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AD HOC COMMITTEE ON THE FILLING OF VACANCIES ON THE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
15 September 1998
INTERVIEWS WITH CANDIDATES
The chairperson, Ms M Rantho, checked that all parties on the committee were represented and it was noted that a representative was absent from the PAC, ACDP and the DP (apologies were given on behalf of Ms D Smuts). The NP, the IFP and the ANC were thus represented. Ms Rantho also welcomed Mr. Barney Pityana, the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission who was going to sit in on the meetings.
This meeting was the first of potentially four, in which the committee would interview a shortlist of candidates for 3 positions on the Human Rights Commission. (Two of these being permanent and one part time.) The shortlist totalled 10 candidates. They are as follows :
Dr. Gladstone Sandi Bhayi
Mrs. Marlene Bosset
Mr.Richard Michael Lyster
Ms Zonke Majodina
Adv. Moeketsi Russell Moletsane
Mr. Thomas Manthata
Mr. Selaelo Wilson Makgato
Dr. Lindelwa Ntutela
Mrs. Joyce Seroke
Mr. Leon Wessels
First Interview: Dr. Gladstone Sandi Bhayi
Dr. Bhayi stated that he had been involved in Human Rights activities quite extensively as a student. He had done postgraduate work in the United States. He had worked on many campaigns for the struggle and had been involved in the sanctions debate quite extensively. He received a scholarship from the University of Durham in England, and was part of the anti-apartheid movement there. He had also worked in Basel and Geneva, and had studied the culture of human rights.
Ms Chalmers (ANC) asked in what areas of human rights Mr Bhayi had been involved and what skills did he possess.
Dr. Bhayi stated that he had obtained a PhD in Ethics. He was involved in the draft of the Code of Conduct in 1997, that was launched in Cape Town. He is a researcher and has written numerous papers. A book to which he contributed, is to be published soon. He said that he also has public communication skills . Dr. Bhayi added that if he were to be appointed he would do research in the area of ethics and empowerment. He has worked for the Public Service Commission writing speeches, press statements and lectures etc. He stated that corruption and human resources are related and that ethics is part of human rights.
The National Party asked Dr. Bhayi what he considered the purpose of the South African Human Rights Commission to be.
He stated that it was to promote, protect and dignify human rights.
Mr Gumede (ANC) asked how the commissioners could promote a human rights culture in our traditional society i.e. Afrikaner, religious, African society.
Dr. Bhayi answered that South Africa was a social formation. He made the distinction between the poor and the well-off. If he was to promote a culture of human rights, he would design an instrument or mechanism that would involve two things. Firstly, to develop pressure groups which would maintain standards. This would involve the public, private and civil service. Secondly, he would draw in intellectuals and academics, to relate to the human rights problem. The artists and media would be used too. He stressed that the local level was important too.
Ms Chalmers stated that the work of the Public Service Commission was quite a ‘hands on’ process. Would the move to the Human Rights Commission be one of personal growth?
Dr. Bhayi stressed that it was not only important to be a commissioner in the office. One should be involved with the people.
Another question from the committee was why Dr. Bhayi was leaving the Public Service Commission. Also they asked his views on the debate of the human rights of the victim and the criminal and who gets the better treatment.
Dr. Bhayi said that the issue of the human rights of the victim and perpetrator were lodged in the years between 1948 and 1960 and one could not overlook the issues found here. Regarding his decision to move he stated he had been involved in human rights issues for 20 years now and it was time for him to go back to the people and the culture of human rights.
Ms Vos (IFP) then asked a question regarding the abused. In particular she stressed black, elderly women who were suffering moral degeneration, poverty etc from family and friends preying on their pensions and property. She stated that it was an issue of paramount importance. She wanted to know how one would take this issue to the people and was it appropriate. Was it perhaps beyond the confines of the judicial system.
Dr. Bhayi spoke about the African philosophy of Ubuntu,which is a humanness, a kindness and sense of respect. At present it seemed that people were not referring to this. If they did it would unite the country in a culture of human rights. He then spoke of violence in two categories. These being, domestic and community. He argued that one should look to the balance of power between men and women.
Ms Vos then queried whether exposing the communities and shaming them would be the answer.
Dr. Bhayi stressed that integrity systems should be put in place.
A question was then asked as to what issue of human rights would he prioritise.
Dr Bhayi stated that the first priority would be networking at a local level, installing a bottom-up approach, looking from the urban to the rural areas.
