In a virtual meeting, the Committee was briefed by the State Law Adviser and Parliamentary Legal Adviser (hereafter referred to as the Legal Team) on final amendments to the A-list of the National Road Traffic Amendment Bill [B7-2020]. The Legal Team clarified references and confirmed certain changes to clauses in the Bill. A few grammatical changes and drafting issues still remained as per the Legal Team. Members acknowledged that the blood alcohol content limit remain unchanged as per their decision. The A-list was approved with amendments.
In the briefing on the Draft Committee Report on the 2021/22 Second and Third Quarter Expenditure of the Department of Transport, the Secretariat was appealed to assist with the process to ensure that recommendations were implemented. The Committee adopted the report on the 2021/22 Second and Third Quarter Expenditure of the Department of Transport.
In consideration of the revised 2019–2024 Committee Strategic Plan and the 2022/23 Annual Performance Plan, Members asked if the issue of which Department was and should be responsible for Scholar Transport was discussed. Members noted that the Strategic Plan did not talk to serious road maintenance issues in the provinces. The Committee adopted its revised 2019–2024 Committee Strategic Plan and 2022/23 Annual Performance Plan with amendments.
In the briefing on the Committee’s Draft Second Term Programme and Oversight Programme, it was noted that a request was received from the High Commission of the Republic of Zambia to sanction the accommodation of a delegation from Zambia on a Study Tour from 18-24 April. The letter from the Zambian delegation indicated that they were interested in the e-toll system. This overlapped with the Committee’s scheduled oversight visit. Members recognised the imperative to host the Zambian delegation but were also unwilling to postpone their oversight visit, which had already been postponed twice. They discussed the best way to accommodate the Zambian delegation without disrupting previously scheduled plans.
Members acknowledged that there was no dispute amongst them that the Zambian delegation should be welcomed and they should be involved in the Committee’s own oversight programme.
Members’ shared their frustration at only being scheduled to meet once a week in the second term. The Chairperson appealed to Members to maintain the Committee’s commitment to non-partisanship. He said he would write to the Parliament Chair of Chairpersons to request more frequent meetings. The approval of the programme was deferred.
Briefing from the State Law Adviser and the Parliamentary Legal Adviser on the draft list of amendments to the Bill [B7—2020]
Ms Raksha Haricharan, State Law Adviser, drew attention to an addition to clause 21 on page 8 of the A-list, which clarified the reference of the term ‘driving permit’ in the clause.
Ms Phumelele Ngema, Parliamentary Legal Adviser, added that the consistency of the changes to clause 37 had also been confirmed.
Ms Haricharan noted that a few minor grammatical and drafting issues still remained such as the removal of references in the long title to changes in the blood alcohol content limit following the Committee’s decision that the limit would remain unchanged.
The Committee accepted the A-list with these amendments.
Ms Valerie Carelse, Secretary, Portfolio Committee on Transport, indicated that the Bill could now be sent to the printers.
Consideration of the Draft Committee Report on the 2021/22 Second and Third Quarter Expenditure of the Department of Transport
Mr L Mangcu (ANC) asked that the Secretariat assist the Committee in tracking its recommendations to ensure that they were implemented.
The report was adopted.
Consideration of the revised 2019–2024 Committee Strategic Plan and the 2022/23 Annual Performance Plan
Adv Alma Nel, Content Advisor, Portfolio Committee on Transport, drew attention to the additions made during the Committee’s strategic planning session which included changes to the oversight programme.
Mr K Sithole (IFP) recalled that the Committee had discussed the issue of which Department was and should be responsible for scholar transport. He asked if this had been included in the Strategic Plan.
Adv Nel drew attention to the part of the Strategic Plan where this issue was recorded.
Mr Sithole was also concerned that the Strategic Plan did not talk to the serious road maintenance issues in the provinces.
The Plans were adopted with the additions.
Consideration of the draft Committee second term programme and oversight programme
Ms Carelse reported that the Committee had received a letter from the High Commission of the Republic of Zambia, requesting that a delegation from the Zambian Parliament be accommodated by the Committee on a study tour from 18-24 April 2022. This clashed with the Committee’s oversight visit.
Mr L McDonald (ANC) observed that it was not often that the government of another country visited the Committee and it would expect to be accommodated by another country if it wanted to undertake a study tour there. Therefore he suggested postponing the oversight visit to host the delegation from the Zambian Parliament.
Mr I Seitlholo (DA) appreciated Mr McDonald’s view. He also thought that the Committee should be meeting more often than once per week. It was already falling behind with its work and now it had to prioritise the Zambian delegation above its oversight responsibility which was a crucial part of its work. The Zambian delegation was important but the Committee could not continue to put off scheduled oversight visits over and over again. It was unfathomable that the scheduled oversight in April could be postponed again.
Mr T Mabhena (DA) said that it was important to build relationships with other countries to benchmark and share expertise, best practices and policies, but the Portfolio Committee seemed to have become confined to the boardroom. While its legislative mandate was undoubtedly important, other committees seemed to have found a better balance between legislation and oversight. The fact that the oversight visit had already been postponed twice must be explained to the Zambian delegation. The Committee was mid-way through its term and it had only visited three or four provinces. There was also a precedent for much more frequent and much longer meetings of the Committee: in the past, ten-hour meetings and Saturday meetings had been held. The Chairperson must ensure that he is not remembered as a Chairperson who did not leave the boardroom. The Committee must go ahead with its oversight visit and also meet more frequently.
