Reports on: Reasons for Delayed Replies to Questions, Physical removal of Member from chamber, Investigation into GBV Allegations; Establishment of Presidency Committee

Rules of the National Assembly

02 September 2022
Chairperson: Ms N Mapisa-Nqakula (ANC), Speaker of the National Assembly
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Meeting Summary


The Committee adopted the proposal of the name changes for several portfolio committees to be consistent with the cabinet portfolio names.

The Committee was presented with a report on the investigation into allegations of gender-based violence and related matters arising from the events of 9th and 10th June 2022. The investigation found that there were no instances of gender-based violence but that there was violence committed by both the EFF Members that were removed and the Parliamentary Protective Services (PPS). A number of recommendations were made, including the rule that female Members are not touched by male PPS personnel and vice versa and that Members respect the rules of the House and do not make threats towards PPS staff. The EFF said it would bring the matter to court as it was a fictional account of what happened that day.

A report of the Subcommittee on Physical Removal of Members from Chamber arising from events of the 9th and 10th June 2022 was presented. The Subcommittee found that the Speaker did the best to maintain the House Rules and did nothing wrong. The Subcommittee recommended that the conduct of the identified members of the Economic Freedom Fighters be referred to the Powers and Privileges Committee to establish if there was a breach of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act, 2004 (Act 4 of 2004). The EFF called the report “absolute rubbish” and “absolute nonsense” and said it was factually incorrect. The Members agreed to refer the matter.

Members were then presented with a report on the reasons for delayed replies to questions to the Executive. The report recommended that the Rules Committee consider the reasons provided by ministers for delayed replies and consider developing guidelines on replies, and these be communicated to the Leader of Government Business. Proposed guidelines included that the Executive may not exceed the ten working days as per Rule 146(1) and/or 145(5) and that the executive must answer each and every point raised in a question in a comprehensive manner. The Members agreed to refer the proposals made in the report to the Subcommittee.

The IFP proposed establishing an Oversight Committee for the Presidency, in line with Sections 57(2) and 55(2) of the Constitution and Rule 225 of the National Assembly rules. It argued that presidential interventions and task teams do not fall under any portfolio committee for oversight and this would prevent this issue.

The DA proposed to reintroduce interpellations as this would strengthen Parliament’s oversight function and make members of the Executive more accountable.

The Members agreed to refer both matters to the Subcommittee. 

Meeting report

Committee Minutes
Led by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms N Mapisa-Nqakula (ANC), the Members adopted the minutes from 13 August 2021.

Mr Masibulele Xaso, Secretary to the National Assembly, took the Members through matters arising from the minutes. [The majority of the matters were inaudible because of technical issues].

Mr Xaso said that just before the Speaker was elected last year, there was a sense that, because of the time it takes to print ballot papers, they should arrange nominations ahead of the sitting. A view was raised that they should talk to the Chief Justice and see if the rules could be adjusted to regulate that election. They have looked at the matter. Their view is that they should not pursue this. The Constitution grants Members the right to make nominations in the sitting itself. Thus, even if they had an arrangement that there could be nominations ahead of the sitting, it would still not prevent Members from making nominations during the sitting. The creation of a new portfolio committee has been implemented.

Ms P Majodina (ANC) agreed that since there is a report attached on the issue of questions, they should discuss that matter as itemised. They have implemented the unbundling of Water, Human Settlements and Sanitation Portfolio Committee. On the issue of the election of presiding officers, they need to keep in line with the Constitution. She agreed that they should keep the process as is.

Consideration of name changes for portfolio committees and Cabinet portfolios
Mr Xaso informed the Committee that the President had amended five cabinet portfolios in June 2020. In line with this, it is recommended that the affected committees that oversee these departments be renamed to reflect these changes.

Amongst the changes are:
Portfolio Committee on Communications changed to Portfolio Committee on Communications and Digital Technologies
Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry changed to Portfolio Committee on Trade, Industry and Competition

Ms G Boroto (ANC) said that they should adopt the name changes.

Ms Majodina asked if this item is only about name changes and if there are no more additional portfolio committees that will be created.

The Speaker replied that it is only about name changes from her understanding.

Mr N Singh (IFP) seconded the adoption of the proposal.

