Expropriation Bill: Legal Advisors on proposed amendments (postponed)

Public Works and Infrastructure

11 May 2022
Chairperson: Ms N Ntobongwana (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


Tracking the Expropriation Bill in Parliament

In this virtual meeting, the Parliamentary Legal Advisor and State Law Advisor were supposed to brief the Portfolio Committee on the draft A-List (proposed amendments) to the Expropriation Bill. The presentation detailed the 26 proposals that would be discussed. The A-List took into account all that was said, all that the members had deliberated on, and the guidance that had been given. It was noted that only once the draft A-List had the approval of the Committee could the legal services then convey it into a proper proposed amendment A-List.

However, the briefing did not proceed as the majority of members complained that they had only received the document at the meeting and did not have enough time to analyse and engage with the report. 

It was noted that the late submission of reports seemed to be a trend in the Committee and hampered its oversight function.

Accordingly, the Committee agreed to postpone the meeting. The Legal Advisors were requested to all relevant documents to the Committee Secretariat.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed the members, the support team, and all those in attendance at the meeting. In the last few weeks, the Committee had been dealing with the Expropriation Bill. The Committee had interacted with it, clause by clause. The Committee had invited the legal services to respond to the questions that the members had asked, and these questions were answered. The Parliamentary Legal Services and the Chief State Law Advisor had been with the Committee throughout this journey. Today the Parliamentary Legal Services would present to the Committee the Bill and the responses that had been received from the Department. The Committee would then see how it would move forward with the Bill, as preparation for the Committee to adopt the Bill. It would then be presented to Parliament.

The Chairperson knew that this Committee always had robust discussions in all that it did. She was also expecting this today.

The Chairperson handed over legal services to make the presentation.

Presentation by the Parliamentary Legal Adviser and State Law Adviser on the A-List of the Expropriation Bill [B23-2020]

Ms Phumelele Ngema, Parliamentary Legal Advisor, and Adv Shaun van Breda, Senior State Law Adviser, jointly briefed the Committee on the A-List of the Expropriation Bill. The presentation detailed the 26 proposals that would be looked at. The A-List took into account all that was said and all that the members had deliberated on. Parliament was a creature of statutes and therefore had to follow the rules of the Constitution and any other statute that guided the process of the Committee. Today the Committee would be considering proposed draft amendments. The Committee would still have to consider it and deliberate on it. Only once it had the approval of the Committee could the legal services then convey it into a proper proposed amendment A-List of the Committee. For now, it was merely a draft. The draft A-List was a product of the committee deliberations, the involvement of the Department as well as guidance and legal input from the counsels.

The Chairperson noted that the presentation had not been forwarded to the members of the Committee beforehand. She asked Ms Ngema to distribute the presentation to the members before continuing with the presentation.

Ms Ngema proceeded with the presentation. The presentation proceeded with clause 1. Ms Ngema discussed the definitions that required amendment.

Ms L Mjobo (ANC) said that none of the members had received the document. She proposed stopping the meeting today so that members could analyse the report. Otherwise, the report would not assist the Committee today.

Ms S Graham (DA) disagreed with Ms Mjobo. The members had worked through the Bill and understood what the Bill was. The members should have a copy of the Bill in front of them because they had been provided with that. There was enough documentation and information for the members to correspond with discussions. The members could also ask for clarity. Today’s meeting was just an explanation. The members could also do additional work afterwards. The Committee had accepted late receipt of documents throughout the year and had not postponed any meetings as a result of that. If the Committee did that then it would be creating a problem because it would then throw the Committee’s programme out. There was no way that the members were not in a position to follow what was being said by the presenter.

Ms L Shabalala (ANC) said that she agreed with Ms Mjobo. The members could not pretend that they were following. The members needed to be at their best when they were dealing with this document. It had legal jargon. It was a legal and technical document that needed the Committee’s time. Some members would like to go through the document, not through an electronic version of it. She asked that the members be given that space.

Mr E Mathebula (ANC) agreed with Ms Mjobo and Ms Shabalala. The Committee had to make informed decisions. The members could not just rush things and take decisions when they saw that it was going to negatively impact the decision that was going to be taken. This Bill was not about the Committee only, it had to do with the interests of South Africans which needed to be protected. If the members lacked information here, then they needed an opportunity to go and explore the information that would be relevant to assist the Committee in arriving at the correct decision. The members needed to be allowed to do so. He supported the proposal. The members needed to be given time to receive more information.

Ms S Van Schalkwyk (ANC) said that she had been sufficiently covered by the previous speakers. It was extremely unfair to the members. Postponing the meeting would not push out the Committee’s schedule. This Bill needed to stand the test of time. If the Committee rushed any process it would disadvantage some and advantage others. Members should not downplay the opinion of others. If one person felt comfortable proceeding it did not mean that it should obviously be the feeling of the majority. She agreed with Ms Mjobo’s proposal that the Committee postpones the meeting so that the members could have sufficient time to deal with the proposals. She proposed that anything that the State Law Advisor prepared should also be given to the Committee. This needed to be done so that the members were in a position to properly prepare themselves for the next meeting. The Committee could not be taken for granted. This situation was happening to the Committee in terms of the Department with this Bill and it should be stopped now. This should be a lesson. She proposed that reports should be compiled and sent to the Chair of Chairs, the superiors of Parliament so that this matter be brought forward. This was hampering the Committee in effectively dealing with its oversight function, even in terms of the Departmental reports.

Ms A Siwisa (EFF) said that she had a problem with anything that said ‘Public Works and Infrastructure’. Just last week the members were complaining about documents not arriving on time or amendments being made and the Committee received an amended version of a report. This morning the Committee was already in the middle of the meeting and only then did the document arrive. It was unfair because the members would not able to do their jobs competently. Everyone was interested in the Expropriation Bill. If the Committee engaged in things it did not know then there would be a problem. When reports were given there were those grey areas that were not spoken about. The members needed to have the documents beforehand so that they could go through those grey areas. Then the members could ask relevant questions pertaining to the Bill or to the document. She was not sure if this type of thing was only done with this Committee or if it was done with other Committees as well? It seems to have become a trend that when it came to the Portfolio Committee on Public Works it could be taken for advantage and that documents could be sent late and no one would say anything. It would only be fair that the meeting is postponed so that everyone could peruse the document. The members could then ask informed questions and make informed decisions on the Bill. At the moment the members were trying to listen and trying to read at the same time. Some members could not follow correctly and did not know what the grey areas were which were missing. It was vital that the members knew what the legal services were talking about. The members would then be forced to answer questions that they knew nothing about because they never went through the document.

The Chairperson thanked all of the members for their input on the proposal. When Ms Ngema started, she had already told her that the members did not have the document. The members had just received the document. She agreed that the meeting should be postponed. The Committee would look at the dates and not postpone other meetings that were following. The Committee would look to have the meeting on Friday or next Tuesday. What was good about this Bill was that there was no cut-off date for it. However, it was crucial that it saw the light of day in Parliament. That was one thing that all of the members of the Committee were committed to doing. The members needed time to read and time to comment. The Committee would communicate with the legal services when they would be required to come back.

The Chairperson requested that if there were any other documents, other than the one that Ms Ngema presented, that were going to be presented, they needed to be sent to the Committee Secretariat.

The Chairperson thanked the members and all those in attendance for joining the meeting.

The meeting was adjourned.

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