Establishment of joint committee to probe July 2021 Violence: with Ministers (Police & Defence) + Deputy Ministers (Police & Justice)

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30 July 2021
Chairperson: Ms T Joemat-Petterssen (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


A joint meeting of the Portfolio Committees on Police, Defence, Justice and Correctional Services, the Select Committee on Security and Justice and the Joint Standing Committees on Defence and on Intelligence was held on a virtual platform and chaired by the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Police.

A letter from the Chair of Chairs in the National Assembly stated that reports from Portfolio Committees undertaking oversight visits indicated extreme violence in two provinces, i.e. KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. There had been serious lapses in the ability of the security services, including the Police, to manage the situation. It was necessary for Parliament to get a complete picture of the unrest and the consequences thereof, as well as the response of the State via a thorough enquiry led by the Portfolio Committee on Police in conjunction with other relevant Committees in the Peace and Stability Clusters from both Houses.

A Senior Parliamentary Legal Advisor informed the Members of the legislation and applicable parliamentary rules for the establishment of such a Committee. It was determined that, although Parliament was in recess, the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces and the Chief Whips of the ruling party could together legitimately constitute such a Committee and mandate it to carry out an enquiry.

Following input by several Members on the platform, it was resolved to refer a request to establish an inquiry into the violence in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng to Parliament’s Presiding officers for further consideration and decision.

It was agreed that the Committee could not proceed without the necessary letter from the Chair of Chairs and until the necessary rules of Parliament had been followed.

 It was determined that the proposed presentations by the Ministers and Heads of Department would be postponed until a Committee had been legitimately constituted.  Members also complained about the large documents received and the lateness of this. Members raised concern about the  composition of the proposed joint committee as combining six parliamentary Committees would result in far too large a Committee that would be unwieldy and find it difficult to be efficient and effective. Furthermore,  they sought clarity  on who would chair the Committee and the proposed timeline.

Meeting report

Opening Remarks
The Chairperson welcomed the Ministers, Directors-General and Generals, especially the National Commissioner of Police, and asked for a moment of silence. She noted that the meeting was a joint sitting of the Security Cluster and the Peace and Stability Cluster of the National Assembly as well as the Peace and Security Cluster of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) and welcomed everyone. She thanked Members for attending the meeting outside of the regular schedule and while Members were on recess.

Letter from the Chair of Chairs
The Chairperson had received a letter on 27 July 2021 from the Chair of Chairs that stated that reports from Portfolio Committees undertaking oversight visits indicated extreme violence in two provinces, i.e. KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. There were indications of serious lapses in the ability of the security services, including the Police, to manage the situation. The Chair of Chairs, Mr C Frolick (ANC), indicated that it was necessary for Parliament to get a complete picture of the unrest and the consequences thereof as well as the response of the State. It could only be done by means of a thorough enquiry led by the Portfolio Committee on Police and other relevant Committees in the Peace and Stability Clusters from both Houses.

In light of the above, Mr Frolick had consulted the House Chairperson for Committees in the NCOP, Mr J Nyambi (ANC), about the need for a joint enquiry. He had also allocated a Senior Legal Advisor to assist the joint committee in determining the Terms of Reference for the enquiry. It was envisaged that that the Committee would report on the matter by the time that Parliament reconvened for the Third Term.

The Chairperson informed Members that certain documents had been forwarded to Members, but they were encrypted. She had instructed to staff to send out non-encrypted copies, which had been done but she apologised for the lateness of those documents. The Legal Services had been requested to make a presentation as it was critical to ensure a procedurally fair process that was in accordance with the Rules of Parliament and the Constitution.

Briefing on the applicable legislative framework
Adv Siviwe Njikele, Senior Parliamentary Legal Advisor, Office of Constitutional and Legal Services, Parliament,  briefed Members on the legislative or regulatory framework that governed the kind of enquiry requested by the House Chairperson who had requested that the enquiry be carried out by a joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament. Adv Njikele pointed out that a Portfolio Committee may monitor, investigate, enquire into and make recommendations concerning any executive organ of state, constitutional institution or other body or institution.

Chapter 3 of the Joint Rules of Parliament provides for the joint committee system. Joint Rule 15(2) provides for the establishment of other (than statutory) Committees affecting both Houses in terms of Rule 142. Such a Committee has to be established by a joint resolution of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces. However, Joint Rule 138 provided for a joint ad hoc Committee to be established by the Speaker of the NA and the Chairperson of the NCOP acting jointly, and after consulting the Chief Whips of the majority party in both Houses. A timeframe would have to be indicated when such a Committee was established. The Committee would have the same powers of enquiry as any other parliamentary Committee.

The ad hoc Joint Committee would have to adopt clear Terms of Reference, providing for the objectives and scope of enquiry, public participation, format/approach to be followed, processing of evidence and audi opportunities as well as various housekeeping issues.

The Chairperson stated that it was clear that the Committee could not proceed without the necessary letter from the Chair of Chairs and until the necessary rules of Parliament had been followed, especially as the matter was particularly litigious. Parliament should not be found to fall short of the law in the establishment of the Committee. She proposed that the matter be referred to the Speaker, the National Assembly Chair of Chairs, the Chairperson of the NCOP and the Chief Whips.

