North West oversight visit: reflections & way forward; Complaint against Chairperson

Ad Hoc Committee on North West Intervention

30 March 2021
Chairperson: Mr T Dodovu (ANC, North West)
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Meeting Summary

Video: Ad Hoc Committee on Section 100 Intervention in North West Province, 30 March 2021

The North West intervention started in May 2018 was due to end at the end of March 2021 but was extended to end of June 2021. The Committee reflected on the oversight visit to the North West province from 14 to 19 March 2021 and the way forward for the next three months. They were disappointed that the requested programme of meeting with people on the ground had not materialised. There was a lack of cooperation amongst those in charge to forge ahead and make the intervention a success. There also appeared to be paralysis in applying consequence management.

The Committee discussed the former North West Premier's letter of complaint that Chairperson Dodovu would not be objective in chairing this Ad Hoc Committee on the North West Intervention.

Meeting report

The Chairperson had requested this meeting as the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) has extended the Ad Hoc Committee deadline from 26 March until 24 June which provides an additional two to three months. Parliament is currently in recess but it is quite important to make reflections on the North West oversight visit with a view to developing a Committee programme for adoption and thereafter inform all the people required to appear before the Committee. The programme must help the Committee to complete its work. Those who attended the oversight visit would agree that based on their observations, it is clear there is still quite a lot of work to be done, especially on the work already done and the interaction with the many stakeholders so that they do not do hasty work. They need to tighten up the loose ends and do some follow ups and ensure they are successful and have a positive impact and create the necessary stability in that province. On the basis of the deadline extension, this meeting was called so the Committee as a collective can make observations to identify what needs to be attended to urgently and identify the gaps in the work they have done. The NCOP extended the work of the Committee so that on 24 June it would debate the intervention. This would require the Committee to do its work diligently.

The Chairperson provided a recap of the North West visit by seven of the Committee members from 14 March to 19 March. It had a comprehensive programme interacting with the stakeholders. Most of the Members arrived on Sunday. On Monday 15 March the Committee met with the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) at the North West Legislature, where they received a comprehensive report on the challenges and SCOPA submitted matters to the Committee that required follow up. Thereafter, the Committee met with the North West Executive Council, led by the Premier, joined by the administrators who are part of the intervention. Premier Job Mokgoro together with his team gave a report on the state of the intervention and what they identified as the problematic areas that require intervention and what they see as the way forward for the intervention in the North West with the Inter-Ministerial Task Team (IMTT).

He commented that the report they received was not good. The relationship is very strained as the Premier did not know about the intervention beforehand or that it had been extended and that he only gained information via rumours spread by the media. This was concerning to learn about during their oversight. On the same day they received a report from the unions representing different sectors in that province.

On the second day, they split into two. Ms Ncitha led a team to Mareetsane area who visited hospitals and a school and interacted with administrators as well as officials from the Departments of Education and of Health. The Chairperson led a team to Mahikeng and it visited the Mahikeng Provincial Hospital, where they spent the better part of the day and later they did an unannounced visit to the airport and the South African Express was involved. Thereafter they interacted with the Department of Community Safety and Transport Management as well as the Department of Education and two schools which were visited by the previous intervention team. They interacted with the Department of Public Works on the bridge that was constructed there years ago.

On 18 March, the teams each travelled to the Dr Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality where they met up and interacted with stakeholders there. The District Municipality was to arrange for the Committee to hear the views of extra parliamentary bodies such as NGOs, unions and women organisations. The impression gained was that none of those organisations were invited.  Instead, councillors, work committee members, officials from the local municipalities were the ones in attendance and who were making inputs at the meeting. Thereafter they were to meet with religious ministers as well as traditional leaders. With the traditional leaders, the Committee decided to postpone the meeting and with the religious ministries they postponed that meeting as well because there were very few people in attendance. The Committee felt it was inappropriate to hold the meeting as they needed to ensure they met with a broader sector. They had the possibility of interacting with the North West traditional chiefs who shared their views, impressions and what they had observed about the intervention. On 19 March, they departed to the airport.

