Joint Rules

04 August 2004
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Meeting report


4 August 2004

Ms B Mbete [Speaker of the National Assembly [NA] chaired during Items 7-8.
Ms J Kgoali [Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces [NCOP] chaired during Items 1-6.

Documents handed out:
Draft Vision and Mission Statements for Parliament.
Governance Model for Parliament.
Overview of Joint Committees.
Document pertaining to legacy issues.
Role of Joint Rules Committee

The Joint Rules Committee considered a number of issues that included the implementation of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act; oversight and accountability recommendations; the interim report on scrutiny of delegated legislation; problems with language practises in Parliament regarding bills and amendment bills and the designation of a committee to receive quarterly reports on national arms control. The main decisions arrived at by the Committee were that parties should be allowed until August 31 to consider both Parliament's Mission and Vision Statement and the new governance model when a special JRC meeting would be convened to finalize the issues. The JRC also agreed that the Constitutional Review Committee should be reduced to the size of other Joint Committees and that a task team be appointed to implement the oversight and accountability plan.

MINUTES [Items 1, 2, 3 & 5]:
The Chairperson [Ms Kgoali] announced the names of those Members unable to attend the sitting after which she introduced the agenda and suggested that the consideration and adoption of Parliament's vision and mission statements [Item 5] precede the briefing on the role of the JRC [Item 4]. This proposal was agreed upon and the agenda was adopted. Mr Dingani, Secretary to Parliament proceeded by taking the Members through the details of the draft document on the Mission and Vision for Parliament.

Mr Mulder [FF+] [NA] expressed concern that the terminology used in the document was too similar to that used by the majority party and stressed that the wording should not be politically weighted.

Mr Ellis [DA] [NA] concurred but added that the general principles in the document were acceptable.

Mr Goniwe [ANC] [NA] responded that the objectives of Parliament must be in accord with the views of the electorate and that the vision of the institution should therefore reflect the programme of the majority party.

Ms De Lille [ID] [NA] approved the intention of the document but pointed out that Members ought to focus on the reasons behind the development of vision statements. She stressed that ordinary people must be able to relate to the language used in such documents and added that Parliament's vision statement should identify how the public could participate in the institution.

Ms Seaton [IFP] [NA] agreed that the document contained a political bias and suggested that it be reworded.

Mr Tsenoli [ANC] [NCOP] commented that Members were too concerned with specifics and should focus on the document in its entirety.

Mr Setona [ANC] [NCOP] pointed out that Parliament is a political institution, not a social club and asserted that the vision reflected the contract Members had entered into with the public. He noted that similar terminology was used in the Constitution and was not synonymous with any one party.

The Chairperson stressed the need for the Committee to reach consensus on the vision statement.

Mr Mulder disapproved of the use of the term "peoples' contract" and accentuated that Parliament was an instrument of the total electorate and not just the majority.

Mr Mfundisi [UCDP] [NA] noted that it was important to include all parties in the formation of a vision for Parliament and suggested that the Committee amend the document by replacing the word "people" with "citizens".

The Chairperson explained that the Parliamentary management team had developed the vision statement over a number of years.

Ms Rajbally [MF] [NA] emphasized that Members must contribute to the development of the document in order to ensure that it engaged with the needs and expectations of the people.

Mr Tsenoli pointed out that the Constitution preamble reflected the Freedom Charter which had been adopted by the people and suggested that all parties had established a contract with the voters. He proposed that the Committee establish a process for the discussion.

Ms De Lille requested that the Chair provide guidance as to how the Committee should be approaching the discussions and added that she was uncertain as to whether the Members should be deliberating on the details of the vision statement or the full document.

The Chairperson responded that the Committee should focus on the whole document and emphasized that the details were significant.

Mr Green [ACDP][NA] acknowledged that there was a lot of good in the document and suggested that the Committee first attempt to establish the points with which they were in agreement before deliberating on the details at which point a technical team should be appointed to iron out the differences.

Mr Godi [PAC][NA] emphasized the need to examine the entire document before the question of semantics be studied. He highlighted that the document was a political statement and that the wording was critical as it gave meaning to the concept of democracy.

Mr Dorr [ACDP][NA] indicated that the phrase "peoples' Parliament" was an emotive term and advised that although the document was innately political, the statement should omit power play. He stressed the necessity of establishing a process so that a common understanding could be reached.

Ms Motlane [ANC][NA] asserted that all parties had promised "a better life for all" and the vision statement was consequently not contentious.

Mr Nel [ANC] [NA] pointed out that the phrase "for all the people" was not a DA slogan and asserted that the Committee should agree on the general concepts evident in the document regardless of the origin of certain expressions.

