In a virtual meeting, Statistics South Africa explained that at the continental level there is the African Charter on Statistics which South Africa still needs to ratify. At a global level, all statisticians in the world are accountable and also have to uphold the fundamental principles of official statistics. Statistics must be shared and given to everyone equally at all times. On 9 September 2015, the Charter ratification process was approved by Cabinet and on 3 May 2019, a memorandum was finalised to lay the foundation for the signing of the African Charter on Statistics by the President and ratification by Parliament. There are no financial implications associated with signing and ratifying the African Charter on Statistics.
The Committee adopted a Committee Report recommending ratification of the African Charter on Statistics by the National Council of Provinces.
Opening remarks by Chairperson
The Chairperson welcomed the Deputy Minister in the Presidency and noted that it is the Committee’s first engagement with the Office of the Presidency.
The Chairperson explained that the African Charter on Statistics was tabled in terms of section 231(2) of the Constitution, and the Explanatory Memorandum was referred to the Committee on 2 December 2021 after it was tabled in Parliament. Section 231(2) holds that an international agreement binds South Africa once it has been approved by a resolution in both Houses of Parliament unless it is an agreement referred to in section 231(3). The request for the tabling of the African Charter on Statistics in Parliament for ratification, signing, and depositing with the African Union is done in terms of section 231(4) of the Constitution which provides that any international agreement becomes law in South Africa when it is enacted into law by national legislation, but a self-executing provision of an agreement that has been approved by Parliament is law in South Africa unless it is inconsistent with the Constitution or a statute.
She noted that the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation had approved the request for ratification and signing of the Charter and the Committee will receive a briefing on it.
Opening remarks by Deputy Minister in the Presidency
Ms Thembi Siweya, Deputy Minister in the Presidency responsible for the Department of Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DPME), stated that statistics in South Africa is important for the incredible work done even amidst the pandemic. She referenced the central role that DPME continues to play on the African continent to assist the work put into the statistics to ensure improved government. Statistics is a crucial pillar that assists the country, fellow counterparts and the continent.
African Charter on Statistics: briefing by Statistics South Africa
Statistician-General and Head of Stats SA, Mr Risenga Maluleke, presented and the delegation included Ms Celia de Klerk, Stats SA Executive Manager: Strategy and Mr Lawrence Ngoveni, Department of Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DPME) Acting Director-General.
Background and purpose of the African Charter on Statistics:
Statistics is crucial on the African continent. The African Charter on Statistics and the Strategy for the Harmonisation of Statistics in Africa are two key instruments for the development of statistics on the continent. Statistics in South Africa is governed by the Statistics Act 6 of 1999, which is undergoing review, and is focused on statistical production and coordination. At the continental level there is the African Charter on Statistics which South Africa still needs to ratify. At a global level, all statisticians in the world are accountable and have to uphold the fundamental principles of official statistics. Statistics must be shared and given to everyone equally at all times.
On 4 February 2009, the African Charter on Statistics was adopted by the 12th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Governments of the African Union. The African Charter on Statistics entered into force on 7 February 2015. Article 14(1) of the Charter provides that the Charter shall be open for signature, ratification, and accession by all Member States, in accordance with their respective constitutional procedures.
The purpose of the African Charter on Statistics is to address gaps between supply and demand of statistical information needed for the development and attainment of the African integration agenda. Policy makers need to base formulation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and facts, and to support the production of quality statistics for monitoring of Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063.
Ratification, legal opinions and tabling in Parliament:
On 9 September 2015, the ratification process was approved by Cabinet, and on 3 May 2019, a memorandum was finalised to initiate the finalisation of the process for the signing of the African Charter on Statistics by the President of South Africa and the ratification by Parliament.
On 11 December 2019, the State Law Advisors of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development provided a legal opinion on the consistency of the African Charter on Statistics with domestic laws. On 1 May 2019, the Chief Law Advisors at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation provided a legal opinion on the consistency of the African Charter on Statistics with domestic laws. It was noted that the Charter does not contain any self-executing provisions that will become law in South Africa in terms of section 231(4) of the Constitution.
On 19 February 2020, a letter requesting the tabling of the African Charter on Statistics in Parliament for ratification was done. On 2 December 2020, the African Charter on Statistics was tabled in Parliament. On 1 December 2021, the Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration was briefed on the Charter and this NCOP Committee is being briefed on 08 December 2021.
Financial implications and the next steps
It was reported that there are no financial implications associated with the signing and ratifying of the African Charter on Statistics. The President will sign the Charter, following which Parliament will ratify the instrument, and then it will be deposited with the African Union for safekeeping. Statistics should never again exclude any section of our society, our continent, and the world.
The Chairperson noted that Members have received copies of the African Charter on Statistics. The Committee understands the need for uniformity in the way that statistical information is gathered. Article 4 of the Charter does provide for any measures that the state needs to put in place to give effect to it, including legislative measures. She asked what is envisaged in terms of legislation and regulations to give effect to the Charter.
Mr Maluleke responded that Article 4 requires that South Africa put in place measures, including legislation, to give effect to its provisions. Of the 54 nations on the African continent that are members of the African Union, there has been a decline in statistics and statistical production on the continent, with the exception of a few countries. This is because many countries still do not have legislation that governs statistics. Stats SA has been working with many countries on the continent, including our neighbouring countries, assisting them on that legislation. Article 4 seeks to address that countries should have legislation, and this does not apply to South Africa. This is important to ensure that Africa’s free trade agreements can be adhered to.
The Chairperson thanked the delegation. She noted that the African Charter on Statistics is aimed at addressing uniformity in statistical methodologies to address shortfalls in statistics information on the African continent. She released the delegation.
Committee Report on the African Charter on Statistics
The Committee Report approving the ratification of the African Charter was tabled to Members for consideration. It stated that statistics play a crucial role for governments to understand the performance of the economy and GDP growth or stagnancy. Statistics help governments determine if the labour market caters for the demands of the economy and if all elements of the planning system are helping towards addressing the demands of populations and societies. The Committee Report recommended that the National Council of Provinces approve the agreement.
Ms M Bartlett (ANC, Northern Cape) stated that the report is clear, and she moved for the adoption of the Committee Report.
Mr K Motsamai (EFF, Gauteng) seconded the adoption of the Committee Report.
The Chairperson stated that the Committee Report on the African Charter on Statistics was duly adopted by the Committee.
The Committee adopted meeting minutes of 1, 8 September; 10,17 and 23 November 2021.
The Chairperson thanked Members for their participation and noted it was the final Committee meeting for the year. She thanked Members and the support staff for the hard work rendered during the year and wished everyone a restful festive period.
The meeting was adjourned.
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