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AD HOC COMMITTEE ON FILLING OF VACANCIES ON HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
21 September 1998
Four candidates were interviewed in this meeting: Mr M Moletsane, Ms M Bossett, Mr L Wessels and Mr SW Mkgato.
Name of candidate: Mr M Moletsane
Time spent: 11h20 – 12h00
Chairperson, Ms M Rantho (ANC): Please tell us about yourself, your work and experience?
Response: I am a son of a farm worker, and was born in Klipfontein. I graduated from Wits University with a BA degree in Industrial Psychology and Sociology. I did my LLB (Wits) majoring in Human Rights. Post graduate in Labour Law (Rand University) and Masters degrees in Fundamental Human Rights and Consumer Practice. Work experience is as follows:
- worked at Gold fields mines
- National Union of Mine Workers as a Labour officer and served on staff association.
- Black Lawyers Association as a reseacher – presiding at industrial court as well as on arbitration on a part time basis.
- Part time law lecturer at VISTA University, and Wits Technikon
- CCMA (1996) as a commissioner focusing on unfair labour practice issues
Ms S van der Merwe (ANC): Can you describe to us how do you see the Human Rights Commission doing its work and the possible role you could play as a commissioner if successful?
Response: I would like to see the role of Human Rights Commission as that of an independent Commission established to deal with abuses of human rights and race-related issues. This independence should not be seen as independent from government but rather as an organisation whose funding does not come from the government.
Personally I would like to serve the people of the country in terms of Human Rights Commission Act of 1994, in labour-related issues which are human rights issues. My role would be bringing expertise to bear on the work of Human Rights Commission. In 1996 I established the Voice of Soweto which is a community radio talk show that deals with educating over one million people of Soweto on human rights issues. But also my role would not be limited to labour issues but also to the rights of prisoners.
Training in conciliation, mediation and arbitration which is where my skill lies would help greatly in the work of Human Rights Commission.
Introduction of meritorious awards in South African university for the best student in Human Rights Law and Consumer Law would help to encourage and develop students.
Create a fund with the help of fellow South Africans (i.e. Cyril Ramaphosa) to encourage students.
Question by Ms J Chalmers (ANC) Your ideas on how the poorest of the poor could have access to human rights provisions as well as the poor making contact with the Human Rights Commission?
Response: The starting point is money. The Commission needs money in order to function properly. Socio-economic rights of people must be enforced with NGOs and Human Rights Commission working together to bring about a human rights culture. Community service: students and lecturers in the field of law would be used to teach their own people about human rights. But without the commission been adequately supported financially some of these objectives would be difficult to achieve.
Question : Explain how you would explore the need for human rights to intervene on the broader issue of Customary Laws as it applies to rural women and disabled people, as well as the need for the commission to take further these issues given your urban background and development?
Response: The constitution recognises customs and customary practices. There is no … in the Bill of Rights in regard to this. My background, although I grew up in the urban area, my roots lie in the rural area of ….. My parents comes from the ….. On disabled people, as a single person who is not yet married it means the ability to travel and devote extensive time to work, as opposed to married people. As a field worker by nature with background in mine unionism and at the same time competent in many of the South African languages (Xhosa, Zulu,Sotho, English), I’m able to communicate with both the employers and the employees in language which both parties could understand. Would facilitate the empowerment of disabled people within the business sector through representative organisations.
Question by Ms M Rantho: Explain where your interest lies with regard to the rights of prisoners and the law ending up protecting the perpetrators rather than victims of human rights?
Response: The starting point is that prisoners are not in prisons because they wanted t be there. They are not born prisoners, they are victims of their circumstances. Socio- economic rights must not be separated from civil rights – the poverty situation is a disaster for crime. Prisoners must be given every opportunity to be intergrated back into the society. They must be allowed to study so that they can become a changed person. Victims of crimes should also be taken into account but the war is between the haves and the have nots. Positive role models must be fostered in the communities as opposed to drug dealers.
Name of the candidate: Ms M Bossett
Time spent: 12h00 – 12h20 – (20 min)
Question by Ms Rantho (ANC): Tell us about yourself, work and interest in the Human Rights Commission?
Response: Currently I’m working as a Sanlam employment equity manager. Current changes involve changing the culture of the organisation while the mandate involves developing a strategic plan for transforming the organisation.
Before that, part of the diversity team responsible for changing the culture to that of democracy with various NGOs and organised labour movements in and around the world – developing training programs around transformation.
In 1993 I worked as a project manager for Trauma Centre and I was responsible for the psycho-socio issues of torture survivors and ex-political prisoners, as well as liaison with human rights organisations.
