The Ad Hoc Committee to initiate and introduce legislation amending Section 25 of the Constitution met to adopt its draft programme. It resolved to resume the public hearings in three provinces that it could not visit due to the Covid-19-related lockdown. The Committee also resolved to consider the proposal to have two sessions of hearings per day, as lockdown regulations in level one prohibits gatherings larger than 250 people. The Committee is expected to resume hearings in two groups and start in Limpopo and the Northern Cape on 22 October 2020. This will be followed by hearings in two groups in the Western Cape from 30 October 2020.The Committee further resolved that would request a legal opinion on whether it should accept written submissions from those with comorbidities who would not be able to attend public hearings due to Covid-19.
The Committee will consider the reports on all the public hearings before it begins deliberations on the amendments between 3 and 6 November 2020. The National Assembly has extended the lifespan of the Committee until the end of this year following the outbreak of the pandemic.
The programme was adopted subject to some outstanding issues to be ironed out in the next meeting.
The Chairperson welcomed the Committee and thanked Members for attending the meeting. He expressed gratitude for the Committee being granted the opportunity to be able to continue with its work. He then handed over to the Committee Secretary to read the Committee’s draft programme for consideration by Members.
The Committee Secretary said that based on the draft programme for the public hearings in Limpopo and the Northern Cape, the Committee would be split into two groups. One group would go to Limpopo and the other to Northern Cape. The group that would visit Limpopo would hold public hearings on 22 October in Vhembe, on the 23rd they would go to Polokwane, on the 24th in Sekhukhune, and on the 25th in Waterberg. The reason behind the dates was to extend the meetings to the weekend in order to accommodate the people who would not be able to attend the hearings during the week.
The Chairperson said that he had spoken to the secretary about adding another public hearing at Mamaila Circuit Office in order to cover all the Districts in Limpopo. The importance of Mamaila District is that it is at the centre and would cover the Giyani, Phalaborwa and Bolobedu area. He asked that Mamaila be added to the programme as well. He then asked if Members were happy with the dates and venues of the public hearings in Limpopo.
Ms R Lesoma (ANC) suggested that the secretary continue reading the draft and that the Committee would comment afterwards.
Mr P Moroatshehla (ANC) agreed.
The Chairperson allowed the Committee Secretary to continue.
The secretary said that the Committee would visit Kimberly, Upington and Springbok in the Northern Cape. The delegation that will visit the Northern Cape would depart on 22 October and commence with the hearings on the 23rd in Kimberly. He recommended that the meeting in Kimberly should start at 11am as was done in the past as there is a drive that is about five hours to the next venue which is Upington. The hearings in Upington would happen on 24 October and the hearings in Springbok would take place on the 25th.
Ms Lesoma suggested that the two groups do the public hearings simultaneously and that the groups take into account the Level 1 Lockdown regulations. She added that the way that the programme was structured seemed to overlook the Level 1 restrictions, as the regulations stated that there should not be more than 250 people gathering in a single venue. She suggested that the Committee should hold two public hearings in a day in each town that they visit in order to accommodate the lockdown restrictions.
Mr Moroatshehla agreed with Ms Lesoma and added that the Committee should not amend the programme too much as people had already received it. He said that they should stick to the four areas that they were originally going to visit in Limpopo, as there would be challenges in trying to add another venue as the Chairperson had suggested. Mamaila is not in the centre of Mopani as it is in Letaba.
The Chairperson suggested that to accommodate Ms Lesoma’s suggestion that there should be two sessions of hearings in a day, one should be held in Mamaila and the other in Relela, as he had received complaints from the people of Giyani that they are being marginalised.
Mr Moroatshehla agreed with the Chairperson.
Mr A Shaik Emam (NFP) said that if there is an anticipation of any challenges with visiting Waterberg then there must be a way to avoid those challenges.
Ms K Mahlatsi (ANC) said that she had expected that COVID-19 regulations would have been used as one of the guiding principles in the planning of the public hearings, as the safety of the people is also imperative. She agreed with Ms Lesoma that there should be two separate hearings in a day, as in previous hearings there were no less than 400 people who attended. The Committee must move on the premise that they had previously adopted a programme that was discussed extensively and if there are feasible additions to the programme then they can be accommodated. She also wanted to know why there would only be three districts to be visited in the Northern Cape.
The secretary said that it was per the previously adopted programme and added that it was perhaps because the area is vast and that the three districts would be the areas in which the Committee would be able to cover as many people as it can in terms of the geographic area.
The Chairperson asked if Ms Mahlatsi would like to add another district to be visited in the Northern Cape.
Ms Mahlatsi said she would look into the issue and make a submission in a day or two.
