Summary of Outstanding Submissions: Content Advisor briefing; First Term Programme
Constitutional Review Committee
10 March 2023
Chairperson: Dr M Motshekga (ANC) (NA) and Co-Chairperson: Mr E Mthethwa (ANC, KZN) (NCOP)
The Constitutional Review Committee was briefed by the Committee Content Advisor on outstanding matters for decision-making.
The Committee resolved to engage submitters and stakeholders through a public participation process before deciding on the desirability of a submission.
The First Term Programme provided for briefings by various submitters, every Friday up to 31 March 2023. The Secretariat was requested to amend the programme in terms of briefings scheduled for 24 March 2023 because it coincided with the last day of the National Conference on the Constitution, which the Committee had resolved to attend as a collective.
Chairperson Mthethwa remarked that factors which contributed to the Committee not sitting for some time or regularly would be discussed during the course of the meeting.
The minutes of 6 June 2022 were adopted with minor changes. The Committee Secretary added the names of Ms A Maleka (ANC) and Ms N Maseko-Jele (ANC) to the list of attendees.
Summary of prior year matters
Ms Sisanda Sipamla, Committee Content Advisor, summarised the issues that had been discussed in the previous meeting. In 2022, the Committee received 54 submissions; 33 were not aligned to the mandate of the Committee, legal advice was obtained for ten category two cases, and 11 category three cases were ready for consideration. The Committee Secretary was tasked to inform the submitters in writing about the decisions on their submissions. In April 2022, the Content Advisor was requested to compile a summary of the ten cases referred for legal opinion. The Committee resolved to directly interact with the submitters of the ten legal cases. The Secretariat drafted a programme on the availability of submitters. The programme was presented to Members in this meeting. The Content Advisor proposed a strategy to conclude the work before the end of the first term. In terms of the strategy, the desirability of a submission should be determined after hearing from stakeholders and each of the submitters. The draft programme included public hearings and would start with the matter concerning the development of languages. Submissions from 2021 to 2023 should be combined and considered simultaneously in terms of matters ready for decision-making and matters requiring public participation with stakeholders and submitters.
Mr X Nqola (ANC) sought clarity on whether the draft programme would be done on a monthly basis considering that the start date of 10 March 2023 and end date of 31 March 2023. He questioned the briefing on sign language as official language, scheduled for 24 March 2023, considering that the Justice and Correctional Services Committee had already undergone a public participation process on the matter. He cautioned against the duplication of activities.
Ms N Maseko-Jele (ANC) asked if the submitters would be invited to Parliament for public hearings. She wanted to know why the Committee was not having regular meetings.
Ms Sipamla replied to Mr Nqola that since the Committee had been made aware of the finalisation of the sign language matter, it should be recorded accordingly in the Committee report. The focus would shift to the recognition of the remaining languages, i.e. Kiswahili and Khelobedu, as official languages. Responding to Ms Maseko-Jele, she explained that the request for public hearings was a Committee decision because Members deemed it a requirement to interact with the submitters prior to making a decision.
Ms Maseko-Jele asked if it was necessary to conduct another public participation process considering that the matter had been referred to the NCOP. She sought a response to her earlier question about not having regular meetings because issues are forgotten during the long breaks.
Mr Pilate Gwebu, Committee Secretary, said the sign language matter was considered desirable because it had been raised continuously in the fifth Parliament. In light of the information received, it would not be necessary to further pursue the matter. An update would be requested from the Justice and Correctional Services Committee.
Mr Nqola said the lack of communication between the two committees was understandable. He proposed that the matter be removed from the programme.
Chairperson Mthethwa replied that a more structured process should be followed to remove the matter from the programme. He requested the Secretariat to obtain confirmation from the Justice and Correctional Services Committee that the matter had been dealt with.
Ms Sipamla agreed that the Committee report should reflect the follow up done and finalisation of the matter by the Justice and Correctional Services Committee.
Dr M Gondwe (DA) concurred that the record should note the Justice and Correctional Services Committee had dealt with the matter.
First Term Programme
The Committee Secretary outlined the programme for the remaining weeks of the first term.
17 March 2023
A briefing by Accountability Now is scheduled to present a proposal on the introduction of an independent body to fight corruption. A related matter by the Africa Criminal Justice Reform concerning the appointment and dismissal of senior NPA officials, is scheduled for a hearing on the same day. The Helen Suzman Foundation would brief the Committee on proposals to amend section 174 of the Constitution in relation to the appointment of judges and section 178 on the composition of the Judicial Service Commission.
