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AD HOC COMMITTEE ON THE FILLING OF VACANCIES OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
22 July 1998
ADVERTISING VACANCIES: PLANNING
Documents handed out:
Letter from the Chairperson of South African Human Rights Committee (see Appendix)
Ms Rantho (Chair - ANC) started the meeting by welcoming Mr Pityana (Chair - Human Rights Commission) as observer. She told the committee that three members of the Human Rights Commission (HRC) had resigned and that these positions now need to be filled. All three members who have resigned are women and as s193(2) of the Human Rights Commission Act requires that the Commission be gender representative, this matter would have to be addressed in appointing new members; as would the racial composition of the Commission. It was noted that two of the members were full-time incumbents and one part-time. The Commission members will be expected to deal with, inter alia, the Open Democracy Bill and the Employment Equity Bill.
Ms Rantho then went on to propose that the positions be advertised once-off in all the Sunday Newspapers and some of the larger dailies and weeklies. She pointed out that advertising costs were however very high and the committee would have to be selective.
Ms Smuts (DP) suggested that it might be better to advertise more than once in the Sunday papers, rather than using dailies and weeklies.
Ms Rantho responded by pointing out that the budget for all 9 Ad Hoc Committees amounted to only R450 000 in all. Of this R350 000 was still available. This meant that all committees would have to be very selective about what they spent money on.
Ms Pandor then suggested that if the positions were advertised once in the Sunday papers and once in the dailies/weeklies (with one being selected per province on the basis of price/circulation) the cost could be kept below R40 000.
The Chair agreed and said that the choice of newspapers could be left to the Committee Section. She went on to suggest that applicants be given 10 days to respond to the advertisement.
Ms Smuts (DP) felt that this was too little time, with applicants needing at least two weeks.
The Chair accepted a period of two weeks. There was then discussion on whether this two week period should start from the appearance of the first or last advertisement. It appears that the closing date will be calculated from the first advertisement - Ms Pandor (ANC) saying that if it was still possible for adverts to be placed in the Sunday papers of 26 July, the closing date will be 10 August.
Ms Smuts (DP) argued that this was too little time and would result in a number of late submissions which would be disqualified.
Mr Kekana (ANC) suggested that as most nominations come from organisations, they could be contacted directly for submissions.
Ms Smuts (DP) said that the committee would have to be very careful in this respect as they could be seen to be favouring certain organisations. Furthermore, s6 of the Act calls for the input of civil society. She also reminded the committee that the appointments needed to be made within this session of Parliament and that a timetable needed to be drawn up.
Ms Pandor (ANC) said that this was planned.
Mr Kekana (ANC) recommended that the shortlist be kept to 9 people.
Ms Pandor (ANC) said that she felt there was no real need to limit numbers (unlike the IBA applications) and that no limitations should be made until applications had been considered. Most members appeared to agree with this sentiment.
Ms Smuts (DP) then pointed out that s1993(2) of the Act was guiding and not mandatory. She felt that the committee should look for the best people for the jobs and not focus on employing women to fill the positions.
Ms Rantho (Chair -ANC) agreed, but said that it was nonetheless necessary for the committee to be gender sensitive when making appointments.
When asked, Mr Pityana told the committee that the Commission at present had only three female commissioners, with one of those (Helen Suzman) being part-time.
Mr Kekana (ANC) asked that the committee be supplied with the names and specialities of the existing commissioners, as well as whether they were full or part time. He also asked whether reports had been submitted by the HRC to Parliament.
Ms Pandor (ANC) confirmed that they had.
Mr Kekana then asked whether it was not necessary to request a further report from the HRC, as many issues, such as the Vryburg problem, had cropped up since submission of the annual report.
Ms Rantho (Chair -ANC) said that this would just confuse the issue. The Committee's brief is merely to appoint new Commissioners.
Ms Smuts (DP) disagreed. She felt that it was necessary to take into account all aspects of the HRC's work and the difficulties it experienced.
Ms Pandor (ANC) reiterated that this is not the Committee's brief. Members should take this sort of background work up individually, although the committee clerk was at their disposal.
Ms Rantho asked the committee whether they were happy with the advert which had previously been used.
Ms Smuts answered that she was happy with the layout. Ms Pandor asked whether the advert should not lay out criteria for applicants.
The Chair agreed with this proposal, but Ms Smuts pointed out that these criteria would have to be quoted directly from the Act and that while this might be acceptable, it would certainly increase the cost of advertising. Furthermore, those people who were qualified to apply inevitably know what the criteria are. The Committee agreed with Ms Smuts.
Appendix: Letter from the Chairperson of South African Human Rights Committee
SOUTH AFRICAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
June 8, 1998
Dear Ms Rantho,
APPOINTMENT OF COMMISSIONERS
Congratulations on your election to Chair the Ad Hoc Committee on the Human Rights Commission, I look forward to working very closely with you. Please never hesitate to get in touch should you require assistance from me.
As indicated in our telephone conversation last Friday, we are anxious that these vacancies be filled as soon as possible. We sincerely hope that your Committee will attend to this matter as soon as possible. You may be aware that the Commission has had vacancies for a while now. Ms Bam resigned with effect from October and Ms Kadalie since December. Mrs Anne Rontier left the Commission end of May. We therefore have three vacancies at the moment.
We wish to draw your attention to the provision in Section 193(2) and (6) of the Constitution. Sub-section 2 requires that appointments to the Commission should reflect broadly the race and gender Composition of South African society. Sub-section 6 proposes the involvement of civil society in the recommendation process. We wish to advise that with the departure of three women Commissioners, the Commission is presently under-represented as far as women are concerned. Secondly, the Commission is under-represented as far as minority groups are concerned: whites, Afrikaans-speaking South Africans. Finally, although not a strict requirement, we are looking for particular skills in the new crop of commissioners. We note, in particular, our constitutional responsibilities regarding social and economic rights and the forthcoming Statutory obligations regarding the Open Democracy Bill. New Commissioners should show some Competence in those areas.
Regarding the involvement of civil society; I presume that advertisements inviting nominations will be published soon. I suggest that the adverts reflect the needs of the Commission stated above.. Secondly, I hope that you will continue with the practice of inviting a representative of the Commission to sit in at the interviews.
I hope that this information is of assistance to you. Kindly advise us about progress in this matter.
Thanking you in anticipation.
N Barney Pityana
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