Drafting of Rail Regulator Bill by Canadian-South African joint project: briefing

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27 February 2001
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

27 February 2001

Relevant documents: None

Chairperson: Mr J P Cronin

The Canadian Transport Ministry representative gave an outline of the joint South African-Canadian project that had led to the drafting of South Africa's Rail Regulator Bill. The committee was astonished that the entire process had gone so smoothly that it had taken only six months, from September 2000 to February 2001. Another point that surprised the Committee was that when the Canadian department of transport had been restructured, the number of employees was downsized from 20 000 to 4500. Only 1% of employees had lodged complaints in this regard. She attributed the low figure to continual communication amongst the department, the Minister and trade unions.

Ms Thembi Msibi, Manager of International Relations in the Department, briefed the committee on its activities and the purpose of this meeting. The functions of International Relations are two tiered:

• Multilateral relations being agreements with the South African Development Community (SADC). Sectors are co-ordinated by a particular country in the SADC group. For example Mozambique co-ordinates the transport sector for the group.

• Bilateral relations. South Africa has thus far entered into two such agreements.
(i) The first was in 1999 with the Netherlands department of transport.
(ii) The second agreement was finalised in early 2000 with the Canadian department of transport. South Africa is engaged in a major project with the Canadians to restructure South Africa's rail sector. For this reason the Transport Canada representative, Ms Judy Blackwell, had been invited to brief the committee on the process thus far.

Transport Canada
Ms Blackwell stated that the Canadian department of transport had had to be overhauled due to restructuring that was done by the new ruling party in Canada - the Liberal Party.
The core focus of their department had to change from being operations-orientated to one of regulation and policy. In addition the number of employees was downsized from 20 000 to 4500. Employees were either redeployed within the government service or offered severance packages.

Ms Blackwell listed some of the countries that they are in bilateral partnerships with: USA, Bahamas, Jamaica, Australia, China and of course South Africa. The co-operative relationship with South Africa started in September 2000 dealing with the rail safety regulator project. The delegation sent to Canada comprised of four representatives each from the Department, Transnet and Spoornet.

The delegation was given an overview of rail safety regulations in Canada and insight into the processes that made Canadian rail what it is today. Even though the South African delegation differed on many aspects, they came up with a model to suit the South African context.

The next step in the process was skill transference. A Canadian consultant was sent to South Africa to facilitate the skill transference process and to assist with any other problems that might arise.

What astonished the committee was the great deal of work that had been achieved in such a short space of time. The process had started in September 2000 and by February 2001 the draft legislation on rail regulation was presented to Minister Dullah Omar. Ms Blackwell concluded that they look forward to working on future projects with the Department.

Ms S Mnumzana (ANC) asked what the responsibilities were of the team that had drafted the model. She also asked about the funding for the project.

Ms Blackwell replied that the Department of Transport had handpicked the team. She added that the Canadian expert had done skills transference and consequently trained the team. The funding for the project had come from the Canadian government. The funding however ends once the legislation is drafted.

Mr S Farrow (DP) stated that it was phenomenal that the legislation was completed in such a short period of time. He commented that the Canadian expert must have a very diverse knowledge on rail.

Ms Blackwell noted that discussions could progress because the South African delegation found themselves on neutral territory. They could thus air their grievances without having any hang-ups. Ms Blackwell stated that the Canadian expert has over 35 years of experience in the rail industry.

The Chair made the point that the situation in South Africa is very different from that in Canada. He reminded members that even though our budget deficit is under control we still have a huge social deficit. The Chair asked Ms Blackwell why she had not made any reference to trade union involvement?

Ms Blackwell stated that trade unions were involved in the process in South Africa but that they were not part of the delegation that had been sent to Canada. She highlighted the fact that the Department had been responsible for choosing the members of the delegation.

Ms Mnumzana referred to Ms Blackwell's statement that when Canada had overhauled their transport department they had decreased their employee numbers from 20 000 to 4500. She asked what were the employees' attitudes to this process.

Ms Blackwell surprised the committee by noting that only 1% of employees had lodged complaints in this regard. She assured the committee that the only reason why the figure was that low was because there had been continual communication amongst the department, the Minister and trade unions.

The meeting was adjourned.


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