said he did not have any further recommendations and agreed with recommendations mentioned by Members.

Members also agreed it will attend the virtual hearings of the Tribunal.

In the future it might be useful to have virtual hearings, because some Members might not be available and will not be able to engage with the Tribunal. The Committee needs to support such a move.

The Chairperson thanked Members for attending the virtual meeting and for having a fruitful discussion.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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