Second interview: Dr. Lindelwa Ntutela
Ms Rantho asked Dr. Ntutela tell the committee a bit about herself. Dr. Ntutela said that she was a Social Scientist by profession. She had been in prison and in exile for 18 years. She had worked previously in the NGO sector and in the Deputy President’s Office. With regards to the Human Rights Commission, she had technical expertise as she was working on the Equality Legislation Project to give effect to the imperatives of the Constitution.
Ms Vos stated that human rights in her view were womens’ rights, and that the Gender Commission was integral to the Human Rights Commission. What should the Human Rights Commission as opposed to the Gender Commission be doing?
Dr. Ntutela stated that it should be ensured that powers and functions do not overlap but instead they co-operate. It was necessary for the Gender Commission to ensure equality. The two are not mutually exclusive. Cases from the Human Rights Commission are referred to the Gender Commission . For example the case of a pregnant women unfairly dismissed was first referred to the Human Rights Commission then to the Gender Commission and lastly it was handed over to Labour.
Ms van der Merwe (ANC) asked if there was an opportunity to initiate an educational program in the Human Rights Commission, as a commissioner what would she do.
Dr. Ntutela said that all issues of equality are human rights issues. She has training in racial and gender issues but at the moment she is doing work in all sections of human rights. She has cut across all grounds. However in specific areas she would look to the rights of the downtrodden. These being the socio-economic rights of the poor.
Another question from the committee was that as a candidate she was fairly young, if she was to do practical work in human rights how would she get people to reveal issues (especially in the African culture) to her.
Dr. Ntutela the replied that she was not that young! Perhaps in the physical sense but certainly not in knowledge and wisdom. In the African world view she stressed that youth did not mean a lack of knowledge. Young people learn from the elderly and vice versa. She had conducted workshops in three provinces on the rights of women and children.
Ms Chalmers then asked if moving away from her present work would leave a gap, or was the move to commissioner a natural progression. The chairperson also asked at this point the reasons for her move in terms of her present work.
Dr. Ntutela stressed that the work of the commission and her present work were not that different. Her present work had a short lifespan too. No gap would be left as members of the project management were also members of the commission.
Ms Vos then stated that in South Africa there were vast reserves of expertise. She wanted to know how one ‘reaches’ the people, especially as a skilled commissioner.
Dr. Ntutela stated that commissioners were not there solely as a means to provide the Commission with status. There should instead be a balance between the theory and the practice. Commitment in every way to social change should be the goal. She said that it was her belief that whoever got the position must balance theory and practice so that the commission did not become a ‘white elephant’. She added that she had seen commissions in other parts of the world where this point had not worked out.
Mr Gumede stated that there were problems in farming communities with regards to human rights. How would she go about solving these problems.
Dr. Ntutela stated that the Human Rights Commission is guided by the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and in some instances the Vienna Declaration. It therefore has the mandate to implement these rights. The Bill of Rights stresses the rights to life, to work, to be protected etc. She noted that farm workers and children had been exposed to brutality and that the commission had received and was in the process of handling these violations of human rights. It was the duty and responsibility of the commission to visit these areas or establish a portfolio regarding them.
Ms Vos asked whether people should be forced to do communal work or be publicly shamed for human rights violations.
Dr. Ntutela stated that as far as she knew this had not happened in South Africa; but legislation was being drafted in order to ensure that those who violated human rights were brought into the public eye. It was therefore not a violation of that person’s rights. Public scrutiny could therefore play an educative role. This has already been done in African society.
One panellist suggested that South Africa was at the advocacy stage of human rights development and wanted to know if South Africa was aggressive enough in awareness and what was the way forward.
Dr Ntutela stated that South Africa was dragging a few steps behind. This was not entirely the responsibility of the Human Rights Commission. Human rights will only be entrenched when several other institutions collaborate.
MP Vos wanted to know what institutions these were.
Dr. Ntutela said these were Commission on Gender Equality, the CCMA and the Public Protector. NGOs and CBOs were also primary stakeholders in establishing human rights. Human rights were not solely the responsibility of the commission itself. Awareness would be in advocacy. However, a look in the mirror since 1996 would reveal the creation, establishment, promotion of human rights which was positive. However these institutions did not provide for dysjuncture.
MP Chalmers then asked if it was the philosophy of human rights to move into schools for creating an ethos for a better grounding in human rights.
Dr Ntutela stated that this was the most crucial and primary aspect. Curriculum 2005 should definitely include the teaching of human rights. Here the rights of the individual and of others too. An awareness should be made. In this stage of metamorphosis, ‘foot soldiers’ should be used to implement human rights amongst the population.
Education, both formal and informal, should be the tool of the Human Rights Commission.
Third interview: Mr.Richard Michael Lyster
This interview was not monitored.
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