Outside South Africa: I’ve done a lot of human rights work both as psychotherapist and a psychologist, advocating and lobbying for right to health care, social welfare and the right to human dignity.
Question by Ms Chalmers: Explain what is your vision for the Human Rights Commission in South Africa with specific relation to those with fewer privileges who live in rural areas? Having been a Capetonian, how would that affect your decision to relocate if considered for the position?
Response: The question of relocation - had the first relocation at the age of five. If you believe in a course, you take it and life goes on. On the question of assess, there is a culture that people can get … abuses of human rights. It is also the function of the Commission to get to the people in the rural areas. Lobby and advocate for the people who historically have no rights – education.
Question by Ms M Ngwenya (ANC): Explain, during your work at the Trauma Centre, how you managed as a young person to get people to accept as well as speak out about their experiences?
Response: Closure of people is a reality to be experienced and seen. Within these experiences are many success stories of old women who are survivors of torture and the formation of an old women’s survivors group within a period of six months.
Question by Ms Van der Merwe: Why do you want to leave Sanlam?
Response: I think it’s a natural convection. Its all about people, justice, equity and human rights. At Trauma Centre, at Sanlam, it’s all about human rights. I have fulfilled my strategic goal. Now the work is only about statistics and developing programs.
Question by Mr G Rockman (ANC): Can your communicate and write in Xhosa and German as indicated in your C.V?
Response: No, but can be learned again. At Trauma Centre I made use of translators, with practise it could come back. From 1980 –1983 I studied the language. In 1984 I taught Xhosa and German extra-murally. I can follow the language marginally.
Question by Mr G Rockman (NP): Explain what difference you as an individual could make to Human Rights Commission, as well as the strength you would bring to the commission?
Response: Individualism will not work in promoting and advancing human rights culture. Legislation must ensure and provide the necessary basic human rights.
- An international perspective, the realisation that human rights abuses or issues have not been unique to South Africa but are a universal problem.
- Experience as a professional and a citizen, who has suffered and moved beyond suffering.
- Research and training experience.
Question by Ms van der Merwe: Can you explain how you’ve been able to use your movement therapy background in your work?
Response: Through creative act therapy – representation of past, present and future to provide a starting point for fears, the future and issues.
Question by Ms Rantho: If you are considered, what is you availability ?
Response: Availability would be two months notice which could be negotiated?
Name of candidate: Mr L Wessels
Time : 12h25 – 13h00
Question by Ms Rantho: Tell us about your background as an active ex-member of parliament?
Response : The C.V is a cold way to one’s life, but nevertheless I got involved in parliamentary and party politics at a point in my life because the needs and requirements of South Africa came alive to me and the exposure to South Africa as a whole. Its problems and complexities to which I’m indebted to everybody who played tremendous role in helping me to understand those complex issues. Once one has gone through that junction, there is no turning back. It is this that resulted in negotiated politics and the bringing about of a constitutional state which interested me and has been the commitment of my life. The notion of party politics and party discipline became too much for me, and made me to venture into studies and practising law.
Question by Mr Rockman: In your CV you mentioned being a member of parliament from 30 November 1977 to 24 April 1994 for Krugersdorp, why did you not mention your political party. Is it a deliberate omission on you part not mentioning your party?
Response: No, no, how can I shy away from my political past. It is interesting you mention that period in the …party, it was not written your party name, you could cross the line and still hold you feet which you cannot do today. There is a distinction between constituency representation where you have been elected as a person and are permitted to cross political party lines mid-term and still remain a member of the parliament. While on the proportional list you are there because of your party association. We are all moving back to the constituency base where members are held accountable by the electorate rather than by the party bosses.
Question by Mr G Rockman: Why is it not reflected on your CV that you were part of the State Security Council.
Response: You will find out that I mentioned, that I was the Deputy Minister of Law and Order in the relevant period.
Mr Rockman: Looking at your background and the system you believed in, with all understanding to your spiritual background, what would make you now to become a human right champion?
Response: Ok, let me put it this way, on the CV its stated that in the relevant period of eighteen months, I was the Deputy Minister of Law and Order, that does not say it all. It’s an umbrella system. What is the conversion? The conversion was during those 18 months which I served each and everybody who we came in contact with whether from civil society, or senior officers in the security services, whoever they were, were saying South Africa’s problems would not be solved along military and security lines. This was a political issue and it had to be resolved politically, and this had a profound effect on me also. In the second phase of my career, I became exposed to the international world and one because more and more aware that the only solution was a negotiated one and not a security one.
Rockman: Explain why you did not testify at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on human rights abuses.
