In this virtual meeting, the Committee discussed whether to permit oral submissions as part of the public participation process.
Members agreed to do so but clarified that the public participation process would be for public oral submissions, not public hearings or written submissions.
The Committee noted that it will not meet the 31 March 2021 deadline and will have to approach Parliament for an extension to the deadline. The committee will seek a new deadline of 31 May 2021 to finalise its work. The committee will further request that it be allowed to continue with its work during the upcoming parliamentary recess period.
The Chairperson stated that, the day before, the Ad Hoc Committee considered the revised report on public hearings and adopted the recommendations which were made in the previous meeting. The Committee had felt that the report could not be adopted before a decision was made as to whether they would hear oral submissions. If the Committee allowed oral submissions, it would impact on the content of the reports presented. In line with the multi-party character of the Ad Hoc Committee and the culture of constructive engagement, Members of the Committee reached consensus that the matter of oral submissions should be decided in the meeting underway.
The Committee had also received input from the Parliamentary Legal Services on the Public Participation Report, the previous day. After the Committee received this input, the Committee felt that before engaging the substantive issues raised by the Parliamentary Legal Services, Members should be allowed to consult with their principals to seek mandates on the substantive issues presented.
He reiterated that he was the Chairperson of the Ad Hoc Committee, he was not the Ad Hoc Committee. He was accountable to, and bound by, the decisions of the Committee. He respected the multi-party character of the Committee and was obliged to treat all members equally and to consider their contributions on their merits and demerits. He had no power. His rulings would always be informed by the consensus or sufficient consensus of the Committee. The definition of ‘sufficient consensus’ would also be defined and agreed to by the Committee. He was confident that the Committee was competent to carry out its mandate. He assured Members that the Committee was not rushing, and there was no intention to rush the proceedings of the Committee. However, the Committee was accountable to the National Assembly and was obliged to carry out its mandate within the assigned timeframes of the National Assembly.
Discussion on whether to accept oral submissions
Mr C Xaba (ANC) stated that on the previous Sunday it was announced that the country would move to alert level one from level three. Under level one, South Africans could do things that could not be done under alert level three. This coincidently kicked in shortly after the Committee had concluded the public hearings. It was under alert level one that most of the work, relating to the Committee, could be carried out. This included the facilitation of public participation. Any other lockdown level slowed down the Ad Hoc Committee processes; the Committee had had to go back to Parliament to seek more time as a result of this. Parliament had agreed and extended the period until the end of March 2021. He wanted it to be recorded that this was the second extension.
Given the extensive presentation that Parliamentary Legal Services presented the day before, and the request from the members of the Committee for more time to consider the options arising from the presentation, the Committee was left with one option – to approach Parliament for an extension. The Committee would also need to request permission to work during the recess period. In that way the Committee could accommodate the numerous requests from institutions and organisations to address the Committee on the policy options before it. Thus, they would be able to move from a two-pronged public participation approach to a three pronged approach. Public hearings, written submissions and oral submissions. This would further enrich the discussions.
Mr F Shivambu (EFF) supported the extension of the finalisation of the report. He clarified that they should open the public participation process exclusively for public oral submissions, not public hearings or written submissions. He suggested the Committee permit members of the public to make their case whether for or against the amendment of the Constitution. This would prevent the Committee of being accused at a later stage of not having exhausted the consultation process with all spheres of society. He suggested that they conclude and finalise the process by the end of May 2021.
The Chairperson felt that Mr Shivambu’s contribution had clarified the matter for him, in terms of opening up the public participation process specifically for oral submissions.
Dr C Mulder (FFP) expressed that it was a reasonable proposal. It became quite clear to the Committee the night before, in listening to the presentation by Legal Services that there were numerous issues being addressed in the presentation that had a significant impact on the process they were busy with.
His understanding was that the Committee was now aiming toward the end of May 2021. His concern was that the month of April 2021 was difficult due to long-weekends and the Easter weekend. This might make it difficult in the programme. He was concerned that they may land up asking Parliament for an additional extension if they did not meet the deadline of the end of May 2021. It was not only a case of oral submissions – the Committee would also need to review the legal presentations and reach an internal consensus. He suggested that they give themselves more time. If the Committee finished ahead of time it would not be a problem. He suggested the end of June might be a more realistic timeframe.
Adv B Bongo (ANC) agreed with the proposals made by the other Members. However, the people of South Africa could not wait much longer for the amendment. He suggested that they tie themselves down to complete the process during the recess. He supported hearing the oral submissions.
Mr R Moroatshehla (ANC) suggested that the motion ‘carried water.’ He supported the suggestions raised but suggested that they base the proposed extension on a programme developed by Administration. When the Committee made the submission for the extension to Parliament they would have something attached which would showcase whether they would be in a better position to complete the remaining work. They could not move haphazardly.
Prof A Lotriet (DA) supported the proposal of an extension. She supported the proposal to set an extension date that allowed for more time rather than too little time. She suggested that the Parliamentary Staff look at the programme from the beginning of 2020, as there was a list of organisations who would have come to Parliament to make oral submissions prior to the lockdown. She requested that the Committee be provided with that list – of who those organisations were and plan accordingly.
The Chairperson thought that the Committee all agreed with Mr Xaba’s proposal. He also supported the suggestion made by Mr Moroatshehla regarding asking for an extension based on the programme. He further agreed with the suggestion made by Prof Lotriet to exclusively accept the organisations that had wanted to make oral submissions at the beginning of 2020. They would not be mobilising all organisations out there to be invited to make inputs. The Committee would only hear from organisations which had previously made a request for an oral representation. He suggested that the end of May 2021 be the deadline, subject to the programme.
The Chairperson reiterated that the Committee worked to achieve consensus and was competent to carry out the mandate of the Parliament. Therefore, the Committee would ask Administration to immediately work on the programme so that by the following Monday, that programme would be submitted to Parliament.
Mr Shivambu suggested that it would be appropriate for the Committee to accept the programme before it was submitted to Parliament. He suggested that they also be given the list of organisations that would appear before them – so that they had a full picture of the programne and timeline.
The Chairperson stated that Mr Shivambu's suggestion was perfectly acceptable because the proposal did not belong to the Administration; the Administration did it on behalf of the Committee. The Committee would need to interrogate it and adopt it. When the Committee considered that programme it also needed to consider the organisations that would be presenting.
Thus, the Administration would prepare the programme and the Committee would consider it at its next meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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