Mr Mangcu agreed that the Committee should meet more frequently during the second term. In addition, public hearings should be held offline not on a virtual platform. On the other hand, he argued that South Africa was seen as a leader by other countries. The Committee should embrace this status, welcome the Zambian delegation, and make suggestions as to the places it might want to visit. The oversight programme should be postponed, although the visit to the Okhahlamba Municipality should remain a top priority.
Mr C Hunsinger (DA) said that the oversight had already been scheduled and the Committee had made commitments to the Okhahlamba community and the users of the Moloto road. However, since the Zambian delegation was very interested in the e-tolls, they could easily be accommodated. The Committee could meet and engage with them in Johannesburg without needing to postpone its oversight. The Zambian delegation could then be accompanied by the Department of Transport or representatives of the Electronic Toll Collection (Pty) Ltd (ETC), the company that operated the e-toll system. The oversight should not be postponed again but with careful planning, the Zambian delegation could still be accommodated.
Ms M Ramadwa (ANC) agreed that a meeting with the Zambian delegation could benefit both countries, that the frequency of meetings should be increased, and that public consultations should take place off-line. The opportunity to meet the Zambian delegation was a once-off, and the Committee should accommodate them with careful planning. The Chairperson should communicate with the leader of the delegation to find out exactly what it wanted to achieve so that the Committee could take this into account.
Mr Sithole noted that calls for African unity were often made, and the study tour of the Zambian delegation was an opportunity to promote African unity. He pointed out that the delegation was made up of members of the Zambian Parliament, not officials, so the Committee was in the best position to understand their objectives. However, the oversight could not be postponed again. He was also unhappy with the second term programme but wondered whether the Committee would be permitted to meet as often as some Members would like. He appreciated the Chairperson’s efforts to find reasonable compromises among the competing need to visit various provinces for oversight.
Mr P Mey (FF+) supported Mr Hunsinger’s suggestion. The letter from the Zambian delegation indicated that they were interested in the e-toll system, so it made sense for the Committee to meet them in Gauteng and then continue with its oversight programme.
Adv Nel noted that the locations of several of the planned oversight visits incorporated boom toll roads such as the N3 and N4 as well as e-tolled routes. She suggested that the Chairperson liaise with the delegation with a view to possibly including them. In particular, the planned briefing by the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) on the Moloto project might be followed by a second briefing on tolling with the Zambian delegation, which could then decide whether it wished to engage with the ETC or to accompany the Committee.
Ms Carelse added that the Zambian delegation had not asked to spend the entire week with the Portfolio Committee, but wanted to visit various agencies involved in road tolling. Therefore it seemed that the delegation could be accommodated without needing to cancel the oversight.
Mr Mangcu said it was important that the deep historical connections between Zambia and South Africa generally, and the ANC particularly, should be acknowledged, notwithstanding political changes there. Zambia’s support for the liberation of the country must be considered, and it should not be compared with a former coloniser of South Africa, for example. The political context must be remembered. The visit was a chance to enhance bilateral relations. While oversight was undoubtedly important, it would not be appropriate to leave the Zambian politicians in the hands of officials from the Department or its entities.
Mr Mey emphasised that there was no attempt to avoid meeting with the Zambian delegation, but maintained that it made much more sense to meet them in Gauteng.
Mr Mabhena noted that Ms Carelse’s input aligned with Mr Hunsinger’s suggestion. He agreed that the delegation’s requests could be best accommodated by meeting them in Gauteng. He asked whether the letter had been received before or after the Committee had approved its oversight programme. There was no intention to avoid meeting the delegation but the Committee was also bound by its own resolutions. He observed that the Committee was ordinarily non-partisan, putting the needs of citizens first, and called on Members not to try to influence its decisions by reference to individual party histories. He asked the Chairperson to look into Mr Hunsinger’s suggestion.
Mr McDonald maintained that if the Committee visited Zambia it would expect to be hosted by its counterpart, so it should extend the same courtesy to the delegation and treat them as their status demanded. He believed that the Committee had the capability and the work ethic to resolve the situation.
Ms F Khumalo (ANC) agreed that the delegation should be hosted in a way that recognised their status as politicians, notwithstanding the fact that it might have an impact on the oversight programme. She suggested postponing the visits to the Moloto road and Rustenburg and using the time to visit Kwazulu-Natal and host the delegation.
Ms Ramadwa did not support combining the oversight with hosting the delegation. The oversight should be postponed. The Committee must acknowledge history and there was nothing wrong with bringing it up in a meeting, even if it related to a certain political party because it concerned all South Africans.
Mr M Chabangu (EFF) supported the proposal to meet the Zambian delegation in Gauteng to reduce costs and mitigate COVID-19 risks.
The Chairperson, summarising the Members’ views, observed that there was no dispute among Members that the Zambian delegation should be welcomed, that their expressed interests should be taken into account and that they should be involved in the Committee’s own oversight programme. The delegation would arrive on 18 April, while the oversight programme was due to begin on 19 April, so he proposed meeting them on 18 April to discuss political matters and then again on 23 April for a debriefing. He shared Members’ frustrations with the fact that the Committee was only scheduled to meet once a week in the second term, and said he would write to the Parliament Chair of Chairpersons to request more frequent meetings. He appealed to Members to maintain the Committee’s commitment to non-partisanship. He did not dispute the advantage of holding public hearings off-line and meeting citizens in person but did not want to generalise this as a policy, as online stakeholder meetings had been very successful. At the same time, he recognised that the Committee was becoming a Committee of legislation only, and he deferred approval of the programme.
The meeting was adjourned.
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