Noting that the Committee did not constitute a joint meeting, the Chairperson proposed that the Members allow the Ministers in the Cluster to make presentations on the violence in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, as well as the Western Cape. She proposed that the meeting not consider the Terms of Reference which had been forwarded to Members.

Mr A Whitfield (DA) expressed his concern that a large volume of information had been received very late and Members had not had an opportunity to fully interrogate the content. He asked Adv Njikela how the Committee would proceed and whether it was regular for the current meeting to proceed in the way that the Chairperson had proposed.

Adv S Swart (ACDP) thanked the Chairperson for inviting the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services. He queried the legal process in terms of the current meeting and suggested that Members might be able to continue with an informal briefing, which would not be part of the formal enquiry. He appreciated the legal input but was pleased that the matter would be discussed with the Chief Whips as one of his main concerns was the number of MPs who would be involved. It could be 50 to 60 MPs. Furthermore, if the timeframe was only until 17 August 2021, that timeframe would not do justice to the matter.

Mr A Shaik Emam (NFP) was partly covered. The impact of taking presentations in this meeting on the actual enquiry that would take place was a concern for him. If it would have no negative impact, a briefing would be useful. Members were expected back in Parliament in August 2021. Would Parliament wait until then for a resolution to initiate the proposed Joint Committee?

Mr Q Dyantyi (ANC) supported the way forward as suggested by Adv Njikela. The matter had to be referred to the Speaker. He did not want Members to get into the merits of the Terms of Reference at that time. When the Chairperson said that the letter she had received from Chair of Chair about serious lapses in security formed the basis for the request for an enquiry, he had questions. He sat on the Justice and Correctional Services Portfolio Committee in the NA where the Committee had dealt with the issue, without any mention of an enquiry, but then he had seen media headlines that the Portfolio Committees of Police, Defence and Justice and Correctional Services would be kick-starting an enquiry. That was the wrong basis for the meeting and the rules were very clear that the matter had to be referred to the Speaker and the Chairperson of the NCOP for a decision. Currently, there was no basis for Members to entertain that which was in front of them.

Gen B Holomisa (UDM) supported the postponement of the meeting, especially as documents had been received very late. He also supported an enquiry as so many people had died and properties had been damaged that it was necessary to investigate properly. It was not worth listening to the Executive that day. It was more important to focus on the establishment of an enquiry. The Executive could brief Members via television if they wished to do so.

He stated that the people of SA had seen how the chaos had started and that it had emanated from some people who called themselves members of the ruling party. He was concerned that the chief whips of the ruling party were to be consulted. He suggested that the whips of all parties had to participate to make sure that Parliament came up with an above-board exercise. If the conflict had been started by a misunderstanding by members of the ruling party, how many of them would serve in the Committee? Would the same method of allocating the number of seats per party in a Committee be used? That would present a problem for Members of the opposition parties.

Mr K Maphatsoe (ANC) supported the Chairperson’s proposal that the correct legal processes be followed and that the Committee should move on to receive presentations from the Ministers present.

Mr B Hadebe (ANC) referred to an appropriate Xhosa phrase. He concurred that the meeting could not proceed legally and legislatively. He did not believe that the meeting could even receive the report from the Minister as the rules had to be followed precisely.

Dr P Groenewald (FF+) reiterated that Members had to follow the correct procedures as they had to see the possibilities of court cases and they would not attain the aim of the investigation should they make any mistakes. He did not believe that the meeting should continue with presentations on the matter.

Dr Groenewald added that the notion of a smaller composition of Members should be considered. Six Committees would constitute too large a Committee to deal with such a serious matter. He suggested that a much smaller Committee was necessary to investigate. However, it was absolutely essential to investigate the matters because the public was asking what oversight Parliament really had.

Ms D Kohler-Barnard (DA) noted the agreement by Members that the documents had been received rather late. The announcement that the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence (JSCI), on which she sat, would be part of that investigation, and would run a second investigation, had not yet been discussed by Members of the JSCI; she did not even see the Chairperson of the JSCI present on the platform. The JSCI was aware of the urgent need for an investigation but was not yet prepared.

She added that doing a presentation now that could only be discussed in the future, was a waste of time and would not assist the process. There were many, many people on the platform – a total of 159 people. She agreed with Dr Groenewald that the numbers had to be trimmed.

Ms Kohler-Barnard believed that the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services should lead the process while the Portfolio Committees on Defence, Police and JSCI had important oversight roles to play. The process would inevitably lead to numerous charges and court cases.

The Chairperson summarised the situation. All Members took their oversight role very seriously and agreed that they should exercise their responsibility as parliamentarians very seriously. Members agreed on the postponement of any further presentations. The matter should be referred to the Chief Whips as well as the Speaker and the House Chairperson, requesting that, inter alia, they look at the composition of the Committee, who should chair the Committee and the prescripts of what the Committee should present to them. The Executive could not present anything to them at that point in time. There had been no argument against the proposals.

Closing Remarks
The Chairperson, noting that Members did not want to receive the presentations from the Ministers who could share the information via other media opportunities, brought the meeting to a close.

The meeting was adjourned.


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