Video: Rules Committee (Virtual)
In a virtual meeting, the Committee considered the composition of a section 194 Committee (looking into removal of the head of a Chapter Nine Institution) at the request of the Speaker of the NA, who had asked for its input so that she could make her final determination as to the composition of the ad-hoc committee considering the fitness of the Public Protector.
The 26 members of the committee represent each of the 14 political parties represented in the National Assembly. But only 11 members will be voting members with the remaining 15 being non-voting members. The ANC would have six voting members, the DA two, the EFF one, the IFP one and the FF Plus one. The other 15 members representing all political parties can freely speak and participate, but not vote.
The UDM had written taking issue with the voting system in the ad-hoc committee, arguing for weighted voting as it did not consider it to be in the spirit of democracy for smaller parties to be grouped together for a vote by another larger but still small party that may have a competing mandate. The smaller parties want to be able to express the views of their constituencies through their own votes
The proposal did not garner support and the decision will now be referred back to the National Assembly Speaker
The Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly , as Committee Chairperson, asked if the Committee to have a look at the agenda and for Members to indicate whether they were happy with the agenda as it was. As there was no comment, he asked if there were any apologies.
The Chairperson tendered the apologies of the Speaker who was not well, which is why he stepped in her place, as Chairperson, as was the duty of those in positions like his own. Mr G Magwanishe (ANC) sent his apologies as well as Mr M Nxumalo (IFP), who was on an oversight visit. The Deputy Chief Whip of the ANC, Ms D Dlakude, also sent apologies as she was admitted to hospital that morning.
The Chairperson asked that Members wish her well and expressed the hope that she recovers.
After the agenda was duly adopted, he asked that Members review the minutes of 9 March 2021.
Adoption of Minutes of 9 March 2021
The Committee reviewed the minutes page-by-page.
As there did not seem to be any changes, the Chairperson deemed the minutes an accurate reflection of the meeting and asked for a motion of adoption.
The Chairperson asked that his initials be changed to 'SL' as they are habitually represented incorrectly.
NA Secretary, Mr Masibulele Xaso, apologised profusely and said it would be corrected.
The Chief Whip of the ANC moved for adoption and the motion was seconded by Mr S Kula (ANC).
The Chairperson asked if there were any other matters arising.
Mr Xaso said that there would be no other matters arising. The report of the Subcommittee had since been reported to the House and the report was adopted by the House. The last item, which was monitoring of replies to questions, has been referred to the Subcommittee on the Review of Rules.
The Chairperson said what Mr Xaso had said constitutes 'matters arising' and was an important addition to the agenda. He asked that it move to the next item on the agenda to do with the Composition of the section 194 Committee.
Mr Xaso offered to give context before the party who raised the matter could speak.
The Chairperson accepted this.
Consideration of the composition of the Section 194 Committee and a proposal for a weighted voting system
Mr Xaso began by explaining that in terms of the rules on the removal of office bearers in terms of section 194, the committee must consist of the number of Members as determined by the Speaker subject to the provisions of Rule 154. The Speaker did this and on 7 April 2021, the membership of the committee was published as consisting of 26 Members, with 11 voting Members and 15 non-voting Members. Subsequently, the UDM sent a letter objecting to the composition of the Committee which proposed, among other things; a weighted system. The UDM would speak to this. After Considering the content of the letter, the Speaker decided that the matter should be served before this Committee for its input which would enable the Speaker to make a final determination on the matter. The membership which was decided on at the time, was essentially based on precedent in terms of a section 25 Committee where there are voting Members and non-voting Members. Ordinarily, Committees follow what was agreed to by the Rules Committee on 5 June 2019, where there are 11 Members in a Committee and not all parties are represented, but smaller parties come together and decide who should sit on that Committee. This was the context on why the meeting was taking place, but he understood that Mr N Kwankwa (UDM) was here to make the point.
The Chairperson noted two hands but asked whether Mr Kwankwa was present to raise the matter that he raised, after which Mr Sigh and Ms Mazzone could speak.
