Language policy for Parliament

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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

Rules Committee

25 March 1998

Present: Chairperson of the NCOP Patrick Lekota (Chair, ANC), Permanent Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP Bulelani Ngcuka (ANC), 10 members of the ANC, 7 members of minority parties and several clerks.

In response to a question by Mr Lekota members present confirmed they had all received the relevant documents i.e. the Proposal for Language Policy for Parliament (by the Presiding Officers) and the alternative proposals (by various parties).

A member for the National Party then started the discussion by asking whether the opinion of the Pan South African Language Board had already been received (see report on Joint Rules Committee meeting of 10 March) and if so when the opinion would be made available to members. He continued by mentioning the outcome of a meeting of the NA Rules Committee. Apparently, the NA Rules Committee has decided (during a meeting on Tuesday 24 March) not to discuss the matter of Language Policy for Parliament, but to leave it for the Joint Rules Committee to discuss and decide. The Joint Rules Committee is supposed to meet for that purpose on Tuesday 21 April.

With regard to the first point, the Chair told the meeting he knew the Pan South African Language Board had sent an opinion and obviously that opinion should be made available to everyone. However, the Secretary to Parliament stated that formally Parliament had not yet received a response from the Board. It was agreed that this would be checked.

With regard to the second point, several members suggested to follow the example of the NA Rules Committee and leave the matter for the Joint Rules Committee to decide. Other members, Mr Moosa (ANC) in particular, proposed to use today’s NCOP Rules Committee meeting to have an exploratory discussion on the matter. The Chair agreed with Mr Moosa and suggested they have an exploratory discussion before taking any procedural decisions.

Subsequently, another ANC member pointed out that the issue was first raised in the Joint Rules Committee and should therefore be discussed and decided on the same level. Mr Lekota partially agreed: since the issue will effect parliament as a whole it has to be decided by parliament as a whole, i.e. by the Joint Rules Committee. However, that does not exclude the possibility of an exploratory discussion in the NCOP Rules Committee.

During the short discussion that followed it suddenly seemed to be unclear why the NA Rules Committee postponed the matter. Do they intend to hold another NA Rules Committee meeting to discuss the issue at a later stage (but before the Joint Rules Committee meeting on 21 April) or do they want to leave the matter to the Joint Rules Committee altogether? Mr Lekota suggested they check with the NA and subsequently stated that parties need the opportunity to not only introduce their proposals on this issue but also discuss the various proposals and make a well-informed choice. A member for the ANC added that it is not up to a particular House to decide the issue. Parties will have to decide. Therefore, there is no need for a NCOP brainstorm on this matter. The meeting ended by Mr Lekota asking whether this was the feeling of the House, which the members present (particularly the members for the ANC) then confirmed.

Lia Nijzink


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