The Committee needed to discuss the visit and what they experienced, what they think they need to do and improve on, what are outstanding tasks that need to be followed up on, who else they need to meet and based on that develop a programme until 24 June.

He tendered an apology that from 12 to 23 April he would not be available as he is a member of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) that interviews prospective judges. The JSC last met in October 2019 so there is a lot of work to be done. They received 88 applications for about 36 vacancies for interview. The Committee might want to discuss this and decide whether the Committee would want to proceed or to put things on hold. If the Committee determines strongly that it needs to proceed due to the work volume, they will do so in his absence. He felt it would be fine and they would have to elect a person who would act in his absence.

Mr S Du Toit (FF+, North West) commented that the visit to the different North West institutions was insightful but not surprising. It is evident from the presentations given by the different MECs that there are quite a few challenges within the legislature. The Agriculture MEC reported that she has struggled to lay charges with the Hawks. She is sent away and told she must rather follow the disciplinary route. This is a big point of concern and the Committee must look into that specific matter.

With the Department of Health they visited Thusong Hospital and another hospital and the emergency rescue centres. According to the Auditor General, there is still a large amount of irregular expenditure occurring. This is in spite of the department being under administration with an administrator in place. If the administrator cannot root out corruption in the form of irregular expenditure in that department, how will it then happen? How will consequence management in that department start to take place? His personal view is that the administrator must be held responsible for the irregular expenditure that is happening under his watch.

During their visit to Thusong hospital, the CEO, Mr Madonsela, mentioned that gangs tried to influence the tender procedure in the hospital. It is evident from video footage captured during that week that the gang violence in that area is at an all-time high. His concern is that neither the CEO nor the Health Administrator could confirm that charges were laid against these gangs. This is in spite of the CEO confirming that one of the gangs actually scheduled a meeting with him on hospital premises to discuss these tenders which result in tender irregularities. If the law enforcement agencies are not informed about this kind of thing, what does it say about the Health Administrator and the CEO of the hospital? The fact that the working of the hospital is disrupted by gangs and protests are occurring in front of the hospital gates on a regular basis is a huge point of concern. In the presentations, one of the individuals boasted that emergency services now have two-way radios to communicate, and the administrator rightfully said that they are praising the fish for swimming.

How will they address the stock levels in the pharmacies? They boasted that there is a slight improvement on that in the range of 54% or so. That specific hub is a dispensing pharmacy that is supposed to supply clinics and the other hospitals that fall under it. With such a low number of drugs available for dispensing, there will be a shortage in the distribution which will impact negatively on patients. Due to the fear of contracting COVID-19, fewer people have gone to clinics and hospitals to receive medication.

Another obvious challenge is the maintenance of vehicles such as ambulances. A large number of them were purchased recently but a great percentage of them are standing in the garages because they need to be repaired. The state of the roads contribute to these vehicles not being functional.

Mr D Ryder (DA, Gauteng) noted there is work to be done in their constituencies over the next couple of months. He supported the Chairperson’s recommendation that they take a pause in the second half of April to allow Members to focus on their individual constituencies.

Mr Ryder was not on the oversight trip that took place but had focused on the matters that were coming through the media during that period. He referred to the correspondence from the former Premier to the NCOP Chairperson, complaining about the Committee Chairperson and asking for his recusal. They have seen a similar request with another investigation happening recently. It appears that when people feel they are going to be caught out, they look for any excuse to discredit the Committee that has oversight over them. The point he made was as a Committee Member from a different political party. This Committee is multi-party committee and quite representative and not following the direction of one person. Even though Mr Dodovu is the Chairperson, all Members have been given an opportunity to make their inputs and guide proceedings. The demand by the former Premier is unfounded. He has every confidence in saying that he has never felt pushed in any specific direction. They have been given considerable leeway by the Chairperson to do their work effectively and properly. He voiced his support for the Committee Chairperson.

He received substantial feedback on the oversight visit despite not being in attendance. The feedback is that administrators themselves are becoming frustrated because of the lack of cooperation that they are getting, and they are feeling like they are not totally empowered and getting support from, for example, law enforcement agencies. This is something the Committee needs to consider in their deliberations that the people sent to do this work have not been given enough tools, either by the legislation or by their mandate.

