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AD HOC COMMITTEE ON FILLING OF VACANCIES ON HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
16 March 1999
Interviews where conducted to fill three vacant commissioner positions on the Human Rights Commission. Three shortlisted candidates were interviewed. The candidates where Ms E Papenfus, Ms Routier and Ms Issel.
The committee’s chairperson was late and a member of the ANC then chaired the meeting until her arrival. The chairperson of the Human Rights Commission addressed the committee on the qualities and expectations the Human Rights Commission seeks in a candidate. He also mentioned that should the candidate want to be a full-time commissioner, he or she should reside in Johannesburg. If the candidate wants a part-time position he or she can reside anywhere. The successful candidate should however be able to take up the position as commissioner as soon as possible.
Ms E. Papenfus
The Chair asked when the candidate will be able to take up the position and if she wanted a full or part- time on the Commission?
The candidate replied that she is able to take up the position immediately after the elections and that she is interested in a full-time position, but does not want to relocate totally.
A member of the ANC asked why had she applied for the position? What did she think was the Commission’s role?
Ms Papenfus replied that such a commission is essential in every country. It ensures that people’s rights are protected and that people are made aware of their rights. She will contribute in many facets.
Ms Smuts (DP) asked what is her assessment of human rights awareness in the Northern Province?
Ms Papenfus replied by discussing various problems in the Northern Province and added that the voice of the Northern Province was needed on the commission.
What would she contribute to human rights awareness in the Northern Province?
How would she solve racism in schools in the Northern Province?
Ms Papenfus replied that Vryburg is not the only case - there are lots of Vryburgs in South Africa.
An ANC member asked what the candidate has done in the Northern Province legislature and what are the practical issues that need to be addressed there. Did she as the Democratic Party representative try to find solutions to the school racism problem?
Ms Papenfus replied that she had not been involved as the schools issue under discussion was not part of her province. She also stated that she did want to make a judgement based on a short visit to schools. She has however observed that people deal with symptoms not problems.
Ms de Vos (IFP) asked how the candidate would take gender issues further on the Commission.
Ms Papenfus replied that the Gender Commission is the forum for dealing with gender issues. Various donor agencies are providing funds for this too.
Mr Ebrahim (PAC) asked what the candidate has observed about the HRC, what is its weaknesses and how is she willing to assist the Commission. He also requested her opinion on illegals.
Ms Papenfus replied that it is very difficult to keep track of the commission as the Northern Province is left out of the Commission. The Northern Province does not get all the Commission's reports and all the national newspapers. She sees the main issues to be: human rights education in schools to be very important. There is not sufficient public awareness and the Human Rights Commission does not reach all areas. On the issue of illegal immigrants she felt that they should not be treated badly or taken back to impossible situations but at the same time one needs to look after South African needs.
A member of the ANC asked how the candidate would deal with rape victims who in certain provinces are black, illiterate and who have a culture of silence?
Ms Papenfus replied that cultural aspects are very important. Cross-cultural social workers do deal with religious and other aspects and it is difficult but real care must be shown. She also added that she gets along well with all kinds of people.
A member of the ANC asked how the candidate will fast track public education should she become a commissioner.
Ms Papenfus replied that fast-tracking required effective workshops and donor funding.
The Chairman asked if the candidate has anything to say about environmental rights.
Ms Papenfus replied that nature is ours to use and not to abuse.
A member of the ANC asked what for the candidate's opinion on the death penalty. What is her attitude towards body mutilation punishment as proposed by some political parties for people who commit crime?
Ms Papenfus replied that she is not in favour of the death penalty and that we should concentrate on finding the perpetrators. We should care for the victims of crime.
The chairperson of the HRC asked the candidate where she is going to reside.
Ms Papenfus replied that just as she commutes as a politician she will be prepared to commute should she be a commissioner. She felt that expecting the commissioner to reside in Johannesburg was excluding people from other provinces.
The chairperson asked the candidate if she wanted a full or part time position.
Ms Routier stated that she had been a full time commissioner in the past but would now like a part time position.
Ms de Vos (IFP) asked what the candidate’s experience is with the Commission. What are her achievements and what would she bring to the Commission as a part time person.
Ms Routier replied that there are two parts to the question. Her work in policy and planning was a challenge and a stress. The candidate then discussed various work the Commission has done and in which she was involved. She also stated that it was difficult to find human rights education in the Eastern Cape and that she believed that she should be on the ground. The intervention that she felt was very important was her intervention in Eastern Cape schools with regard to corporal punishment.
Mr Kekana (ANC) asked how she felt about the human rights abuses perpetrated by her then-governing party, the NP, as heard by the TRC. What did she do in her party (NP) to stop human rights abuses? Do she see herself as an African? How would she address African culture and human rights?
Ms Papenfus replied that she does not deny that she was a member of the NP and the President's Council and that she can only make amends for the wrongs. She was also not aware of all the things the NP did. She was part of the of the committee responsible for removing discriminatory legislation.
A follow up question by Mr Kekana asked what she meant when she stated that she did not know of the NP’s human rights abuses.
Ms Routier replied that those who were not part of the Security Council did not know what was happening, but that she was aware discrimination was taking place.
To the question if she saw herself as an African, Ms Routier replied that she knows no other country and wants to serve no other country.
A member of the ANC asked how she is going to change her workload.
Ms Routier replied that she will still be involved in the same tasks but that peripheral work will be cut out.
The chairperson asked the candidate if she would like to work part time or full time, if she is able to reside in Johannesburg and how soon she is able to start?
She replied that she would take a full time position and that she would be able to reside in Johannesburg. She stated that she is able to start in April.
Ms de Vos (IFP) asked how the candidate perceives the work of the HRC and its interaction with people at grassroots level?
Ms Issel replied that her work is very much in line with the work of the HRC and she sees many violations of human rights. She feels her work at grassroots level is an asset.
A follow up question asked what the violations are that Ms Issel sees and what should be done about them.
Ms Issel replied that in her work as a lay assessor she sees many violations.
A member of the ANC asked if Ms Issel distances herself from politics.
Ms Issel replied that she is a member of the ANC and that she will continue to be one.
A member of the ANC asked if there is a role for black consciousness and did she think that it can play a role in race problems. She was also asked how she felt about socio-economic rights?
She replied that black consciousness was necessary but that the country has changed and there is not enough education about human rights.
Mr Ebrahim (PAC) asked what is her view on capital punishment.
Ms Issel replied that the feelings of the masses need to be considered.
A member of the ANC asked how she would handle cultural differences.
Ms Issel replied that she gets along well with people and will be able to communicate with them.
A follow up question asked if she had any language skills that will allow her to communicate with other people from different cultures.
Ms Issel replied that she speaks Xhosa but not fluently.
A member of the ANC asked the candidate for comment on human rights violations are on farms.
Ms Issel replied that she is aware of human rights violations on farms and that HRC should do more about this issue.
Mr. Kekana (ANC) asked how Ms Issel would address issues of intolerance in the community.
Ms Issel replied that the media has not been fair in their reports and that all government departments should address intolerance.
A member of the ANC asked what role the candidate sees herself playing in the HRC and would she be able to see the big picture while intervening in the small picture.
Ms Issel replied that she feels that the community needs to be part of the HRC and that the HRC needs to be a part of the community.
The chairperson of the HRC asked Ms Issel what she views as fundamental human rights and how will she address these.
Ms Issel replied that people’s water being cut is a human rights abuse. Human rights can be addressed on two levels. The Government should take the responsibility for providing education to people. Rights need to be brought to the people.
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