Response: No, let me tell you something, I’m glad you asked that question. I, in person, not in support of lawyers or party political associations, appeared twice before the TRC. A private one because the press was absent but not private because everything was taped on record. I spent hours and hours talking to the researchers of TRC personally on my own. Then after that the document was transcribed, and I was called again and again. I wasn’t compelled, I accepted the invitation. Everything I told in private, again in public. The response was two-fold: Tutu commended it, months later Eugene De Kock thanked me for speaking the truth in front of the TRC. I was there and I was bold enough to say I came clean.
Question by Ms Chalmers: Explain how coming from a different kind of cultural or religiously sector of society and politically … why if thinking from where you are coming from in form your work at HRC or sometimes you’re to leave behind and start a new leap in your book of life?
Response: The real turning point in my life came about in the mid 80’s when we were meeting and negotiating in so-called township discussions with people like Desmond Tutu, Rev. Frank Chikane and others. Once I realised that there is no way of getting around from the fact that I was talking to fellow South African who aspired to civil liberties and human rights, there was no way any longer that I could continue in private or public to continue along line of sugar-coated apartheid development. It had to be a radical thing which had to change - that I realised then.
What I’m engaged in now, I would like to believe is a second phase, this change came to surface during the whole of the Nineties when we were engaged in negotiations leading to Kempton Park negotiations and beyond Kempton Park.
My involvement now is an extension of all of this. The constitution itself represents fine words on paper. We now have to put those words into practice and that is where I find myself. The contribution I would like to make comes from the second experience of the constitution-making process. I cannot shy away from my past, because I was shaped by it. I’m what I am, the darkest as well as the brightest side and I would like to think of myself now as a complete South African who has had a benefit of two profound experiences.
Question by Mr D Bakker (NP): Explain how your work/research on the derogation of human rights can be of usefulness to the Human Rights Commission.
Response: There are basically two sections in the constitution which spark this research
Section 39 – if you interpret the Bill of Rights, Chapter 2, you must , and you don’t have a choice, you’re obliged to consider International Law.
Section 37 – deals with state of emergency: whenever there is legislation regarding state of emergency, that legislation must be consistent with international law obligations.
South Africa has traveled a tremendous journey on this road, I believe that South African should be the light, definitely the light to this question on the continent of Africa. My understanding of derogation: when are you permitted to suspend human rights, what are the standards? Would certainly allow me to bring me some experience which I’ve now gained into the Human Rights Commission.
Finally this a problem to the whole world and the Human Rights Commission and human rights lawyers across the globe would tell you that people use the excuse of emergencies to derogate, to suspend and abuse human rights practices.
Question by Ms van der Merwe: Are you no longer a member of the National Party or do you still have association with the NP?
Response: I would like to think of myself as somebody independent. I left without quarrel with the party but I left because I said I want to practise and research law and I just continued on. I have not joined anybody else and I have not resigned. I’m just an independent thinker, I would like to believe.
Ms van de Merwe: Would it be cynical to suggest that you are looking towards this work to assist you in your doctoral thesis?
Response: This is a two-fold answer:
- Yes you’re right, fine work on the paper means nothing especially if not put to practice. Therefore it is of critical importance that the Commission fashion its research in what I term "MBA" strategy – Managing by working around. You have to be on the ground to allow those people, whether a deprived community, or whether people, that they are not forgotten. But you only do that if you understand the rights and the right concerns and if you are abreast and aware of most recent developments. For example we do not have right to development in our constitution. As far as looking at the Human Rights Commission to help me do my work is not a fair question simply because I started my work long, long before for this.
- Secondly, I believe that I have done a lot of work already and it is a matter for me to wind up the research. I'm not so much in search for an opportunity to further the research. I now have to wind up the research I’ve done in this field.
So it cuts both ways, I guess, because I’ve done the research. I may be a more valuable person than had I not done the research and because I’ll be exposed to a human rights environment as a member of Human Rights Commission, it may enrich my research.
Question by Ms Ngwenya: Given this scenario as an ex-member of the South African Police and an instructor at the SAP college, you are deployed to the people in the rural areas of the country to address the issues of human rights violations. What would your conscience tell you, knowing well that part of those violations were actually contributed by the fact that you’re committed those atrocities. How would you manage to gain the credibility and trust of these people?
Response: Those years spent in the police force were years spent in the South African Police College. I was never anything else other than a policeman in the South African Police Force involved in ceremonial matters – responsible for horse riding and looking after troop discipline. I was never a policeman on the search.