Feedback on Investigation into allegations of gender-based violence and related matters arising from the events of 9th and 10th June 2022

Mr Xaso took the Members through the report.

The report from an independent investigation by Adv Elizabeth Baloyi-Mere into allegations of gender-based violence (GBV) and/or sexual harassment during the removal of Members of the EFF by members of the Parliamentary Protection Services (PPS) during the Presidency Budget Vote debate in June found no evidence of GBV or sexual harassment. The removal of members was characterised by violence on both sides.

Some of the recommendations made were:
-No female Member of Parliament should be touched by a male member and no male Members of Parliament should be touched by any female PPS personnel.
-It is incumbent upon all stakeholders to obey and abide by the rules they have agreed to. It is also important to exercise patience with one another and for all parties to treat each other with respect, especially because it is called upon them to do so by the very same Rules of the House.
-Members of Parliament should, when requested to vacate the chamber, act honourably and walk out by themselves without putting up a fight and causing the PPS personnel to physically remove them.
-The above recommendation will only be possible if Members of Parliament change their attitude and abide by the rules that they took an oath and swore to uphold.
-Members of Parliament should accord respect to the PPS personnel and not verbally or physically abuse them in any way.

The report has been made available to the EFF, the Speaker and to Parliament.

The Speaker said that not everybody had received this report. She requested that they look at the recommendations seriously, such as the recommendations about female Members not being touched by male PPS officers. She asked the Committee if they could agree on this so that it is not an issue in the future. She also pointed out the recommendation that there should be additional PPS personnel.

Ms Majodina said that it is known that men cannot be touching or ushering women out. She agrees with this recommendation.

Mr F Shivambu (EFF) said that the EFF strongly objects to the report. They will write a more substantial objection to illustrate the wrong decisions taken in the report and why the removal of Members was against the rules of the National Assembly. Some Members were not even questioned or did not even do anything, yet they were forcefully removed. The EFF did not agree with the report at all. It is a falsification of what occurred.

The Speaker noted that even though some parties were not given the report, the EFF was provided with a copy. The party had a copy since the end of June. She would have expected it to start working on a response long ago and provide a fully-fleshed response in this meeting. It is expected that they would want to comment on the report, but she did want to emphasise to Members that this investigation was conducted independently.

Mr Shivambu said that the EFF never received the report.

The Speaker insisted that they did.

Mr Q Dyanti (ANC) acknowledged the objection of the EFF and their intention to follow up the report with their own submission. He supports the findings and recommendations that have been made, such as the finding that the Speaker followed the rules of the House. The Speaker did not do anything wrong on the day. The main issue that needs to be emphasised is the recommendation about attitude towards the rules. The report says that Members must obey and adhere to the presiding officers' rulings when attempting to enforce the rules. If this occurs, then there will be no need for PPS. They must all agree on this recommendation and encourage presiding officers to be fair and firm.

Ms D Dlakude (ANC) agreed with Mr Dyanti and Ms Majodina. The report is acceptable as is. As Chief Whips of different political parties, it is their responsibility to lead by example and to uphold their own rules. They need to uphold the quorum of the house. They represent not only their different political parties but also the millions of South Africans who voted for their parties. They cannot make rules and break them. If they are aggrieved, as per the National Assembly rules, there are mechanisms to follow. They cannot disrupt the proceedings of the House. They need to behave themselves and make sure that they adhere to their own rules. No Member of Parliament or the Protection Services should be touched in any way or form.

The Speaker said she is reluctant to let Mr Shivambu comment on this matter. He already indicated that he would be making a submission on the report. Once he has made his full submission and commented on the report, then he can address this matter.

Mr H Papo (ANC) seconded this, otherwise, there will be arguing, which will take time.

Mr Shivambu said that the Speaker could not do that. They must listen to each other and pay attention to what others say.

The Speaker said that she was paying attention. She gave him time to comment and he made comments. They will discuss his objections further once he has made a written submission. He must be patient and accept the rulings of the person leading the meeting. He is not being ignored. She has responded to the issue and has provided a way forward.

Consideration of the Report of Subcommittee on Physical Removal of Member from Chamber arising from events of the 9th and 10th June 2022
Mr Xaso presented the report.

