The Portfolio Committee on Tourism was meant to be briefed by the Minister of Tourism on the international work done by the Department, the merger processes of South African Tourism and Brand South Africa, the new board of SA Tourism and the process followed, and the timeframes on the policy review process and reasons for the delays. However, the Minister was not present. The Committee was concerned by the absence of the Minister as she was the principal person who had to brief the Committee and answer the Committee’s questions. What shocked the Committee was that while the Committee was discussing the merger, Brand South Africa issued an advert inviting nominations for Board members. Members were also not pleased by the legal department’s delay in advising the Committee on the process of summons. The Chairperson released the Department’s delegation without any presentations being made.
The Chairperson noted that Mr H Gumbi (DA) was no longer a Member of Parliament [after being deployed to the provincial legislature]. She acknowledged apologies from Members, Mr Victor Tharage, Director-General (DG), Department of Tourism, Mr Fish Mahlalela, Deputy Minister, and the Minister, Ms Lindiwe Sisulu.
The Chairperson stated that the Committee was clear about what it wanted and expected for this particular meeting as per their last meeting. She said she did not want time to be wasted as the reason for the Minister’s invitation to the meeting was highlighted in the Committee’s previous meeting. The item was supposed to be presented by the Minister herself. In the absence of the Minister, it would be prudent for the Committee to release the Department so that the Department could return with the Minister to present on the matter.
The Chairperson allowed the Committee to discuss the matter of the presentation that was expected.
Mr A Matumba (EFF) stated that the Chairperson was correct. The agenda was the briefing by the Department. The Committee cannot have the Department without the political head. The Committee was setting the wrong precedent if it was to continue without the political head. Those who accounted to the political head were going to undermine the Committee if the Committee allowed itself to be undermined by the political head. ‘Tomorrow, we are going to be sitting here with no one coming because the Portfolio head was not being taken seriously. The Committee cannot proceed without the political head here to account because there are so many questions that the Minister must answer. If she is not here, then we cannot continue’.
Ms P Mpushe (ANC) stated that she fully concurred that the Department should be released given the importance of the issues that should be discussed. She said she did not know what steps should be taken going forward because the agreement was to summon the Minister but this was not working today.
The Chairperson stated that legal services had delayed the issue of summoning the Minister as legal services had to look into the contents of the summons that had been drafted. The Committee was hoping to receive feedback on whether the contents of the summons were in line with the rules of Parliament and the prescripts of the law. Ms Shamilla Chettiar was Acting Director-General (DG) of the Department of Tourism. The DG’s apology was accepted as the Committee was aware that the DG would have a standing apology until the conclusion of his study leave. Last week’s points were not going to be reiterated. People submitted apologies citing specific reasons and then one sits at home and sees something else on TV screens. ‘I hope that is not the case today otherwise there will be problems’.
She told the Department that it would be sent packing along with its principles. This is the same way the Department would be sent away if it came to this Committee and tabled the budget. She said ‘So that you were able to understand the implications of undermining this Committee or any other Portfolio Committee’. You will come back here very confident, thinking that this Committee will forget that it has been undermined. The time for your principal to need this Committee will come and it will be time for the Committee to teach them a hard lesson. It is important to show people tough love so that they can learn from their mistakes and understand that the Portfolio Committee has a duty to do oversight over the Department and the executive of this country. The time will come and we will be ready. This is a promise, not a threat. This fruitless expenditure is going to be noted under the Minister of Tourism’s name. Members were flying from different provinces to honour this important meeting only for the Minister to send an apology at three ‘o clock amounted to fruitless expenditure. We are here while we might see others appearing in Durban or Nkandla. The Committee is undermined’.
The Chairperson cautioned the Department’s delegation not to book flights if the Department’s Head has not confirmed her attendance before 15:00 the day before the meeting. The summons is going to be sent to the Minister today. She released the Department.
She stated that it is important that the Committee Secretary explains why the summons was not sent to the Minister.
The Committee Secretary explained that the documents were prepared and sent to the Chairperson for approval. The document was sent to Legal Services who indicated that the meeting today was too close as they needed to do a number of memorandums that will go to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Secretary of Parliament, and the Sheriff of the Court. He was under the impression since last week that the Minister would be in attendance today; this was until he received an apology from the Minister the day before the meeting at 12:30. The support team is waiting on Legal Services to indicate that they have completed the document so that the process can continue.
