Discussion of Subcommittee Report

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Meeting report



5 November 1998


Document handed out:

Subcommittee Report, 20 October 1998 (see Appendix)


The committee discussed the method of dealing with submissions as well as outlining a framework for the following Constitutional Review Committee in 1999.


Mr Eglin (DP) said the committee needed a serious mechanism of considering public comments and submissions. It also needed to be proactive and not wait for submissions. He said by focusing on a topic, for example national or provincial relations, the public would be able to give a better contribution. He said this was a committee to review the constitution and not to change it.

A point was made that the committee should be realistic about what it hoped to achieve, as the lifespan of this parliament was very short. It was suggested that the committee should lay the groundwork for the next committee by looking at submissions and proposing a way to deal with it in the future rather than trying to deal with them presently.

The Chairperson, Mr Hofmeyr (ANC), said only the submissions from the IFP had raised real substantive issues and the committee would discuss these in February or March 1999. The rest would be left for the new parliament's constitutional review committee. Hence the committee would set the agenda for the new committee, as that committee would only sit in late 1999. The Chairperson said the committee would set the agenda by outlining the framework within which to work but would not deal with rules as this committee could not bind the next by dealing with and agreeing on rules.

It was also said that a new and clear link between the Constitutional Review Committee and the Constitutional Committee and any other government agency that dealt with the constitution needed to be elaborated on.

The Chairperson urged the members to consult and think about focus areas for the Constitutional Review Committee and report at the next meeting of the committee. It was also said that documents of this committee would be sent to the chairpersons of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces' Constitutional Committees to keep them informed of what happened in the committee.

The committee members asked the Chairperson, with the assistance of the committee secretary, to summarise the submissions received and report on these for its next meeting.

Appendix: Subcommittee Report: 20/10/98

Constitutional Review Committee

Discussion document

20 October 1998


· The CRC met for the first time in August 1998 and established a sub-committee to draw up proposals on how it should proceed with its work.

· The sub-committee met on 30 September to discuss the various issues raised. The Chair and deputy chair were then asked to draw up a draft report from the sub-committee to be circulated to the various parties for consideration and mandates.

1. Proposed process for CRC in future

· The major issue that needs clarification is how the CRC will process submissions it will receive from 1999. The Rules provide that it must advertise for submissions in May, and submit a report to Parliament in the 3rd quarter.

· The advertising process should allow for submissions to be made on any topic.

· However, it was felt that there should be an effort to focus the discussions each year on certain issues. This would enable to CRC to have proper inputs and debates on those issues. It would also encourage civil society to make more serious inputs into the process as they would be aware that there would be serious debate on the issues outlined.

· The CRC could even agree on a program for a few years in advance to make it easier accommodate the issues raised by the smaller parties.

· Generally the CRC would debate issues rather than detailed proposals for constitutional amendments. Should agreement be reached that a specific amendment is required to the Constitution, this should happen through the normal process as it is at present.

· The present CRC should make proposals for the issues to be discussed next year as Parliament would only reconvene after the advertisements had already been placed.

2. Submissions already received

· In regard to the submissions that the CRC has already received, it was felt that it would not be possible to follow the above process due to lack of time.

· The CRC will draw up a report to Parliament outlining the submissions received, and highlight those issues that should be considered further by the incoming CRC.

· All those who had made submissions have received letters of acknowledgement. Once this document has been agreed, they should be informed of the process to be followed, and supplied with a copy of the report to be submitted to Parliament.

· However, it was felt that some of the submissions, particularly those from the IFP which have been referred to the CRC, raised issues of substance and that the CRC should perhaps consider a special sitting in February to debate some of these issues.

· It was agreed that there would be further discussions between the chair and deputy chair on this matter.

3. Constitutional amendments by private members Bills

· The Constitution provides that private members have to right to submit Bills that change the Constitution, but these Bills have usually not received the attention they deserve.

· It was suggested that perhaps the CRC rather than the Private Members Committee should decide whether such Bills should be processed by Parliament. This would probably mean that the CRC would need a sitting during the 1st half of the year to consider any such Bills that may have been tabled. Such a decision may well require a change in the Rules.

· The matter should be discussed further, and a final decision should be taken by the incoming Parliament.

4. A role for CRC in normal constitutional amendments

· A further issue that was considered was whether the CRC should play a role in the processing of normal constitutional amendments.

· It was agreed that the distinction between the work of the CRC and the Portfolio Committee should remain. It is the task of the PC to process proposed amendments to the Constitution once these had been approved.

· It is possible that the CRC can play some role in discussing amendments proposed by various government departments. A final decision on this issue should be taken by the incoming CRC.

5. Constitutional Education

· Finally, it was felt that the CRC should attempt to play a role in making people more aware of the Constitution constitutional debates.

· Again this is an issue that can probably only be resolved by the incoming CRC.


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