Mr I Sileku (DA, Western Cape) said that they were part of the convey that went to some of the hospitals. He observed that there are two particular departments under section100(b), especially the Department of Community Safety and Health. It has been three years now and those departments are still working in silos. What was shared with them is that there is a problem when it comes to fleet procurement, especially ambulances, and there seems to be no communication between these two administrators. That needs to be corrected. The gangsterism in this province is also unacceptable. The law enforcement agencies do not cooperate with these departments. He does not understand what is happening in that province because people do as they like. There are two new hospitals ready to serve the North West community but due to gangsters they are actually blocked from opening these two hopsitals. This has been a problem for the last two years because when they want to open, they block them. The law enforcement agencies in that town just stand by and do not intervene and bring these people to book. That is of concern.

The relationship between the Executive and the Members of the Provincial Legislature, especially SCOPA and the Administrators, is of concern. He does not know how it can be resolved. If they still want to assist that province and have the same administrators do the work they need to do, they have to work on relations amongst themselves. He does not know if they are just plain ignorant and think of their own needs and do not consider the needs of the province. The executive is not embracing the administrators to turnaround the province. When the Committee engaged with the executive, one would expect them to present on the progress in the intervention and how it has assisted them. However, the Committee only heard people complaining about MOUs. Normally one would meet with the administrator and sit down and iron this out because it is an impediment in fulfilling their responsibility as a Member of the Executive. It should not be that they have a meeting with the NCOP Committee to complain about MOUs because those are issues, they could have ironed out. Some of the MOUs were signed during the last administration but one would expect that when the new MECs were appointed, the Premier would sit with all the departments and say this is what they have agreed on and where can they change because this is work in progress, but they are not doing it.

There are also some challenges with the North West Department of Social Development (DSD) where time frames were set for new offices. The department should finding more appropriate office space but so far no progress has been made and it is all just blame shifting between DSD and the Department of Public Works. We do not know who is benefiting from the lease contracts continuously being renewed. Social workers do not have privacy because they are in open plan offices and they cannot engage on sensitive matters in such working conditions. When they went to the station where the ambulances are kept it was evident that that office building is not conducive for people who are working on the front line saving people.

He would not venture into the matter about the Committee Chairperson and his former Premier. He was uncertain if the Chairperson had served in the Premier’s cabinet at one time for the former Premier to have an issue with the Ad Hoc Committee Chairperson. Mr Dodovu was Committee Chairperson of the Select Committee on Cooperative Governance and Human Settlements in which Mr Sileku served and the Chairperson has always focused on the work at hand. The Members are not here to be diverted from the kind of the work that they need to do for the North West because the Members are independent thinkers. They can apply their minds. They look at the facts in front of them. The Chairperson does not dictate to the Committee members. When they nominated him, it was based on his capabilities, his knowledge, and the kind of work that he has done in that particular province. Those factions that are there must not affect the kind of work the Committee does.

He was really looking forward to engaging with ordinary people on the ground about the impact of this particular intervention. It was very disappointing that when they attended that particular engagement, they would hear people that used to work in the Offices of the Premier and of the Speaker and the district mayor complaining. Why are they complaining? Are they complaining because they are pushing a specific factional line or are they genuine in their complaint? It was a disappointment to him that they did not reach people on the ground that are affected by the section 100 intervention when it comes to the rendering of government services to them.

It was pointed out that the Committee should visit all the North West districts instead of focusing on certain districts so that they can have the feeling of everyone in the province and not only a feeling of a particular faction within the province that has their own views and their own political agenda. The unions are also having a problem with the administrators and it is worrisome.

He believes the mistake the Committee was to call each separately because they would bad mouth the other. What they need to do going forward is to bring all these parties together. If they have a complaint about a particular administrator, that administrator must be allowed to respond so that the Committee is not misled and confused. What they found in that province is that everyone wants a piece of the cake.

