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CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW COMMITTEE
15 February 1999
ANNUAL REPORT; TECHNICAL CONSTITUTION WORKING GROUP REPORT; METHOD OF WORKING
Document handed out:
Technical Constitution Working Group Annual Report
Subcommittee Report, 20 October 1998 (see Appendix)
The Chairperson (Willie Hofmeyr, ANC) suggested referring item one from the agenda – the annual report of the Committee – to a subcommittee made up of one person from each party as well as the two Chairpersons. The subcommittee would be responsible for finalising the annual report and presenting it to the Committee at the next meeting. There was no objection.
The Chair then moved to item two on the agenda: a discussion of the Technical Constitution Working Group (TCW). The Chair mentioned that Adv Anton Meyer, a Parliamentary Law Adviser who sits on the TCW, was present to discuss the TCW with the Committee.
Mr. Meyer explained that the TCW was formed in 1996, before the Constitution was implemented. He asked members of the Committee to note pages 2 and 3 of the TCW’s most recent annual report, which explains that the role of the TCW is to monitor and co-ordinate the implementation of the Constitution, and to ensure that information is shared between role players as appropriate. He also asked Committee members to note the annexe to the annual report, which includes a summary of timeframes for the implementation of various parts of the Constitution. He also called attention to Annexure B, which assesses the degree of implementation to date.
Mr. Meyer said that as he understands the workings of the Joint Committee, it makes sense for them to co-ordinate with the TCW.
The Chair said that the only concern he has is that the date on which the TCW publishes their annual report, which is usually mid-July, is probably too late to be helpful to the Joint Committee.
Mr. Meyer said that regarding the date of the annual report, he cannot speak for the Department, but he thinks they would be willing to co-ordinate more closely with the Joint Committee’s time requirements.
The Chair thanked Mr. Meyer for his discussion of the TCW and said he thought there were two open issues. First would be the timeframe for completing an annual report each year – the Chair asked Mr. Meyer to take a request to the Department of Constitutional Development that their report be finalised by May of each year, as that would coincide nicely with the process in the Joint Committee. The second issue is that reports of the TCW seem to deal primarily with technical issues regarding areas of the Constitution that may or may not have been implemented, while dealing very little with a discussion of ways in which matters are not working as they should be. The Chair asked if that was part of the TCW’s brief or not.
Mr. Meyer answered that the TCW is heading in the direction of commenting on areas for improvement, and would include that in their next annual report, but to date they have been focused primarily on technical aspects of the Constitution regarding timing and implementation.
An MP (ANC) said the Joint Committee and TCW could cover two areas of activity in terms of the Constitution. The first is oversight of timing for legislation that has to be implemented by a certain date, which they are currently covering. The second would be areas where they could have broader consultation, and give access to the public to input into the process, and publish the results of those types of submissions.
An MP (ANC) stated that she feels it is important to ensure that both the Joint Committee and the TCW continue to function in a way that minimises duplication between what the two bodies are doing.
Mr. Meyer responded that initially the role of the TCW was to be a forum of Directors-General of various departments, although it has now become mostly a meeting of lawyers in those respective departments. The whole purpose of the TCW is in the line of co-ordinating the work of different departments and committees. To take the case of legislation that must be passed by a certain time, for example, their role is to track the process so they know where responsibility for the next step currently lies and to make sure that implementation takes place.
The Chair asked the Joint Committee for further issues, and none were raised. The Chair asked the Secretariat to draft a letter from the Joint Committee to the TCW laying out the issues raised in the meeting. The Chair then moved to the third agenda item: the method of working for the Committee. The main issue is the selection of topics for discussion. They will be advertising to the parties for submissions in May, to agree on primary issues for discussion next August. The Chair suggested referring further discussion on the matter to a subcommittee, which can balance the priorities of the different parties. The final number of issues for consideration should be around four or five.
The Chair said the second aspect of the third agenda item is regarding the IFP’s submission last year. The Chair said he had tried with the Parliamentary programming offices to find additional time, but it looks unlikely at this stage. Given the number of items on the programme, he proposes that the submission from the IFP be discussed next year.
An MP (IFP) said while they would have loved to have a discussion on their submission this year, given the tightness of the schedule they would rather the submission be discussed next year when it can receive the proper amount of attention.
The Chair asked for any additional comments, and there were none, so the meeting was adjourned.
Appendix: Subcommittee Report: 20/10/98
Constitutional Review Committee
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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TRIP TO SWITZERLAND, GERMANY AND BELGIUM
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