The Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) convened for consideration and decision-making on the outstanding submissions in its report on the Sixth Parliament submissions.
After considering the report, the Committee resolved that it would request a joint meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, and call upon the Portfolio Committee of Justice and Constitutional Development to interact with it on its progress with the education of citizens on constitutional development matters.
Most of the matters submitted were not desirable, but the Committee decided it would also request a consultation with the Pan South African Language Board on language matters. The Committee agreed to accede to the request of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to hold a joint meeting, and to include Members of the Portfolio Committee on Justice, as they were important stakeholders. The Committee would also request a copy of the report on the Conference on Constitutionalism from the Department of Justice.
Co-Chairperson Mthethw made brief opening remarks and welcomed all present in the meeting.
Ms N Maseko-Jele (ANC) said that at the last meeting, the Committee had agreed that the issue of sign language had been referred to the National Assembly.
Co-Chairperson Mthethwa said a meeting should be held with the Portfolio Committee on Justice. He confirmed that the NA was dealing with the matter of sign language.
CRC Report on 6th Parliament submissions
Ms Sisanda Sipamla, Committee Content Advisor, took the Committee through its decisions as a recap.
(Refer to page numbers listed for more information)
Dr M Gondwe (DA) said she understood the legal advice and concerns from Adv Hoffman around corruption. She said the DA reserved its position on whether it was desirable or not.
Co-Chairperson Mthethwa said the position of the DA was noted on Page 3.
Pages 4 and 5
Mr M Dangor (ANC, Gauteng) made comments that could not be captured due to connection issues.
Co-Chairperson Mthethwa said the best way to deal with the matter was to consult with the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) and the Department of Basic Education (DBE).
Dr Gondwe said she agreed to have consultations to make a decision on the matter.
The Committee agreed that PanSALB and the DBE would be called to finalise the matter as a matter of urgency.
Dr Gondwe said submissions 33 and 34 of 2020 were undesirable, but Submission 34 did not strictly constitute amending the Constitution, but an impact assessment on the legislation was necessary.
Co-Chairperson Mthethwa said it would be deferred for the House to look into the matter.
Ms Maseko-Jele said she agreed that the issue on the reference to "god" was incorrect, as it did not refer specifically to any god. God was referred to differently in different languages.
It was agreed that the matter was undesirable, and could not change the Constitution.
Mr V Xaba (ANC) said it was undesirable to accede to the request. He agreed with Ms Gondwe that it was a legislative review matter, and was not part of the Committee’s mandate.
Dr Gondwe said the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) could assist with the socio-economic impact assessment, as she had come across a piece of legislation where it had assisted.
Page 7 - Submission on accountability
Co-Chairperson Mthethwa said the matter was undesirable in terms of the legal opinion.
Ms Maseko-Jele said she agreed with the legal advice, as adding a Chapter 9 meant that institutions would be added when there were already institutions dealing with these matters. The country could not afford to fund such changes, as Chapter 9 institutions needed to be independent.
Members agreed that this was undesirable.
Dr Gondwe said she did not agree that it was undesirable, as she could understand the rationale behind the change. There were institutions in place to deal with the corruption that had ravished the country, which was why the change may have merit.
Co-Chairperson Mr Mthethwa said if existing institutions were not effective enough, weaknesses must be examined to look at how this could be dealt with, which was why the legal opinion should stand -- that this process was not desirable.
Co-Chairperson Mthethwa agreed that this was undesirable and moved on to the next point.
Page 8 - Submission from Equal Education,
Co-Chairperson Motshekga said this was not a new matter, and had been sent to the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education.
Co-Chairperson Mthethwa suggested it should not be specified where the matter should go, but to simply make it desirable.
Co-Chairperson Motshekga said it seemed that this was a matter for the Department of Education, as it was critical to get their input and determine whether or not the Constitution should be amended.
Dr Gondwe said she agreed that recommendations should be made to the House, or to refer it to a particular body.
Ms Maseko-Jele said this would open another process to defer it to the House to refine it and make it clearer. She asked what would be easier -- to refer the matter to the House, or to call a joint meeting?
Co-Chairperson, Motshekga said he agreed with Ms Maseko-Jele. The matter could not be referred to the House only to ask for permission to refer it to another committee. The Committee should decide by itself and make recommendations after a joint Committee meeting.
Co-Chairperson Mthethwa said there were two options on how to deal with the matter.
Ms Maseko-Jele said she supported that a meeting be held with the Department of Education.
Dr Gondwe was concerned about time, and when this meeting would be held. She preferred to refer the matter to the House.
Co-Chairperson Motshekga said it was important to do justice to the issues raised. He stood by his support for Ms Maseko-Jele’s suggestion.
Members agreed to this proposal.
Co-Chairperson Mthethwa said the matter would be deferred to the Department of Basic Education as soon as possible.
Mr Justin Bolt had requested that the Committee review Sections 1, 2, 11, 12, 14, 27, 35 and 38, and that the Committee should also provide for clearer regulations on a national state of disaster.