During the sittings of the National Assembly on 9 and 10 June 2022, several members of the National Assembly were physically removed from the Chamber in terms of the Rules. The Subcommittee unanimously agreed that the Speaker had exercised immense restraint to ensure that all rules related to ‘raising points of order’ and ‘maintenance of order in proceedings’ were adhered to. There was a publicly stated intention prior to the sittings of 9 and 10 June, on the part of the Economic Freedom Fighters, to the effect that a deliberate and sustained effort to disrupt proceedings of the sittings would be undertaken. The invasion of the floor of the Chamber by a Member of the Economic Freedom Fighters was viewed as a serious transgression, as was the physical interference with the Serjeant-at-Arms while carrying out an instruction from the Speaker to remove Members from the Chamber, as well as throwing of water and attacks on staff by Members. The Subcommittee recommends that the conduct of the identified members of the Economic Freedom Fighters be referred to the Powers and Privileges Committee to establish if there was a breach of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act, 2004 (Act 4 of 2004).

The Speaker said it is of paramount importance that the report went over the rules, as it is a good reminder for all Members.

Ms Majodina agreed with the recommendation. It needs to be referred to the relevant Committee. It has clear findings and recommendations about what needs to be done.

Mr Shivambu said this report is “absolute rubbish” and “absolute nonsense.” It is factually inaccurate.

The Speaker said that he could object to the report without using the language he had just used. He can say what he just said but say it differently.

Mr Shivambu said there is no rule prohibiting the words he just used.

The Speaker said that this was incorrect. It is common decency that they exercise restraint and speak respectfully as they engage with each other.

Mr Shivambu said that they couldn’t put words into his mouth. He is using these words because it is a part of his vocabulary and is permissible when describing the report. The report is absolute rubbish. The report is making false accusations that the EFF made a public announcement about disrupting Parliament. That is false. If one just looks at the Youtube videos of what happened, they will see that the report is fiction. It is not a reflection of reality. The EFF objects to these reports and will expose the processes of making these reports as factional. They will go to court and expose whoever is responsible for corrupting these “nonsensical and rubbish” reports. It portrays the EFF as an organisation which is disrupting Parliament. It does not recollect what happened in Parliament accurately and it will be subjected to a court process.

Mr G Hendricks (Al Jama-ah) said he is very disappointed that there were no recommendations in the report about physical removal. The drill used for physical removal harms the dignity of both women and men. In the last removal, a member of the EFF’s pants was pulled down and his buttocks were exposed. There is something wrong with the drill. There must be an alternative to physical removal. It harms the dignity of Parliament, the Chair or Speaker, and all of those involved.

Ms R Lesoma (ANC) said that they need to ensure they are not distracted and are not emotional about the issues presented in the meeting. She seconded the recommendation and the report should be referred to the relevant Committee.

Ms Boroto supported the recommendation. All parties will be able to share their views on the report fully in the Powers and Privileges Committee. It is not appropriate to do so here.

Ms Dlakude emphasised that the enforcement of the National Assembly Rules is crucial. They cannot deviate from them. The rules need to be enforced by the presiding officer and as Members of Parliament, they are expected to behave.

Mr M Ntombela (ANC) also agreed with the recommendation. They can not allow Parliament to be held ransom by people who consciously and deliberately misbehave to create an environment of rowdiness. Regardless of the extent to which Members are not happy with the proceedings of Parliament, they do not have the right to create an environment that is so full of conflict. The Members do not deserve to be insulted or spoken to with disrespectful language. It is unacceptable. One gets emotional when one thinks about what is happening in Parliament. It cannot continue.

Mr Papo said that the decision of the Committee to refer the report has to be implemented.

Report on reasons for delayed replies to questions to the Executive
Mr Xaso took the Members through the report.

On 14 June 2021, members of Cabinet were requested to provide reasons for delayed replies to parliamentary questions. The following reasons were given:

The technical nature of some questions and challenges in gathering and verifying information/research (where information is available);
That certain questions related to provinces, local government or entities over which ministers have no/limited control
Challenges arising from changing departmental management.

