The Portfolio Committee met on a virtual platform to finalise the Committee amendments to the Children’s Amendment Bill. Committee Members noted that the amendment proposals by Members were not reflected in the document received by the Committee. In addition to this, the 48-hour notice period was not given for the meeting for consideration of the documents provided.
The Committee Secretary indicated that the wrong document was sent to the Committee and that the correct document does, in fact, reflect the agreed upon amendments. Due to this, it was agreed to postpone the meeting until 29 June 2022 so Members could apply their minds to the Committee amendment changes.
The Chairperson said that this will not be a long meeting. There are a few drafting matters that need to be finalised. Consensus also needs to be reached about Section 24.
Mr Khumbula Ndaba, Acting Deputy Director-General: Strategy and Organisational Transformation, Adv Luyanda Mtshotshisa, Specialist: Legislative Drafting and Review, and Adv Nkosinathi Dladla, Chief Director: Legal Services, represented the Department of Social Development (DSD). The Minister, Deputy Minister and Director-General had given apologies.
Discussion on postponement of the meeting
Ms M Sukers (ACDP) said she was not sure that she received the correct version of the Committee amendments document. The Committee did not receive the document until the start of this meeting. The document does not reflect any of the proposals that Members put forward at the 22 June 2022 meeting. Committee Members has therefore not had 48 hours to consider the document. Even this meeting was scheduled without 48-hour notice. It is concerning. She recognised that the Committee is under pressure to deal with the Bill. It should be noted that the Bill itself does not stop the fact that the foster care orders are lapsing in November 2022. It deals with the medium and long-term solutions. However, there is no reason to abscond process. Is the Committee in a position to deliberate on a document that Members have not even seen? Documents that do not have any of the deliberations or proposals that have been made.
The Chairperson noted these concerns.
Mr D Stock (ANC) agreed with Ms Sukers. He proposed that the meeting proceed and the Committee receives the presentation from the DSD. Members can then cross-reference to see if the proposals made have been effected in the A-list document. If the Committee is satisfied that all the amendments are reflected in the A-list, a decision can be made to adopt it. If at the end of the presentation, Members are not satisfied the document should not be considered. The Committee can then decide on a way forward.
The Chairperson said the Committee will need to reach consensus about proceeding with the meeting or not.
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) agreed with Mr Stock and Ms Sukers. When the Committee met on 22 June, the short time frame might not have taken into account that Members also wanted to submit inputs. Some inputs were only submitted to the Committee Secretary yesterday. When looking at the document it is evident that these inputs are not included, this is likely due to it being sent to the drafters late. If the changes proposed are not reflected, would there be any merit in continuing the meeting? Perhaps more time should have been given to the drafters. Would it not be better to allow them to consider the inputs and start a little earlier on 29 June to continue with the process?
Ms A Abrahams (DA) said that her concerns are the same. When looking at the timestamp of the document, it is clear that the last editing of this document took place on 22 June at 13:52. That does not correlate with the message received on the Committee WhatsApp group saying that the drafters were still busy with the document at 7pm last night. The document before the Committee is not the correct document. She supported the meeting postponement proposal for the drafters to consider the Committee proposals.
Ms B Masango (DA) agreed with the proposals put forward by Ms Suckers, Mr Stock and Ms van der Merwe. Perhaps the drafters and legal advisors could inform the Committee if they were able to incorporate the proposals into the document. The Committee must try not to sacrifice the purpose of the meeting and compromise the product due to there not being enough time in its programme. She proposed the Secretary and Parliamentary Legal Advisor be given the chance to outline what has happened up until this point. Were they able to have a look at the proposals made?
Ms L Arries (EFF) agreed with the points raised. Justice needs to be given to this Bill; perhaps it would be in order to postpone the meeting to give the drafters enough time to go through the documents.
The Chairperson asked that if the Committee defers the A-list to 29 June 2022 due to the proposals not being included, how will Members know what is not included if today's meeting does not proceed. Otherwise, it is not a train smash to postpone the meeting considering the late notice. It would not be a problem but that does not guarantee that the document will be different. Ms Masango made an error by indicating that she agrees with Mr Stock as he did not propose postponing the meeting like the others did.
Ms Masango clarified that she agreed with Mr Stock that the advisors should indicate if the proposals were included in any way. What is happening behind the scenes? Why were the proposals not included?
The Chairperson agreed that the Amendment Act should not be compromised by rushing the meeting. If this meeting needs to be postponed, it should be allowed to happen.
Ms Abrahams added that she would like to hear from the legal advisors on what transpired. Did they get the documents too late? At the very least Members should be made aware of what happened and what can be expected on 29 June so that this meeting has not been for nothing.
The Chairperson agreed that the meeting should continue.
Ms Abrahams clarified that she does not support the meeting going forward as per the agenda but that the legal team should be given the opportunity to indicate what happened in terms of process.
The Chairperson said the Committee Secretary should explain what transpired before the legal advisors.
Mr Stock proposed that the meeting be deferred. After hearing what Members said and taking into account the 48-hour notice rule it would be prudent to defer this item to the next meeting. The Committee cannot hear from the legal team if Members have not had the time to apply their mind to the document.
The Chairperson took into account the matters raised. It would be prudent to call the meeting off.
Ms K Bilankulu (ANC) said that Members who do not see their amendments should be able to send them to the Committee Secretary today to be included. Having a meeting every Wednesday despite Parliament being in recess is not ideal as Members’ organisations need them. Could the Committee decide on a better time?
The Chairperson agreed that it is not fair to have these meetings during recess but the Committee has timeframes to meet so it is unfair not to prioritise the meetings.
Ms J Manganye (ANC) said that when the Committee decides, it should not be rushed as was the case when deciding on the meeting today. On the meetings in recess, Committee members should commit themselves.
Ms Sukers clarified that she brought up the 48-hour notice due to concerns over the proper application of their mind to the Committee amendments. The Committee does not have the correct paperwork and if the 22 June proposals are not included, the meeting should be moved. We need to understand what happened. Why has there been a delay? Has the Committee put undue pressure on the support staff?
The Committee Secretary apologized for the confusion. Members received the incorrect document. There is a document with the proposed amendments that Members agreed upon in the 22 June meeting. This will be sent to Members. It would be in order to postpone the meeting so Members have the opportunity to look at the new document.
The Chairperson noted the Committee agreed to cover this agenda item in the 29 June meeting. The Committee will receive the invitation to the meeting as early as next week Monday.
The Chairperson thanked Members for sacrificing their time for the meeting and adjourned the meeting.
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