Mr Y Carrim (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) said he was not on the visit for reasons beyond his control. He would have liked to have been there. What came out of the visit was very predictable because it has been covered in the media since the start of the intervention and before. They have been through this before so many times. For those of them who have been in Parliament since 1994, they have been on countless study tours and they put a lot of effort and energy into it and spent large amounts of money. He recalled that in 2000, they visited all nine provinces in what was then called the Portfolio Committee on Provincial Affairs and Local Government. Parliament had about 20 Members per Committee at the time. They divided into three groups and spent a week. They published a report which was sent to every municipality, every Premier, every MEC of Provincial Affairs and Local Government and yet they are still dealing with the same challenges. They do need to start thinking about the relationship between energy, productivity, resources, costs and outcomes.

They have an extension of three months and with the colleagues that went on the oversight visit he has no doubt that they will write up a very good report and contribute to recommendations on where to go from here. However, they need to ask what they are seeking to achieve and how do they get there. They may want to say that this is not going to be resolved overnight or by the end of June because these problems are lingering, and they will continue. Instead of inviting a shopping list of people, the Committee may want to be a bit modest about what they can do and ensure that instead of seeking to do ten things, they do five things and achieve some outcomes, instead of attempting to do ten things and only achieving one thing. Given the Chairperson’s considerable experience, both as a public representative and a political activist, they are in very good hands. The Chairperson needs to mull over these and come with a draft programme. It is not just another shopping list; it is a strategic plan with practical outcomes. Mr Carrim said that he does not have answers but he is looking at a method the Chairperson is familiar with and that is often used in his own party that is agreed to in theory but not implemented in practice.

Mr Carrim said he had nominated the Ad Hoc Committee Chairperson, and the Committee needs to know how it came to be. The North West challenges cannot be seen as a financial issue but rather a governance issue fundamentally. Some of them have even argued that more than an intervention, is it the ANC sorting out their own internal problems which is possibly more important than what the state can do. The reason Mr Carrim nominated the Chairperson as requested by the Chief Whips Office or the political committee who decides these things with the House Chief was an objective decision since he is the COGTA Chairperson. This is a governance issue. The Chairperson was chosen by the Chief Whips' Office and Mr Carrim as a relatively senior MP was asked to nominate him because he was the COGTA Chairperson who should chair these things as is rightly the case.

The issues raised in the media were discussed by the Chief Whips Office but, on balance, it was felt that as the COGTA Select Committee Chairperson, they would be setting a precedent. In the Fifth Parliament, it was for very subjective reasons such as the availability of chairperson, that the chair was the finance chair.

From his own subjective point of view, as Mr Carrim knows him he is a very good chairperson, and he has not seen any bias in the Committee meetings. He is very efficient and committed. Some people will obviously see a conspiracy. As an ANC comrade it is important for him to make clear that these were the reasons.

On the matter of fair chairpersonship, one could say that the opposition is saying the meetings were fair as they want these tensions. However, he does not think Mr Ryder is not speaking from the heart. If the Chairperson were not chairing the meeting fairly, Mr Carrim would put up his hand and assert that it is not appropriate. He has not seen any bias in the way the Chairperson has chaired meetings.  It is important that Mr Ryder raised this as Parliament needs to consider this since this could resurface at some other time. It does not mean that because it is a North West-based chairperson dealing with a North West intervention that the issue arises only in this context. It could also arise if he were actually the COGTA Select Committee Chairperson, as he in fact is, and the Committee is dealing with the Eastern Cape. One must be careful about setting a precedent. It is not clear to him how strong the opposition is to the Chairperson. From what he knows, it was the former Premier but there are no names attached to it. Presumably, the people who identify with the former Premier might be sympathetic to his point of view. This matter is being dealt with by the Chief Whips Office and they are looking into it. Clearly, there are rules and norms that will emerge here for future interventions.