The report recommends that the Rules Committee consider the reasons provided by ministers for delayed replies and consider developing guidelines on replies, and these be communicated to the Leader of Government Business (LOGB). Proposed guidelines include:

The Executive may not exceed the ten working days as per Rule 146(1) and/or 145(5)
The executive must answer each and every point raised in a question in a comprehensive manner and also reasonably assist a member to the extent that the information in his or her question is incorrect.
Members of the Cabinet must attend to the management of parliamentary questions to ensure that the timeframes set out in Rules 143(1) and 145(5) and 146(1) are complied with.

Ms S Gwarube (DA) wanted clarity on guidelines eight and nine. What does it mean by ‘the LOGB should consider the costs? What are the costs? Guideline seven states that ‘holding replies’ do not constitute a reply to a question. There are repeat offenders who do not answer questions, such as Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. They consistently respond like " this matter does not fall within my ambit” or “I’m still waiting on information from local municipalities.” While this is a valid reason, it should be capped at some point. Ultimately, these responses hinder the work of Parliament. In consultation with the LOGB, there should be an understanding that some Departments will have a more difficult time giving responses, but there should be a cap on how long it takes to respond. Some Departments will delay responses for a year. Guideline seven is important in dealing with this issue.

Mr Papo did not understand the report’s reference to new measures. They did amend the rules to strengthen the role of the National Assembly, the Speaker, and the LOGB. That is why some of the measures deal with legal government business, both in Cabinet and in various ministries. This was done to prevent what happened in 2021, where there were specific ministries that did not answer questions sufficiently. By 15 December, most, if not all, of the questions need to be answered. Many ministries did not ask for extensions and did not communicate with Parliament when there was a delay. Before the first deadline expires, the ministries need to communicate with Parliament and tell it that they are still sourcing the information and formulating a response. That way the Members are not surprised when they aren’t given a response. What are these new changes then? As far as he knows, the Speaker is implementing the amended rules to strengthen this area and improve the issue.

Mr Singh said that the report helps the Committee to oversee the Executive and ensure accountability. It is important to monitor the response time. From his years of working in Parliament, he clearly remembers the timeframe in which responses need to be made. The parliamentary offices of the respective Ministers used to have a written response available to the Member that asked the question. Sometimes this response would be provided even before an oral response. The LOGB, the Executive and parliamentary offices need to look into this. The Members would be able to have a written response in front of them so that even if the question is not responded to orally in the House, and the presiding officer says that the rest of the answer will be provided in writing, then the answer would be available with the Minister and given to Members immediately. This previous system worked very well and it should be taken up again.

Mr Ntombela said that they should also emphasise the manner in which Members respond in a situation where answers from the Executive are not sufficient. There are measures to address this issue, such as written responses. Members should be restrained so that the decorum of the house is always protected.

The Speaker said that there has been constant follow up from the presiding officers on the questions that have not been answered. They are kept informed about the number of outstanding questions and write letters to the leader of government business to remind members of the Executive about their responsibility of answering questions. She assured Members that everything was being done based on the rules that govern the Executive’s answering of questions. They must continue to monitor and put proposals forward so that this process is tightened.

Mr Xaso suggested that the proposals made in the report be referred to the Subcommittee. This way, they can be refined before they are adopted as interventions. Parliament needs to get a sense of the costs involved, as this could be a reason behind some of the delayed replies.

Consideration of the establishment of an Oversight Committee for the Presidency
The Speaker said that this matter has not been processed. Mr Singh proposed this agenda item.

Mr Singh said that all the Members hold the Constitution as sacrosanct and it is very near and dear to their hearts. It is something that the world can be proud of. Section 57(2) says that the rules and orders of the National Assembly must provide for the establishment, composition, powers, functions, procedures, and duration of its Committees. This gives the National Assembly the power to establish Committees. Section 55(2) says that the NA must provide mechanisms to ensure that all Executive organs of state are accountable and to maintain oversight, and to maintain oversight of the exercise of national Executive authority, including the implementation of legislation and any organ of state. The Presidency vote, which they discuss annually, is an organ of state and the President is an organ of the Executive. They must have a Committee to oversee the vote known as the Presidency. They do this in terms of Rule 225, part 10. This rule says that the Speaker, acting with the concurrence of the Rules Committee, must establish a range of portfolio committees, assign a portfolio of government affairs to each committee and determine the name of each committee. They do not have oversight over the Presidency vote. Some colleagues may say that Ministers of the Presidency do report. However, they are not the Presidency. They are part of the Presidency and are given particular responsibilities. Mr Singh referred to a media headline that read “President Cyril Ramaphosa will on Thursday, 9 June 2022, update Parliament on the role of the Presidency… and will present the third Presidency budget vote of the sixth administration of the National Assembly.” The budget vote covers the 2022/23 financial year. He does not understand why, for all these years, they have not had oversight over the Presidency. By this, he does not mean oversight over the President as a person. However, he heads the Executive. Out of all the positions in the Presidency, the accounting officer has to account to a portfolio committee in terms of the Constitution. His submission is that they must immediately put this committee in place. He does not see any reason for sending this to the Subcommittee or anywhere else. It is a Constitutional imperative and the rules provide for it.

