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JOINT RULES COMMITTEE
21 November 2007
APPROVAL: DRAFT RULES ON FORMALISATION OF MULTIPARY WOMEN’S CAUCUS, ESTABLISHMENT OF PARLIAMENTARY GROUP ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, CORRECT VERSION OF DRAFT RULES FOR THE JOINT STANDING COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE, PROPOSED RULE CHANGE TO JOINT RULE 220 (2)
Chairpersons: Mr M Mahlangu (ANC – Chairperson of the NCOP) & Ms B Mbete (ANC – Speaker)
Documents handed out:
Audio recording of meeting
The draft rules for the Formalisation of the Multiparty Women’s Caucus had been formulated, and were described and approved, after discussion on the composition. The draft would be changed to reflect proportional representation, but it was recorded that the committee worked on consensus and there was not a political issue.
The Draft Rules For Establishment Of Parliamentary Group On International Relations were tabled. Members believed there was a need to spell out that the Joint Rules Committee was essentially making policy on strategic direction, and that the Group had an advisory role. It was agreed that the Members would rethink the policy and come back next year to formulate the rules.
Some Members expressed their concern that random security searches were being carried out in an inconsistent way, that ministers and deputy ministers were not being searched, and there were concerns about Members not cooperating. It was agreed that issues of concern would be discussed with the police officials.
Members agreed to a proposed change to Joint Rule 220(2), which would formalise the current practice of ensuring that official translation of documents be done three days prior to those documents being addressed in either house, and that amendments must be translated before any Bill and amendments were forwarded to the President.
The correct version of the rules of the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence’s Rules was circulated, and Members were asked to approve it since the incorrect version had been tabled for approval before. There were problems with the secretarial support given to committees. It was agreed that since the support issues were to be addressed at a joint meeting of all stakeholders, this would be raised again and a report given in the new year. The Rules were approved.
The committee would investigate the fact that Sheriffs were apparently not permitted to serve court process to members, and would consider in the new year a proposal that exception should be made for service of maintenance orders.
Draft Rules For Formalisation Of Multiparty Women’s Caucus
Adv T Masutha (ANC) stated that rules had been formulated for the multiparty women’s caucus. The composition of the caucus would be entirely female, it would be chaired by a member of the majority party, and the deputy chair would be from the opposition, both to be elected. Governance would take place through a steering committee made up of five members of the caucus and the chair and deputy chair. The functions of the caucus would be to seek consensus across party lines affecting women. The caucus could take decisions and recommendations. Fifteen members constituted a quorum. There was some debate around the election of the five steering committee members, but a consensus had been reached that the members should be elected in the caucus, but that between parties the number of opposition members and majority party members would be agreed upon.
Ms S Seaton (IFP) stated that she did not agree with implications around the composition of the steering committee and believed that the number of majority and opposition members should be predetermined at 3 majority party members and 2 opposition party members.
Mr P Swart (DA) stated that he believed that there was a need to discuss this further. The idea was that the caucus would be in line with the composition of parliament and that the majority and opposition would elect representatives within their contingents. He stressed the need to state clearly that representation should be proportional.
Mr M Mzizi (IFP) stated that it was a tradition that the Chair be elected from the majority party, but wondered if, since it was a caucus that sought to bring women together, it should not allow for the leadership of a potentially capable woman from any other party besides the ANC.
Ms M Mabe (ANC) stated that as the MWC, they had agreed to work very smoothly in the pursuance of common goals. The caucus had agreed on the election of members.
The Chairperson asked whether everyone was satisfied.
Ms Seaton replied that the draft needed to be worded specifically to reflect what was being said.
The Chairperson added that it could and would be worded that way.
Adv Masutha replied that there was consensus across parties and that it was not a political issue. He added that the rules could not specify that a certain number of people would be elected by a party, as this would involve ruling on the internal processes of political parties. The proposition by the ANC caucus chair could be rather considered in terms of percentages, or proportional representation, and then be certified and agreed upon by consensus. He stated that all other committees worked in this way.