Mr Ellis endorsed the general principles but suggested that some of the statements had connotations that should be explored. He added that as the document had just been received the parties required time to analyse the text and make constructive inputs in order to make certain that the vision was acceptable to a 100% of the population.

Ms Seaton agreed and proposed that the Whips arrange a meeting with the Secretary to discuss their concerns.

Ms Mbete voiced satisfaction at the direction of proceedings but recommended that precise timeframes be established for consultation.

The Chairperson acknowledged that parties required a period in which to examine the details of the document and asked for suggestions concerning a timeframe.

Mr Mahllangu [ANC][Deputy Chairperson on the NCOP] pointed out that Parliament had been functioning without a Vision statement for ten years and this had impacted negatively on the Parliamentary budget. He proposed that a decision be reached within a thirty-day period so as to tie-in with the budget cycle.

The Chairperson accepted the proposal and agreed to convene a special meeting of the JRC on August 31 to finalize the issue.

Item 4
Ms Mbete outlined the role of the JRC highlighting the significance of the Committee as the highest policy-making forum in Parliament but noted that many issues, which arose in the JRC, were not relevant to the core business of the Parliament. She asserted that the JRC should not deal with administrative or with other related issues as these inhibited the forum's ability to carry out its political functions. She also proposed that the JRC examine the effectiveness of its sub-committees in addition to submitting reports to the Houses. Mr Hahndiek then briefed the Committee on the role of the JRC in Parliament.

Ms Seaton raised a concern about the effectiveness of the JRC's sub-committees and suggested that the implementation process was dysfunctional and not within the Committee structure.

The Chairperson acknowledged that implementation was a problem but emphasized that an improved committee structure would allow for improved oversight.

Ms Mbete pointed out that the Constitution had a provision which indicated what the focus of the JRC should be and recommended that the Committee re-focus its activities to ensure that its principal functions were being carried out.

Ms Seaton called for the presentation of the new governance model and directing authority [Item 6] before taking a decision on the JRC.

Mr Nel asserted that the Committee's first priority was to execute its political mandate and that its prime function was to represent the public and not administer Parliament. He added that the matter did not require a decision immediately and suggested that the Committee revisit the issue of sub-committees at a later date.
The Committee agreed.

Item 6
Mr Dingani introduced the Committee to the new governance model for Parliament focusing on the various structural adjustments that would be required.

Ms Seaton voiced concern that the proposed model would shift policy-making activities away from the JRC and inquired as to whether the JRC would be required to set guidelines for the directing authority. She noted that the new model did not incorporate the Whips.

The Chairperson indicated that ultimate responsibility for policy formulation rested with the Houses.

Mr Watson [DA][NCOP] expressed dissatisfaction at the composition of the directing authority as it only included two representatives from the NCOP and thus excluded the opposition in the NCOP entirely.

Mr Nel indicated that the ANC did not yet have a position on the new model but suggested that the JRC agree to a process and definite timeframe in which to take the matter forward. He pointed out the directing authority would have to report to the Houses and inquired as to what mechanisms which would have to be implemented to facilitate this practise.

Mr Mulder also noted that there was no provision for the Chief Whips Forum in the new model.

Ms De Lille inquired as to whether the proposed model complied with the practises and procedures of the JRC in terms of section 45 of the Constitution "Joint Rules and Orders and Joint Committees" and asserted that it was unacceptable for one party to speak for another.

Mr Hahndiek responded that the JRC had the authority to appoint any structure that it considered necessary in order to perform its functions.

Mr Doman [DA][NA] questioned the role of the Secretary on the directing authority and pointed out that the other Members of the forum were all political.

Ms Mbete explained that members who wished to contribute to the business of the directing authority could approach the forum through their Whips or Caucus Chairs and emphasized that the directing authority was a non-party political forum who's purpose was to deal with administrative issues. She added that the Secretariat was responsible for the management of Parliament and should therefore be included in the forum.

Ms De Lille asked what the costs of implementing the model would be and queried whether it would not simply result in a larger bureaucracy. She also inquired as to how the new structures would benefit ordinary Members.

Mr Green approved of the directing authority but noted that the exclusion of the smaller parties was an issue and asserted that the forum should operate within guidelines set by the JRC.

Mr Ellis agreed that it was unclear how the new model would benefit normal Members and added that details concerning the relationship between the directing authority and other structures be provided.

Mr Dingani responded that the two Houses had allocated authority to the Presiding Officers and the new model attempted to reflect authority in the collective. He pointed out that the focus of the directing authority was on management and that Parliament's budget would only be affected through the provision of better services.
The Chairperson proposed that a document be produced explaining the details of the model and that the issue be finalized at a special meeting of the JRC on August 31. The Committee agreed.