Ms Gwarube concurred with Mr Singh. They have started to see a lot of presidential interventions. For example, the intervention around the energy crisis, where there is a team that is put together or a command council that sits in the Presidency. These teams do not fall neatly under any Department. The oversight of that task team cannot be performed by a particular portfolio committee. There isn’t a portfolio committee available to ask the relevant questions and monitor whether these teams have any efficacy. Rule 225 provides a neat solution for this. It is international best practice as an oversight mechanism. Budget vote debates do not constitute or do not replace the need for rigorous oversight in the form of a committee, which is able to have continuous oversight over the Presidency as a whole.

Ms Lesoma requested that before they engage in the merits and weaknesses of Mr Singh’s proposal, they should receive clarity on what the process of this would be. She suggested that they send it to the Subcommittee to be looked at and it can be engaged with there.

Mr Shivambu said that if they checked the presidential interventions and task teams that have been put together, they would see that they do not account to a body or committee. Logically, Parliament should establish a portfolio committee that oversees the work of the Presidency. They need to submit a concrete proposal to the Subcommittee on Rules so that it can be made into a rule, and then the issue can come back to this Committee and thereafter the National Assembly can endorse a perspective on the establishment of an oversight committee. The oversight could maybe be extended to some of the international engagements of the Presidency. It is an issue that is long overdue. It is the duty of the National Assembly to establish this oversight mechanism as a requirement of the Constitution. They need to begin this and follow the process of rule amendment accordingly so that they are not on the wrong side of process. The EFF endorse Mr Singh’s proposal.

Mr Dyanti said that they should refer the matter to the Subcommittee for further details and processing. He hopes that Mr Singh would avail some of the documents he has for the discussion. The Speaker can include her own timeline as to when the matter should be brought back to the Committee. The proposal's strengths and weaknesses would be well suited to a proper discussion within the Subcommittee. They can engage further with it when it comes back.

Ms Majodina agreed with Ms Lesoma. The purpose of a Subcommittee is to further process issues and create clear proposals. They can address the issue once it is before the Subcommittee.

The Speaker said that she had listened very attentively to what Mr Singh proposed and his references to the Constitution and the NA rules, specifically rule 225. They all agree that they have taken note of the proposal and will now refer the matter to the Subcommittee and engage with it once it returns to the Rules Committee. She thanked Mr Singh.

Mr Shivambu asked the Speaker for a timeline on this matter so that it is not left open-ended. This issue has been raised on several occasions. He requested a clear understanding of when it will be considered and when they will implement this proposal, which is rational and long overdue.

Mr Papo said that they could not discuss the logistics of the Subcommittee.

The Speaker said that Mr Shivambu wants to know when the proposal will be implemented. However, they should be asking when the proposal will come back to the Committee once the Subcommittee has discussed it. She asked Ms Dlakude how much work the Subcommittee currently has.

Ms Boroto said that usually, when they refer a matter, the Speaker's office will make a decision about timelines and communicate with the Subcommittee so that they can determine the programme of their meetings. They cannot determine, in this meeting, a date by which they will discuss the proposal again. That is not how it works.

Mr Dyanti said that a timeline is important. He agreed with Ms Boroto that after this meeting, the Speaker would communicate with the Subcommittee on this issue. But the issue cannot be left open-ended. The important thing is that they must agree on a timeline, and the Speaker can determine that in her directive to the Subcommittee.

