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CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW JOINT COMMITTEE
13 April 2005
CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW SUBMISSIONS: DISCUSSION
Chairperson: Mr E Schoeman (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Summary of Decisions of Joint Rules Committee meeting on 18 November 2004
Amendments Proposed to Document on Governance Model
The Committee debated the role of the Committee and the extent of the Constitutional review necessary. There was consensus that due to the possible dangers of non-inclusion of very sensitive matters, a general review would be conducted.
The Chairperson stated that the meeting had been convened to review the Constitution for matters that needed further public debate. The outcome of the previous meeting should be narrowed to dealing with one or two major issues that were problematic, but not overly controversial. It was agreed that the coverage of the review should be streamlined although it would be problematic to identify areas for particular focus. As a result, a general review would be more appropriate.
Mrs R Ndzanga (ANC) asked what would happen to the laws that were made before the 1996 Constitution was adopted.
The Chairperson responded that the Constitution did not automatically nullify the acts that operated before. Any replacement of those laws would follow the due process of law. The existence of the Constitution however was to facilitate the functions of the government if restrictions in decision-making were encountered.
Ms M Njobe (ANC) agreed with the earlier proposal that the Constitutional review be general and not targeted at specific areas in the Constitution. She asked the purpose of the document circulated at the previous meeting. Though some of the issues listed in the document had a Constitutional basis for their existence, others were unnecessary. The backlog of those issues should be resolved before delving into specific Constitutional matters.
The Chairperson said the last Committee meeting had agreed that it would solicit the input of the Select and Portfolio Committees on Justice and Constitutional Development. As this document showed how different Departments were affected, those Departments would be invited to address the Committee. The Committee should not be put in the position where it was advising those departments to operate effectively in a "Constitutional vacuum". This Committee had a Constitutional imperative to conduct an annual review by 1 May 2005, and thus it had two weeks to achieve this.
Mr J Jeffrey (ANC) stated that if there was conflict between laws made before this Constitution and existing Constitutional provisions, the earlier laws would be struck down. There was a Constitutional requirement to review the whole Constitution so there had to be adequate representation of the various lobby groups. However several factors could not allow for such specific reviews to be conducted. A general Constitutional review should be conducted this year with a view to adopting a more specific approach in the next review.
Mr P Smith (IFP) supported a general review of the Constitution. He suggested that an agenda that defined the role of the Committee and the reason for the review being drawn up.
The Chairperson responded that the role of the Committee was an ongoing discussion. The Committee had been active for eight years but lacked effectiveness. The Committee needed to do a review of the Constitution because there was a Constitutional directive in section 42 (1)(C). However, this provision could be recommended for amendment if the Committee was convinced that the Committee on Justice and Development could perform its functions better.
Mr J Jeffrey observed that there was a lack of clarity about when the information on the Constitutional review should be advertised.
The Chairperson responded that according to the law, advertisements should be placed by 1 May and submissions must be made by 30 May. The Committee would deliberate on the final submissions.
Ms M Njobe (ANC) said that there was too limited time. Previously, submissions to this Committee had included input from "people at the grassroots". In this instance, how would the limited time allow for external contributions, so that the review exercise was not restricted to privileged sectors? The media could be used to disseminate the requisite information to the public, although information got through personal contact was preferable.
Mr P Smith suggested they write an agenda that clarified the ambits of the Constitutional Review
The Chairperson stated that the idea of a review was not to rewrite the Constitution. Public input was necessary but the timeframe did not allow for it. However, if problems were identified within certain areas of the submissions, the Committee would consult affected sectors of the public. The issue of budgetary constraints was also currently being addressed. Advertisements on national television would not be done. Regarding the coverage and language of advertisements, the Chairperson said research would be conducted about these issues, and the findings would be communicated to the Committee.
The meeting was adjourned.
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