Cross Boundary Municipalities Laws Repeal & Related Matters A/B: discussion on public submissions

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

05 September 2007
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Meeting report

PROVINCIAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND JUSTICE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEES
6 September 2007
CROSS BOUNDARY MUNICIPALITIES LAWS REPEAL AND RELATED MATTERS A / B DISCUSSION ON PUBLIC SUBMISSIONS

Chairperson:
Mr S L Tsenoli (ANC)

Documents Handed Out:
Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union submission
South African Communist Party submission
B J Setsubi submission
S M Jafta submission
E T Setubi submission
Clive Rubin submission
M Galo submission
Summary of the comments on the Bill, 2007
Mpumalanga Joint Forum Alliance / Moutse Demarcation Forum submission

NOT RECORDED

SUMMARY
The joint committees tabled a number of submissions received on the Cross Bounday Municipalities Laws Repeal and Related Matters Amendment Bill;. Although it did not discuss each of the submissions in detail, it met to decide whether it was necessary or desirable to hold oral hearings in parliament, bearing in mind that the provincial legislatures in the Eastern Cape and Kwazulu Natal would be having joint public hearings. Members did not favour the prospect of having such hearings in parliament. The possibility of a referendum was also debated, but did not find general favour amongst members. Such a referendum would not necessarily allow for meaningful discussion. It was noted that the written submissions could be broadly divided into three categories. The first set amounted to no more than a claim that a specific individual or party had the support of a number of individuals. The second set comprised objections founded on account of historic links with particular areas, both ethnic and cultural. The third issue was that of service delivery. The Committee specifically discussed the submission of the South African Communist Party, which called to set aside the Constitution Twelfth Amendment Act, and also asked who had voted when this Act was passed, and the manner in which each had voted. The tone and content of the submission was felt to be inappropriate. The submissions would be discussed in depth at a subsequent meeting.

MINUTES
The meeting of the Provincial and Local Government Portfolio Committee had commenced prior to the Justice Portfolio Committee joining the discussions.

The Chairperson stated that the purpose of this meeting was to decide, with reference to the submissions received in answer to the notification sent out by the Portfolio Committee, whether it was necessary to hold public hearings in parliament, or to leave the public hearings to the provinces. Another issue is to be debated was whether a referendum might be necessary.

Ms F Chohan (ANC) believed that the essence of the submissions could be divided into three points. Firstly, some submissions amount to no more than a claim that a specific individual or party had the support of a number of individuals. The second category was comprised of objections founded on account of historic links with particular areas, both ethnic and cultural. Ms Chohan emphasised that this category was largely informed by apartheid divisions from the previous dispensation. The third issue was that of service delivery. It was recommended that the Moutse issue be dealt with separately, as it did not pertain to the amendment.

Ms Chohan continued that consultation must, in terms of the constitution, be a meaningful process. A referendum would not necessarily achieve this goal. It was necessary to look at the actual implications of amending the legislation. With regard to the second category, ethnicity could not be said to drive the provinces or boundaries.

The report by Dr Bouwer would shed much light on many of the issues at hand, particularly with regard to the public consultation. It must be acknowledged that factors such as corruption would happen on both sides of the debate.

Engagement must be on issues which were of persuasive value to the Committee. It was not necessary to call people into parliament with the sole purpose of being in compliance with the Constitutional Court opinions, nor was this necessarily what the Constitutional Court intended. Ms Chohan maintained that the procedure currently being followed was tantamount to a referendum, and was more desirable.

Ms N Mahlawe (ANC) asked exactly what the effect of public hearings would be.

The Chairperson stated that the Constitution required that provinces affected have ‘reasonable engagement.’ The process had no bearing on the bill itself, which would be evaluated on the basis of the submissions.

He continued that the issue was very complex, and emphasised that the political dynamics that had emerged should not prevent government from sorting out service delivery issues and increasing co-ordination in this regard. However, for the purposes of this Bill, it might not be wise to have public hearings in parliament.

Ms Chohan stated that there was a need for caution about terminology, particularly when referring to public hearings. Submissions were themselves classified as public hearings. “Oral hearings” was perhaps better terminology to use, and these were usually informed by the written submissions.

The Chairperson asked members to reflect on the written submissions, and to come back prepared to vote. He added that it would be desirable to have the service delivery report at such a stage.

Ms Chohan stated that, in the Justice Portfolio Committee, the practice was to extract from the submissions the main arguments, and discuss each individually, as well as embark on a general discussion. Additionally, copies of all submissions received were usually sent to the legislatures so that they could find their way to relevant people.

The Chairperson stated that the reasons for the amendment were to improve service delivery, and added that this must be made known. In addition, it was important to respond to political concerns raised by some individuals in submissions. He acknowledged that the Moutse issue was to be addressed separately.

Ms Chohan stated that the Committee should pass the constitutional amendment first, as she maintained that, legally, it was the safer route to follow. She also mentioned that she found the South African Communist Party (SACP) submission pertaining to Moutse rather disturbing in that it contained a request that the Speaker furnish them with a list of members who voted for the Twelfth Constitution Amendment Bill, as well as the way in which they had voted. In light of the fact that this submission campaigned for a repeal of the Twelfth Amendment Act, Ms Chohan inferred that the primary purpose for such a request was intimidation of members. She felt that this was a bad reflection on the writer as well as the SACP, and felt a response was required. She emphasised that members had a complete discretion, and that public involvement was designed to persuade a vote one way or another, but not to intimidate members into voting.

The Chairperson said that the Committee was going to attend to the substance of each submission fully, and that in this meeting only the main substance of each of the submissions could be discussed. He added that issues must be canvassed properly, and agreed that the prospect of intimidation was outrageous.

Dr Petra Bouwer, Executive Manager: Compliance, Department of Provincial and Local Government, stated that, in his opinion, the question was focused on voting procedure, not on who voted and in what manner.

Ms Chohan stated that the tone of the submission, coupled with the request for such information, was inappropriate. She added that she could not see what reason, other than that of intimidation, would motivate such a request. Information should be obtained through the correct processes.

The Chairperson stated that such issues needed to be discussed, and in the next meeting the Committees would decide on the way forward.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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