Item 7
Mr Mansura presented a report on Joint Committees.

The Chairperson [Ms Mbete] raised the issue of the Constitutional Review Committee [CRC] and asked Members for their views.

Mr Nel questioned the need for an annual review of the Constitution and stressed that the size of the CRC needed to be reviewed.

Ms Seaton concurred and suggested that the CRC be reduced to the size of the Ethics Committee.

Ms De Lille proposed that the size of the CRC be reduced to the size of the Joint Monitoring Committees [JMC's].

The Chairperson, after receiving no further comments, confirmed that the Committee agreed the proposal to reduce the CRC to the size of the JMC's and suggested that the question of whether it was still appropriate for the Constitution to be reviewed annually, as required by the Constitution, could be referred to the CRC.

Mr Mansura informed the Committee about the problems relating to the Joint Committee on the RDP.

Mr Doidge [ANC][NA] raised a query about the Joint Committee of Defence [JCD].

The Chairperson proposed that Parliament proceed with the JCD but in time consider a Constitutional change in order to initialise the new Joint Committee on Oversight and Security Matters. She added that the Parliamentary Law Advisors should provide a memo documenting which provisions of the Interim Constitution remained in place and suggested the parties consider the RDP Committee.

Item 8.1
Ms Adhikari briefed the Committee on the implementation of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act and suggested that certain provisions may require amendments. After a request for clarity by the Chairperson, Ms Adhikari provided an overview of the Act.

Mr Mahlangu asked whether or not the clauses in the Act affected the Provinces and if so, would the Provincial Legislatures be required to amend their rules.

Ms Chohan-Kota [ANC][NA] suggested that a whole regime relating to the powers and privileges of Parliament needed to be established in the rules in order to give effect to the provisions in the Act and suggested that the Act be referred to the Sub-Committee on the Review of Rules.

Mr Tsenoli indicated that the Act had significant implications which needed to be examined and added that Members needed to be proactively informed.

Mr Masutha [ANC][NA] agreed and inquired as to what arrangements had been made for implementing the Act.

The Chairperson responded that the Act provided for the establishment of a Standing Committee which could assist in the development of rules and asserted that the Sub-Committee on the Review of Rules should proceed with the matter.

Ms Adhikari explained that the provinces would have to examine what rules they required to give effect to the provisions in the Act.

Item 8.2
Mr Hahndiek presented to the Committee on issues of Oversight and Accountability. The Chairperson indicated that the Presiding Officers had agreed to appoint a task team to explore the matter and make recommendations to the JRC and that the task team would be directed by Mr Nhleko [ANC][NA] and Mr Setona [ANC][NCOP]. Ms Kgoali stressed that the task team should move ahead immediately.

Item 8.3
The Chairperson proposed that the JRC convene a special meeting to deal with the interim report on the scrutiny of delegated legislation. Mr Nel noted that the Committee had already called two special meetings. The JRC agreed to the Chair's proposal.

Item 8.4
Ms Gordon briefed the Committee on the problems with language practices in Parliament in relation to Bills and amendment Bills.

Mr Tsenoli inquired as to the purpose of clause 2 of the draft Bill.

The Chairperson indicated that it was necessary to explain the thinking behind the draft Bill.

Ms Gordon advised that Members should focus on the principles of the Bill as the details were still being formulated.

Mr Nel noted that, as the text was unreliable, the Members would require a summary of the Bill and added that more work needed to be done before the Bill could be referred to a Committee.

Mr Palmer [Parliamentary Law Advisor] commented that the Bill needed to be taken further politically.

Mr Hahndiek suggested that the JRC refer to previous decisions in order to clarify the intention behind the proposal.

Mr Jeffery [ANC][NA] raised a query concerning the position of the State Law Advisors and proposed that they be involved in the drafting process.

The Chairperson declared that a document needed to be prepared which dealt with the issues in the draft Bill.

Item 8.5
Mr Hahndiek briefed the JRC on the designation of a Committee to receive quarterly reports on national arms control in terms of the National Conventional Arms Control Act.

Mr Nel suggested that the JRC designate the Joint Committee on Defence [JCD] and recommended that the Foreign Affairs Committee be involved in the process.

The Chairperson proposed that the Committee on Trade and Industry also be consulted.

Ms De Lille observed that the functions of the JCD were assigned by the Constitution and inquired whether the JRC had the powers to extend the mandate of the JCD.

Mr Jeffery indicated that it should not be a problem as the Committee was adding a function and not removing one.

The Chairperson confirmed that the Committee agreed to designate the JCD to receive quarterly reports on national conventional arms control.

The meeting was adjourned.


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