Co-Chairperson Mthethwa said the item was recommended as undesirable.
Ms Maseko-Jele said she agreed that it was undesirable.
Members agreed that the matter was undesirable.
Page 11 - Submission 54 of 2022, Mr Justin Bolt
Co-Chairperson Mthethwa said the recommendation was that the matter was undesirable.
Ms Maseko-Jele agreed that the matter was unnecessary, as the legislation already in place was sufficient. The Constitution could not be changed for every person who had a grievance. There should be an educational campaign to educate people on the laws and legislation already in place.
Co-Chairperson Motshekga agreed with Ms Maseko-Jele, as she had raised an important matter on constitutional literacy. The South African Human Rights Commission found that most South Africans did not know the Constitution. He said all of these submissions had come as a result of constitutional illiteracy.
Mr Dangor suggested that education on constitutional literacy should begin in Parliament.
Co-Chairperson Mthethwa said Members should agree that the matter was undesirable, and noted the suggestions on constitutional education.
Dr Gondwe said she wanted to caution against implying that when a constitutional amendment did not meet the test of desirability, it boiled down to constitutional illiteracy. The law was open to interpretation, and people were exercising this liberty. She proposed that once legal advice was received, the Committee should accept that what people were doing was what was expected from them as citizens. Everything should not be labelled as constitutional illiteracy, but she agreed that people should be educated on the Constitution and the rights contained therein.
Co-Chairperson Mthethwa said Members were not generalising, but were commenting on issues.
Mr Naidoo had requested that the Committee review Sections 18, 22, 27 (1,b), 34, 37 (1a and b), and Sections 171, 173, 174, 175, 178 (e and g).
Ms Maseko-Jele said this matter should be followed up on, and that she agreed with the legal opinion on the matter.
Dr Gondwe said she agreed with the legal opinion, as none of the proposed amendments required an amendment of the Constitution. She agreed that some of the sections the submission referred to were currently being provided for.
Co-Chairperson Motshekga said the proposal confirmed that constitutional education must take place. There was no need to amend the Constitution to achieve what the submitters were saying. There was no time to call other meetings to deal with matters that were obviously wrong and ill-informed.
Ms Maseko-Jele said she agreed that the matter would need to be addressed in another way. It was not desirable to change the Constitution on some matters, such as issues of inequality. The Justice Committee had not been sitting for seven years, and now a member had been nominated. She suggested that the Chairperson follow up on the recommended member so that the suggestions made today found expression. She said the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Act could be looked into, and this could be strengthened as opposed to changing the Constitution. A legal opinion could also be sought on the matter.
Mr W Aucamp (DA, Northern Cape) said there would be different opinions, and a legal opinion should be sought on the matter.
Co-Chairperson Mthethwa asked Members for their input.
Members agreed with the suggestion to receive a legal opinion.
Mr T Mashele (ANC) suggested that a legal opinion should first be received, and Ms Sipamla stopped the presentation at this point.
The Committee Content Advisor said the Members had been briefed on the submissions, and public hearings had been held. Members did not require a legal opinion at the time, as they felt they wanted to hear from those making submissions, but very few had attended.
Most submissions did not require an amendment to the Constitution, but the Committee would like to have a joint meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education. It would also like to call upon the Portfolio Committee of Justice and Constitutional Development to interact with it on its progress with education on constitutional development matters. Most matters were not desirable, but the Committee would also like to have a consult with PanSALB on language matters.
Co-Chairperson Mothshekga said there had been a conference on constitutionalism, and the Committee was invited to this. Discussions took place, and the Department of Justice had invited him for a meeting where it was said that this Committee had much in common with the work of the Department. A meeting with the Committee had been requested. The previous day, Mr Roelf Meyer, one of the chief negotiators at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) had said the authors of the Constitution did not come up with an implementation plan. As a result, there were many socio-economic challenges facing the country.
Co-Chairperson Motshekga supported the view of Mr Meyer to have a constitutional dialogue. Some recommendations made by the public could be dealt with through dialogue. Some Members would remember that when they started the Section 25 deliberations, they had started with a dialogue which helped to map the way forward. He suggested acceding to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development's request, and including Members of the Portfolio Committee on Justice, as they were important stakeholders. Adv Gwebu, the Committee Secretary, should also be requested to write to the Department acceding to the request, and to ask for a copy of the report on the conference held.
Ms Maseko-Jele said she agreed with the proposal made.
Co-Chairperson Motshekga said sometimes the public was not aware of the good work the Committee was doing, and everyone was lambasting it. He said there were placards outside the Northern Cape High Court, calling it the "Court of Shame." He suggested that those in charge of the media should craft a statement for co-Chairpersons to sign off on and be released to improve the image of the Committee.
It was announced that the Committee should set aside 15 minutes for E-voting training in one of its upcoming meetings.
Co-Chairperson Mthethwa thanked Members for their participation.
The meeting was adjourned.
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