Mr N Singh (IFP) explained that he wanted to speak now in order to complete the context as Mr Xaso omitted to indicate that he had also written a letter on behalf of the 10 parties to the Speaker inquiring as to what the decision would be and the Speaker had responded, after which the UDM took up its letter. There was this initial letter to the Speaker.
The Chairperson understood that Mr Xaso omitted the important step coming from Mr Singh on behalf of the collective of parties. He said it would be taken into the context as he correctly pointed out and asked if Mr Kwankwa was present to re-submit his concerns.
Mr N Kwankwa (UDM) said he was present and said that he was delegated by his party leader to speak on his behalf in this meeting and thanked the Committee for hosting it. The UDM's issue is to do with the system of voting that is being followed, especially in committees such as ad-hoc committees, which deal generally with matters of national importance. Its feeling was that the current system which has been used in past committees such as the Nkandla Committee of Enquiry and others enquiring into different parties in Parliament, was incorrect. Instead of allowing all parties present in the committees to have a voting right, only two of the smaller parties may have a voting right in the committee. It was concerned that the current practise continues to treat smaller parties like strooimeisies (meaning 'bridesmaids') in the parliamentary process. For the UDM, the Portfolio Committees are the first decision-making bodies. He understood that the matter, after having been considered by Committee report, would be considered by the plenary, however it wanted to make its voice heard in terms of being able to vote in the committee system itself, before the matter goes to the plenary. He asked that Members recall that constituencies and members of the public consider all the documents and reports that come out of parliament.
He proposed therefore that instead of allowing two parties to have a proxy on its behalf when they all represent different constituencies, perhaps, a weighted voting system should be considered for ad-hoc committees and not portfolio committees. This will not distort the outcome of the voting process when applied to an ad-hoc committee and not necessarily a portfolio committee. It felt portfolio committees were fine and it understood the system but wanted to make this proposal specifically for the ad-hoc committee established to enquire into the fitness of the Public Protector.
The Chairperson said he heard him and asked if he was done.
Mr Kwanwa said he was done.
The Chairperson suggested the Members hear from Mr Singh, Ms Mazzone, Mr Shaik Emam and Ms Majodina in the order of hands raised.
Mr Singh thanked Mr Kwankwa for raising the issue. As he had raised earlier, there was an exchange of correspondence with the Speaker on the 17th, 25th, 31st of March on behalf of the other parties. On the 31st, the parties noted what the Speaker had said about voting and forwarded the correspondence to all the parties. He knew that the discussion had taken place before, as Mr Kwankwa said, on the ad-hoc committee on Nkandla, SABC, etc. He was correct in saying that two of the ten parties have to vote and the others do not have an opportunity to vote in the committee. The last time the discussion was held, some Members indicated that other parties have an opportunity to vote in the House. Mr Kwankwa, however, is saying that parties should vote in the committee. The idea of weighted voting was mooted but was not accepted at that time. In terms of this particular matter, it is common cause that even among the ten parties, there may not be agreement on the way forward and on whether a report is adopted or not as was made clear when it voted for the ad-hoc committee to be established and different parties expressed different views. If there is a weighted vote, the IFP would support this as it would not take away anything from any party but would give those parties that are in Parliament the right to be able to vote right from the Committee level into the Chamber where the matter will finally be debated.