A Committee Member asked what then becomes of the status of the meeting as there were pending issues that the Minister had to brief the Committee on, especially the matters that involve public discourse.’ Will the Committee be given an opportunity to find out about those outstanding matters or will the Minister only be required to brief the Committee on what stands on the agenda that day’? He said there was a pending matter on the merger of South African Tourism (SAT) and Brand South Africa. This has stalled some of the work of the entities, such as appointing a CEO. This brings instability to the entity. The leadership issue becomes a problem.
Mr M de Freitas (DA) questioned the legal attitude. He stated that there is no requirement to wait for a certain time. It is strange that Legal Services wanted to wait until today’s meeting. It appeared that they wanted to tell the Committee what to do. He did not believe that it was the place of the legal department to prescribe how and when it must be done. ‘If your instruction is a subpoena and that whoever it is must come before the Committee, then they must abide by it. Legal services must ensure that it must not happen in the future.
Mr Matumba referred to the Rules of the National Assembly, where it speaks to summons. It provides that the Committee can require a person or an institution to report before the Committee. That requirement does not need any legal formalities. A letter just needs to be written to the Minister or the Department being summoned. The current situation makes it seem like one was in a court setting. The Committee does have the power to require a person to appear before the Committee. He said it was a constitutional obligation for the Minister to appear, not a favour. ‘Is the Committee going to go to court to require Ministers to appear before the Committee; should this be a precedent? ‘This is not how we are going to run Parliament. When the Minister comes in, the Committee has all the power to make recommendations on any matter. All the issues can be addressed once the Minister attends a meeting. A proper message must be sent to legal services; we have all the powers to require someone to appear before the Committee. The legal department is just complicating the matter’.
Ms L Makhubela-Mashele (ANC) stated that she is partially covered by the issues raised by the other Members. She believed that the legal department failed the Committee. The Committee did not ask the legal department to summon the Minister on the Committee’s behalf. They were required to advise on how to go about this. That must be done with immediate effect. The Committee was made aware that there was an interim board, next thing the Committee was referred to the website where the board had been appointed. The Committee still needed clarity on that. She said there could not be a SAT board when there is an outstanding merger issue. The Minister must be summoned with immediate effect so that one could be made aware of the processes.
The Chairperson stated that she would speak to Legal Services herself to make them aware of what they were supposed to do because they were doing the contrary. She told Ms Makhubela-Mashele that last week’s meeting could not occur because of the same issues. The purpose of today’s meeting was so that the Minister could raise all the issues that Ms Makhubela-Mashele raised but the Minister is running away. The issue of the appointment of senior personnel was highlighted in the Auditor-General’s reporting that stated that it had created instability and it must be fixed. The Principal of the Department must fix it. This meeting is going to be postponed and a meeting is not going to be had without her as she has to respond to all the issues raised in the meeting.
Another thing that shocked the Committee was that while the Committee was discussing the merger, Brand South Africa issued an advert inviting nominations for board members. This is one of the things the Minister needed to respond on. The delay in appointing a CEO to that institution is unnecessary and is causing serious problems for the institution. The Deputy Minister cannot come to respond because they cannot make decisions on certain matters. There are many problems, but some are “royal families of the ruling party” so they vanish and that is not within the control of the Committee.
The Committee Secretary took the Committee through the issues raised in the previous meeting which included timeframes on the policy review and the reasons therefore, the introduction of the new Board of SA Tourism and the process that was followed, and a briefing on the international work done by the Minister, Department, and South African Tourism. In quarter two, the Minister made an undertaking to brief the Committee on all the international work the Department is doing. This could not be accommodated in the third quarter because the programme was packed; therefore the briefing session was scheduled for the fourth quarter. There is also the issue raised by the Auditor-General of people acting in positions for a long time. It was not prudent for the Minister to leave the interim board of the entities until the merger issues were finalised. These issues have been conveyed clearly to the office of the Minister.
Ms Mpushe stated that while the Committee Secretary recorded everything, she wished that some of the issues could be put in a better way. ‘Can the deliberations be summarised and some of the issues raised be off the record’? Nonetheless, the minutes are a true reflection of the Committee’s deliberations.
The Committee Secretary noted this.
Mr Matumba agreed that some of these things are political statements and should not be included in the minutes. The minutes can be adopted with changes.
The minutes were adopted.
The meeting was adjourned.
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