Be that as it may, that is something that has been part of my life, in other words, people knew me as such, it’s something I cannot run away or hide from, it’s there. My experience of South Africa, when I was really exposed to eyeball-to-eyeball discussion and negotiation, even as we went along public participation programme of the Constitutional Assembly, is that people accept who you are, where you come from and what you stand for. I said it publicly, apologising for mis-steps and the way South Africa and its citizens who are from different communities than mine, warm up to those statements I find it extremely encouraging and I want to continue along that path. I don’t want to be anything else than what I am. I’m a South African and I cannot condone atrocities that took place in the past. I have been inspired by the preamble of the constitution which tells us that we must work to heal the divisions of the past and work for social justice. I was in love with the preamble when it was first formulated and I want to continue along those lines.
Question by Ms Rantho: What is your availability on a full-time basis?
Response: There is no question about it that it would be a demanding job, and I will re-organise my life to fit into that pattern. Why I left parliament was to do legal research and practice law and be involved in law is compatible with human rights work. In other words I will be available for sure.
Name of candidate: Mr SW Mkgato
Time spent : 13h30 – 14h20
Question by Ms Rantho: Explain who you are, your background, work and experience?
Response: I was born on the 19-09-1966 – blinded by measles around the age of three or four. I attended the Bosele School for the Blind. In 1986 I enroll for a BA degree at the University of the North which I completed in 1989. In 1991 I did B. Education and started working for the School for the Blind up until today.
I experienced violation of human rights as a person. For example, when I applied for a job, I intended working at the College of Education but I was rejected or denied the post because of the blindness. Some people were brave enough to say the reason for being rejected, but others gave excuses. At the school for the blind, I was the best student in Mathematics and Biology. At the School for the Blind, Standard Five was the last grade Mathematics and Biology were offered, this destroyed my hope of becoming a physiotherapist. At the University of the North there were not adequate facilities for the blind. Some lecturers did not understand our needs. As a result we launched a Disabled Student Movement and forced the management to attend to our concerns.
Question by Mr Bakker (NP): Explain how would you contribute to the work of the Human Rights Commission as regards to the needs of disabled people in our society?
Response: I think I can contribute in many areas: my professional experience as a teacher and experience of human rights in education. I believe I can be the most appropriate person to work with learners, teachers, changing their minds to develop a human rights-orientated approach as well as parents.
I believe as a blind person a disabled person like myself who has experienced quite a number of human rights violations, denied and deprived opportunities, I will be the most appropriate person to educate the public as well as educate the disabled to fight for their rights. To educate the non-disabled to recognise and respect diversity. Disability is not synonymous to inferiority.
With regard to my rural background, I was born and still live in a rural area where services and resources are inadequate, I will be the most appropriate person to promote the culture of human rights. I believe that with the status that I have in disability organisations, I can work more closely with them or encourage the Commission to work more closely with them in developing a culture of tolerance, reconciliation, diversity of culture and the like. Thus the vision stated in the White Paper on an Integrated National Disability Strategy to build a society for all can be fulfilled.
I believe my education level or attainment is suitable to enable me to perform the work of the Commission. I can speak English but not like the English people, I can read, understand what I read – braille, listen to tapes, also computer literate.
My international experience – visit to Toronto in 1996 – my experience of human rights in that country can contribute much to the promotion of a human rights culture in South Africa. The experience I have in organisation makes me to be an organiser.
Question by Ms Chalmers: In your experience and background would you say that human rights issues could be a higher priority with people?
Response: There are a number of groups of people marginalised in the past – women, black people and disabled people. Within all these groups there are disabled people. In women there are disabled people, in black people there are disabled people, in children there are disabled people. So I believed that disabled people are marginalized or doubly marginalized as compared to any other human beings. Reducing this marginalisation means that the area of human rights is very important to be promoted.
Question by Mr Rockman: Explain why are you are so confident that you are the right person for the post, and what role would you play to make a difference to the work of the Human Rights Commission.
Response: My role and contribution that I see myself, if appointed, is very huge. With the background in disabled people organisations, I’m socially accessible to all groups with both the educated and non-educated, irrespective of race, organisation or disability. They know me as a negotiator – an advocate and a human rights fighter.
Rockman: Can you explain to us how should people view your disablement and people like yourself in relation to work?
Response: I should be viewed as a person in my own right. Even people who are not disabled differ as persons, everybody is unique, has his or her own potential, talents, weak points whatever. This must not be interpreted to be linked with disability. I may come late one day, it is not because of disability, I will have to apologise. I should not be given special treatment. Disability must not come into the picture, equal treatment must apply to everyone. My issues of disability should not be generalized. If anybody has a question, s/he must and should be free enough to ask questions and not be afraid.
Question by Mrs Rantho: If you were to be considered for the appointment, what is your availability?
Response: I’m prepared to work wherever in every corner of the country. There is no problem with re-location.
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