Ms N Mazzone (DA) said that she had gone through all the rules of the Committee past and present as well as the guidelines and every document she could get her hands on regarding precedents on the way committees vote in Parliament and the way committees are established. She thought that all present needed to understand that this particular ad-hoc committee is ground-breaking as it is the first committee of its kind that has been established, which is why the Rules Committee specifically drafted rules to establish a committee that could begin an impeachment process. This in itself carries a set of challenges as it proceeds. The crux of the matter is that if all parties were given the same voting rights, then there would be no need to have a governing party or an official opposition party as all parties would have the same voice that they would be able to be heard with in Parliament. This is the reason why parties such as the DA and the ANC give up so much of their speaking time to ensure that multi-party democracy is adhered to. If following the guideline strictly, it would mean that a one-member party will have 3.5 seconds to speak. This is not done as larger parties give up their speaking time to ensure that other parties are represented. She thought that the Speaker had done this in a very fair manner. Members will notice that parties have non-voting Members, for example, the DA has two voting Members and one non-voting Member. This does not mean that the non-voting Member will not have the opportunity to voice his opinion and that of the DA. She checked with the NA table and was certain that all parties, even if they are non-voting Members, have the opportunity to have their voice be heard and to sway other Members if that be the case and make known the opinion of those that they represent. She thought it was unfair for parties that have worked hard in the elections to obtain their percentages in the NA to have the same voting rights as parties who have minuscule voting percentages in comparison. She thought the DA had gone above and beyond its role in making sure that multi-party democracy stands firm. Every party in Parliament will have the opportunity to debate and make their voices heard, however she though the current way that voting weighting is done is correct. Larger parties will have a larger say because that is what the electorate chose and Parliament must always respect the will of the people.
Mr A Shaik Emam (NFP) said that he was attending two meetings at the same time and was about to speak at the other one but he wanted to be quick in saying he supported Mr Kwankwa and his argument. It was not necessarily only about the way that people vote, but he asked that the Committee be mindful of the fact that the people's vote gave smaller parties a voice and smaller parties also needed to be able to participate in a manner that is fully fair and transparent. He admitted that when the matter came up, he was one of the first to write to Mr Singh and addressed his concerns about how the composition of this particular committee would be managed. The important thing to note is that all of the parties are different and have the mandate of their own parties and have different visions. The NFP has no problem with proportional representation but it does have a problem with some smaller parties having to depend on a larger of the smaller political parties to represent them, but they all have their own separate mandates from their own political parties.
The Chairperson asked Mr Hendricks to speak before the Chief Whip of the House and joked that he had a bigger caucus than hers. As he could not reach him, he asked the Chief Whip to speak.
Ms P Majodina (ANC) greeted all present and the parliamentary staff. Having listened to and read the submission from the UDM, she wanted to point out that whilst the ANC appreciates multi-party democracy, the strengths of parties was also relevant here. Firstly, owing to the nature of the representation of 14 parties, the NA Rules Committee, on 5 June 2019, adopted the rules establishing committees. These rules say that each committee should have 11 Members and details the numbers per party. Secondly, the current rules of the National Assembly (NA) do not provide for a weighted system, therefore, there is nothing different about this committee and other established committees. The ANC’s position was still firm. The parties who are raising the concerns were present when the rule was adopted for the duration of the Sixth Parliament.
The tone of the submission of the letter from the leader of the UDM was unfortunate. She felt that it had been very fair in accommodating other parties. The parties who were complaining were part of the meeting on 5 June 2019.
Mr G Hendricks (Al Jama-ah) said that it is not sufficient for the ANC to say that it is standing firm in its position, as a number of things had happened since the mandate was given such as the Zondo Commission. Although they have a mandate, that mandate has been considerably diluted if one considers what has happened in the last two weeks,
Ms Majodina raised a point of order.
The Chairperson asked what the point of order was.
Ms Majodina said that Mr Hendricks should speak to the agenda and not raise other matters.
The Chairperson said if this was the point, it should proceed.
Mr F Shivambu (EFF) said that he thought that at all times, speaking minutes and Committee representation and participation in Parliament must always reflect the outcomes of elections. He did not think that this should be compromised on. The EFF would not agree that it should have the same amount of speaking time and committee Members as parties that have one or two people in Parliament as this does not reflect the spirit of democracy. One issue that might need to be listened to, however is that to then group five political parties together and give them one vote; begged the question what mechanism is to be used to determine that vote. The Committee needed to think about and recognise the fact that the five smaller parties had irreconcilable differences. If one political party was going to be given a vote then the proportionality should apply to other parties that require representation in the Committees so that the proportionality is not affected by granting each political party one vote. The issue of giving five political parties one vote does not make sense as there is no mechanism as to how this vote is to be cast if the parties have differences.