The Chairperson reassured Members that they would work with the Parliament officials to ensure that they are able to adhere to the lockdown restrictions in terms of attendance at the venues.
Dr A Lotriet (DA) asked if people who would not be able to make it to the hearings due to COVID-19 and other comorbidities would be allowed to submit their inputs in writing as to not exclude them from the process.
Ms Lesoma wanted to know what informed the dates being so far apart from each other if the hearings will be held as two separate teams.
The secretary said that they would need time to send the programme to the Public Education Unit in Parliament so that they could mobilise, as well as the Parliamentary Security.
Ms Lesoma said that the public had been afforded the opportunity to make written submissions.
Dr Lotriet agreed and added that it was before the National Lockdown and that the situation would be different now because of the restrictions in that they would not be allowed inside the venues because of comorbidities, such as diabetes, meaning that they would be excluded from the meetings.
Mr Moroatshehla said that the people with comorbidities should also be accommodated to make written submissions.
Ms Mahlatsi said that the legal team must be consulted with regards to the issue.
Ms Lesoma *inaudible due to bad connection*
The Chairperson said the issue of comorbidities would be liaised with the legal team. He then allowed the secretary to proceed with the programme.
The secretary said that both groups would depart to the Western Cape on 29 October and on the 30th, one group will hold public hearings in Mossel Bay, while the other will hold the hearings in Saldanha. On 31 October, the first group will hold the public hearings in Worcester, while the second group will hold them in Khayelitsha.
Ms Mahlatsi accepted the programme in the Western Cape as it was presented.
Dr Lotriet pointed out that only four of the six districts in the Western Cape were covered in the programme and that the Overberg and Karoo areas were not covered.
The Chairperson agreed that Overberg and Karoo needed to be added to the programme.
Ms Lesoma wanted to know whether adding the two areas was a principle or an accommodative matter.
The Chairperson said that it was a consistency matter because if the two areas are excluded, the residents have a right to go to Court, which would jeopardise all the work done by the Committee. He added that the Committee agrees on the programme, but are unsure of the date of the next meeting it would have, as it was unsure of when the legal team would resolve the issue of comorbidities.
The Chairperson got disconnected from the meeting.
The secretary said there was an initial understanding in the Committee that it would not be possible to cover all districts in a province, given the dates that they had because even in the other provinces, such as the Eastern Cape, KZN and others, not all districts were covered. Reworking the programme would have an impact on the dates and there would need to be an extension. Having two hearings in an area would also have an impact in terms of travelling because, for example in the Northern Cape there would be travelling of four to five hours in between places. The starting and ending times of the hearings would need to be scrutinised.
The Chairperson asked secretary to agree to accept the programme and that there may be doable and undoable things and that the administration team would inform the Committee in the next meeting of what is doable. He asked that the Overberg and Karoo areas be added to the Western Cape programme to avoid a clash with the people.
Ms Lesoma suggested that the date of the next meeting be agreed upon during the meeting currently, to avoid the long process of having to wait for administration to organise.
The Chairperson got disconnected from the meeting while speaking.
The secretary said the Chairperson wanted to get consensus from Members on whether the programme would be adopted with amendments and that the other outstanding issues of the Northern Cape, Karoo and Waterberg, as well as the issue of comorbidities, would be left to the Chairperson to consider and to update Members in the next meeting.
Ms Lesoma said that the Committee would accept the programme and the administration, through the Chairperson, would inform the Committee on the verdict regarding the issue of people with comorbidities.
Dr C Mulder (FF+) asked that the date of the next meeting be on the Committee day because it is the best day that accommodates all Members. He asked the secretary to provide a list of the districts in the other provinces that the hearings were not held in.
Ms N Ntobongwana (ANC) supported having another meeting before the visits to Limpopo and the Northern Cape and added that it would not be fair to the Committee to look at the provinces that it had previously held public hearings in. She appealed that the focus needed to be on the provinces it had not yet covered and look at what was said in the meeting.
Ms Mahlatsi said that the programme needed to be adopted as it is so that it could be submitted to public participation, security and other partners. She proposed that the next meeting to finalise the other issues that were discussed should be on the next Tuesday at 6pm.
Ms Lesoma agreed with Ms Mahlatsi and added that the Chairperson had informed her that if there any other issues raised, it should be forwarded to the Chairperson for discussion at the next meeting.
Mr Moroatshehla warned the Committee against misfocus as it would derail them and reminded Members of the cut-off date of 31 December 2020. He agreed with Ms Mahlatsi that the next meeting should be held on the next Tuesday.
The Committee programme was adopted subject to some outstanding issues to be ironed out in the next meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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