Mr Shivambu said that it is standard to provide timelines for meeting resolutions. They have to say, for example, that by the next meeting, they will have a comprehensive report to table it in the National Assembly once the rule amendments have been made. It is not logistics. They must not be simplistic or petty. They should agree that when the Rules Committee meets again, they should finalise this matter. If the Speaker determines this is an urgent matter, they can even convene a special Rules Committee meeting to endorse the report and table it in the National Assembly. He is sure that all Members agree that this is a long overdue and logical way to oversee the Presidency.

Ms Dlakude said that the Subcommittee tries its best to do its work when a matter is referred to it. The Subcommittee will make its own assessment of the matter. They will report back to the Rules Committee.

Ms Majodina called for a point of order. The way that Mr Shivambu talks to Members is inappropriate. He reduces them to petty names. Everyone in the meeting has a right to air their view and no one brings petty views. They should accord one another respect. They are all Members. They cannot be in a situation where they jump to make a decision now when there is a Subcommittee meant to process matters.

The Speaker asked Ms Dlakude and the Subcommittee how much work they had before dealing with this issue. This will indicate how much time their submission will take.

Ms Dlakude responded that they will have to do an assessment and then decide of how soon the matter will be dealt with. All of the Members are saying the same thing but everyone wants to approach it differently. It is correct that it rests with the Subcommittee and the Speaker. The Speaker will engage with the Subcommittee on this matter and will look at reasonable timelines.

The Members agreed.

Re-introduction of interpellations

Ms Gwarube said that they have all been following the Zondo Commission. The reality is that some of the accountability mechanisms in Parliament have strengths, but these mechanisms also have their weaknesses. There has been a gap in the system, an unintended consequence. Members of Parliament can hold members of the Executive accountable in various ways, such as portfolio committees and debates. However, some of these methods have limitations. There isn’t an opportunity to dig deep into an issue. This occurred earlier in the week when some Members felt like the questions were answered and others did not. There were questions about what does and doesn’t constitute a response. Rule 133 says that the Executive may decide to respond or not to a Member’s question. To strengthen their ability to hold the Executive to account and to have rigorous and robust interrogation of these matters, they should consider the reintroduction of interpellations. In 2002 interpellations were removed. She was unsure what the reason behind this was because if one looks at international best practice of oversight, interpellations are one of the most effective ways to do so. Interpellations are often done in provincial legislatures. An interpellation is something that would be controlled and facilitated by a presiding officer on a particular topic, where the Minister and members of the House are able to have small and timed interactions on a particular topic. It would be a three-minute interaction where a Member can ask follow-up questions, not in the way that they have currently. It would be a dialogue. It allows Members to feel that it is not a formulaic process. They would be able to have a dialogue which is constructive and structured by the House, as was done before and is done in many parts of the world. She asked the Rules Committee to consider looking into the reintroduction of interpellations so that their oversight role is improved.

Mr Papo said that the Subcommittee should also consider the proposal. Some Members have participated in interpellations before. It has a lot of weaknesses. The Committee could consider other measures that would strengthen debate and oversight. A measure could be plenaries. Interpellations have been used in the provinces because they are small. With larger bodies, other measures can be taken. They should look at the various provinces that still have interpellations and the other measures that could be taken instead. For example, during speeches, Members are given time to comment and ask questions afterwards.

Ms Lesoma agreed with what Mr Papo. They should allow the matter to be discussed by the Subcommittee. Members have various experiences of interpellations but this is not the right time or platform to engage with them.

Mr Dyanti said that interpellations are a confined form of a mini-debate. It has its merits and weaknesses. They will have that discussion in the Subcommittee. In her discussion, Ms Gwarube should indicate the gap and the reasons why it was removed in 2002 so that they are able to get into that discussion. He welcomes the suggestion.

Mr Singh said they must consider the Members’ training on this matter.

The Speaker said that there are different views on the matter, but they all agree that it should be referred to the Subcommittee. It is very important that they go back and look at the reasons why it was removed. This is an important part of deciding whether to introduce them again. She notes Ms Gwarube’s comment that there is a need for this following the Zondo Commission. There has been a gap in the system of oversight of the Executive. The issue of how they should proceed with the report of the Zondo Commission is one that they have been discussing. They want to ensure that some of the findings of the report receive their undivided attention. They will refer the matter to the Subcommittee.

The Speaker thanked the Members for the way that they conducted themselves in the meeting.

The meeting was adjourned.

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