Dr C Mulder (FF+) said that if the Committee goes with a weighted vote, it should be implemented in the correct fashion, which would mean that whatever method it uses, the ANC should have 57,5% of the vote in the committee as this was the election result. One has to consider the election results until the next election, this is how it worked. If the Committee supports a weighted vote, the ANC will have a clear majority from the beginning. He thought that the ANC had come a long way in accommodating the views of other parties, which is why in a Committee of 11, they still maintain and have to have a majority and they therefore have six out of the 11 seats. The question is then how to distribute the remaining seats in terms of what is reasonable and possible in Parliament. The current situation is that all parties are represented in these committees and have equal participation rights to speaking time and question-asking. There is, however, a problem when it comes to the vote. The actual final decisions are taken in the House, however, and in the House, those votes are absolutely weighted in terms of the results of the election; which is why the ANC has 230 votes in the House. He understood what his colleagues were saying, but he if the Members are fair to one another then he thought the current proposal [for a weighted vote] is a fair proposal and he supported it in terms of how it is structured.
Ms M Lesoma (ANC) wanted to raise what the Chief Whip of the ANC had not said which was that the Committee had decided on how seats would be allocated, however it would be very misleading when Members argue their issue by reviewing the rules through backdoor measures and creating an impression that they are not allowed to vote when in plenary they vote as individuals and they have been given additional minutes to make their declarations. She thought that the Committee should stick to the rules and if someone wanted the rules to be amended, they ought to make a proper and direct application. She supported what had been said by the Chief Whip of the ANC.
Mr Kwankwa said that he wished that the tone of the letter contained more respect. Secondly, a weighted voting system means that if he casts his vote, it should not be weighted more than the 1% of the electorate. The vote should carry the weight of the electoral vote; anything else would be distorting the electoral outcome. This needed to b considered as a solution. The Portfolio Committee is the final decision-making body of Parliament and this must not be trivialised. The way this is done should be in a way that does not distort the outcomes of the elections. It does not matter how miniscule the voter percentage is. It is a matter of right. It is not sufficient for larger parties to say that they have accommodated smaller items. He could not account for the tone of the letter as it was a general writing to another general. Perhaps the UDM could have been more persuasive in how they put it, but perhaps that is how they speak to one another. The issue is that the UDM would like other options to be considered and relied on the example given by Mr Shivambu saying that five parties voting together is unworkable. Other proposals and options need to be considered.
The Chairperson said that he had given Members the opportunity to express their views and unfortunately, Mr Kwankwa had not managed to persuade the Rules Committee. It did seem that there might be an opportunity to make a case for a change of the Rules, however the Speaker had written to the Committee in order for the Speaker to get a sense of the Rules Committee’s view before she makes a decision. This is where they would leave this item. He asked that the meeting proceed to the next item.
Consideration of Chief Whip’s Forum Concerns on Disorder in Plenaries
Ms Majodina said that on 10 March, during the Forum, Members raised concerns regarding the following issues. Firstly, that there are derogatory statements or remarks that are made in the House about other Members and Members of the Executive as well as physical confrontation that occurred in the House. Secondly, Members of the Forum felt that presiding officers must allow points of order and preside accordingly or risk allowing order in the house. It therefore appealed to presiding officers in this meeting that if Members want to raise a point of order, these should not be suppressed and should be presided over accordingly. Thirdly, during heated discussions, let Chief Whips and senior Members engage with a view of restoring order. The Forum felt that starting the second term, it should bring this to bear.
The Chairperson asked if anyone wanted to comment on the report saying he thought the Chief Whip was representing the Forum. As there was no-one who wanted to do so, he said that on behalf of the rest of the Whips it would do as she had said. As Members of public office, they ought to be respectful to one another. Even when feeling strongly about something, it does no-one any favours to use unbecoming language both in public and in private. He thanked the Members and said that all meetings should be this short.
The meeting was adjourned.
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.