There is an obligation on the Chairperson to manage his politics in the province appropriately. There is no problem with a Member having a particular view within the respective parties and it is inevitable these days. The DA itself is split between the social democratic side who seem to be marginalized now and the free market types. They are split between those who are more empathetic to BEE and those who are dismissive of it. All parties have, if not different factions, different strengths. None of them can escape that. Even the Communist Party that he is part of shows he belongs to a particular standard of thinking which is different to others. People see him in a particular way because Marxism is a broad approach and even if you are a Marxist, what exactly does that mean? A chairperson will in some way be identified for having a particular way of thinking unless that person is not an activist. He pleaded with the Chairperson to manage that in a way that does not open the door for criticism, as there is a North West conference coming up. He has no doubt the Chairperson will take this into account.

If there was sufficient evidence that there is a groundswell of opposition to the Chairperson, Mr Carrim has no doubt that Mr Dodovu himself will step down and give someone else the opportunity to chair the Committee. What is happening here needs to be addressed in a way that sets a precedent so they do not encounter this situation all the time.

Mr E Nchabeleng (ANC, Limpopo) said it was a point of concern that the Committee did not meet important stakeholders on the oversight visit to gather more information from them. When they return as a Committee to do oversight, they must focus on the internal disciplinary process within the North West departments. They need to focus on those cases and have direction. It is clear that consequence management is ineffective in that province. The Committee's focus should be on law enforcement. Law enforcement agencies in that province are led by provincial heads. The Committee should look at whether should be handled by national heads. The Committee nominated the Chairperson. Its Members are from different political parties and are independent thinkers and if there were concerns with the Chairperson, they would have raised them a long time ago. They cannot be focusing on this issue when they are meant to be reflecting on the visit. This is what happens when the net is closing in on certain individuals; you find people jumping around raising irrelevant matters.

The Chairperson gauged from the Members that a break for about three weeks is acceptable for this Committee so that Members can perform other responsibilities allocated by their constituencies. They must develop a programme to take the Committee forward until 24 June; in the same way they developed the first programme. The issues mentioned by Members that need to be followed up on, have been noted. Firstly, they need to call the IMTT and afford them an opportunity to respond to all the concerns they have raised. There was a proposal that they must identify practical outcomes for this Committee and what are the measurements. They need to set goals and know what the impact is in changing the situation in the North West province. They need to attend to all outstanding matters such as engaging with stakeholders to hear the view of the people about the intervention itself. He proposed that a programme is developed with the administration and perhaps next week meet for 15 minutes to consider and adopt the programme so the Committee knows what is going to be done by the end of June.

As the matter was continually being raised, the Chairperson felt the need to address it himself although he did not expect it to be discussed constantly. He would have a meeting that afternoon with the Chief Whip and NCOP Chairperson about the letter that was sent to them. It was not sent to him. He has deliberately avoided responding to the matter. He does not know what motivated the letter and the attachment. The facts are that it is well known that he is from the North West province and one of the senior leaders in that province as he has occupied some key positions. He had not served under the previous Premier. He served with him when he was the ANC North West chairperson and he was the deputy over the years. He denied what was contained in the letter about the Chairperson campaigning against the former Premier. He had made his views known about the state of the provincial government and he feels vindicated because at the end of the day there is intervention, and everyone can see the situation is quite bad in the North West.

If someone asked him what the impact of the Committee was to be, he would say the major impact of the Committee is that for three years the law enforcement agencies have done nothing about cases of corruption or mismanagement. The focus of this Committee has been on ensuring that they push law enforcement agencies to do their job based on the evidence available without fear, favour, or prejudice. Part of the programme they develop will entail calling the law enforcement agencies again so they can assess what has been the progress. This Committee has a right to know and oversee the work of the law enforcement agencies so that progress is registered in that respect. Since he became the Committee Chairperson, he has received no complaints or dissatisfaction from Committee members or people outside of it about how he conducts himself, how he chairs the meetings and how he facilitates the work of the Committee. He will not bring politics and how he thinks and feels about issues in this country into the work of this Committee and he has always resisted doing so. He has done what is expected of him in the best way he can to ensure this Committee is functional, effective and is holding the executive and everyone accountable in the work they are doing. He chose to reserve his comments beyond that because he did not feel it was appropriate for him to do that. He committed to taking everything the Members have said into account on the matter, so it does not jeopardize the Committee's work.

The meeting was adjourned.


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