24 March 2023
The Afrikana Justice Association is scheduled to brief the Committee on the review of sections 173 and 211(3) of the Constitution. The organisation is of the view that the Constitution was not paying due regard to African Law. The briefing is to coincide with submissions by the Kara Heritage Institute and the Department of Basic Education on the recognition of Khelobedu and Kiswahili respectively as official languages.
31 March 2023
The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution would be briefing the Committee on proposed amendments as per the Kader Asmal report.
Chairperson Mthethwa noted that a response to the question on the programme dates was outstanding.
Mr Gwebu replied that the end date of the first term was 31 March 2023, followed by a constituency period. The Second Term Programme would start on 19 April 2023.
Chairperson Mthethwa requested the Committee Secretary to summarise the reasons for the long break between meetings.
Mr Gwebu explained that the scheduled meetings either did not quorate or had been postponed due to the unavailability of Members. During the flood disasters, he was tasked to assist the two Chairpersons, involved in the ad hoc Committee on the National State of Disaster, on weekly oversight visits. The work of the ad hoc Disaster Committee had to be prioritised.
Chairperson Mthethwa remarked that the work of the Committee is easily affected by national disasters. Some Members of this Committee form part of the Security Cluster and COGTA and get deployed to deal with emergency issues.
Ms Maseko-Jele enquired about the procedure to include the Khoisan language on the programme. It appeared to her that the Khoisan communities missed the invitation to make submissions. She felt that the Khoisan communities are always excluded.
Chairperson Mthethwa replied that submissions are done annually in May. He asked if it was practical to ascertain whether submissions for Khoisan languages were included in the 2021 and 2022 submissions.
Ms Sipamla remarked that she would scan the submissions and bring it to the attention of Members if it had been included. She advised the Committee that submissions could also be made by Members and not only by the public.
Mr Gwebu said the recommendation by the fifth Parliament included references to sign language and other languages. The public would have another opportunity in May 2023 to make further submissions.
Chairperson Mthethwa replied that Ms Maseko-Jele’s argument related specifically to the Khoisan languages. He requested that all submissions be scanned and Ms Maseko-Jele be informed if the Khoisan languages were included.
Mr Gwebu confirmed that the Khoisan languages had not been included in prior year submissions.
Ms Maseko-Jele requested that it be included in the programme.
Mr Gwebu advised Ms Maseko-Jele to make a submission in May 2023.
Ms Maseko-Jele agreed to follow the proper procedure to have it included.
The Committee resolved to adopt the program as a working document.
Invitation to the National Conference on the Constitution
Ms Sipamla informed the Committee about the invitation to the National Conference on the Constitution, scheduled for 22 to 24 March 2023, which coincided with the Committee programme on 24 March 2023. The President would be the main speaker. In order to not delay the programme, she proposed that the Committee send a delegation to the conference who would be reporting back to the Committee.
Chairperson Motshekga advised that the committee send a delegation. It would be a historic conference where some aspects contained in the submissions would be discussed. He pleaded with the Committee to fully participate and to use the opportunity to interact with the justice fraternity.
Mr Nqola supported Chairperson Motshekga’s idea of full participation.
Adv Breytenbach (DA) supported Chairperson Motshekga’s view because it would be good for as many people as possible to attend the conference.
Mr V Xaba (ANC) concurred that it should be attended by all Members because of the once-off nature of the event.
Mr T Mashele (ANC) aligned himself with Chirperson Motshekga’s view.
Dr Gondwe supported the idea for all Members to attend the conference because it would present the chance to interact with crucial stakeholders.
Chairperson Mthethwa confirmed the unanimous decision to attend the conference and requested the Content Advisor to amend the programme to accommodate the conference.
Chairperson’s closing remarks
Chairperson Motshekga thanked Chairperson Mthethwa for doing a good job in steering the ship. He commended the Committee Secretary for his efforts despite the challenges. The Secretariat was able to present a report of high standard which was an indication of their continued hard work. He thanked Members who are Chairpersons of other Committees for taking the work of this Committee seriously. The Committee was dealing with matters that Mr Mandela referred to as the ‘soul of the people’. He was looking forward to the Second Term Programme. He expressed the hope that the year would end with at least one finalised matter, possibly the language issue, that could be presented to Parliament.
The meeting was adjourned.
Motshekga, Dr MS
Breytenbach, Adv G
Dangor, Mr M
Gondwe, Dr M
Maleka, Ms AD
Mashele, Mr TV
Mthethwa, Mr EM
Nqola, Mr X
Xaba, Mr VC
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