Ms M Mentor (ANC) replied that it would be possible to improve upon this later; it was more crucial that the caucus of the ground should get off the ground. The need for consistency was stressed, and she stated that the sub-caucuses could be recognised later. She felt that the Chair and Deputy should be remunerated the same way as portfolio committee chairpersons.
Ms Seaton asked what the current caucus composition was.
Ms Mentor replied that it was currently at three ANC members, one UDM member and one DA member.
Ms Seaton stated that the numbers needed to be spelt out.
The Chairperson thought that the matter was already agreed upon.
Adv Masutha read out paragraph C, stating that five members would be elected by caucus, with due regard to participation by minority parties and the principle of proportionality.
Mr Swart stated that it was patronising that a subcommittee composed of men decided on this, when it was clear that the caucus wanted the chair elected by the majority party, the deputy chair by the opposition, with the remaining five members being composed of three majority members and two opposition members. The composition should really be stated in this way, in the separate components as he had outlined them.
Adv Masutha replied that he understood Ms Seaton’s grievances to be addressed. He did not believe that his gender compromised his decisions and stated that it was obvious that parties would nominate their own people. He asserted that the rules could not incorporate internal party procedures as this would amount to prescribing election processes for parties.
The Chairperson ruled that all seemed to be agreed on the matter and that issues of proportion could be drafted into it later.
Mr P Nefolovhodwe (AZAPO) stated that in parliament there were parties that were composed mainly of men, yet they had constituencies of women. He requested the possibility of observer statuses.
Mr Swart stated that he did not want to cast aspersions on any party, and withdrew his previous statement.
Ms Seaton added that she would agree with the amendment and that the election should take place after next year’s sitting.
Draft Rules For Establishment Of Parliamentary Group On International Relations
Ms B Mbete, Speaker, ANC, stated that the Parliamentary Group on International Relations (PGIR) was a subcommittee. She was concerned that powers were being ceded to a subcommittee.
Ms Mentor stated that powers should reside within the Joint Rules Committee on the issue of strategic direction and as such should state that this Committee should only have an advisory capacity.
Ms Seaton suggested that this be amplified further by saying that the committee should be ensuring policy directives and strategic direction of the Joint Rules Committee.
They Chairperson added that this was not an implementing committee.
Ms Seaton noted that the powers and functions section did state that implementation was mandated.
Adv Masutha replied that the role of a subcommittee was to make sure that the policy given to it and the translation of the policy into rules was technically correct. The basis lay with policy adopted by the Committee, and this was stated. He acknowledged that there would not be a problem with amending the draft, but stressed that policy must tie in with this.
Ms Mentor stated that a subcommittee could not be tasked with the implementation of such important matters, and requested that they be limited to an advisory role.
Adv Masutha clarified that after 2004 all subcommittees under Joint Rules were abolished, and that technically the PGIR was not a subcommittee. He reiterated that policy determined actions.
Ms Mbete added that structures were changed after 2004 and that the area of international relations could not be fobbed off to an obscure committee. She suggested that they rethink policy and come back next year to formulate rules and determine whether they were correct.
The Chairperson agreed that that they would revisit the issue and reformulate the rules.
Parliamentary Security: Discussion
Mr A Nel (ANC) stated that Members were alarmed at being subject to apparently random security searches. He added that there was provision for this, but that it had never been enforced, but what was causing concern was the lack of consistency in those searches. The rationale was that Members’ belongings were often unattended and that this posed the threat of security being compromised. The security checks were a matter of safety. He stressed the need for members to cooperate.
Ms Mentor agreed that the principle of security checks was not disputed, but the manner in which this was being done in should accord with respect for dignity and privacy. The lack of communication about the checks was also unacceptable.
Ms Seaton agreed. She added that ministers and deputy ministers were not being searched, although the policy mandated that all gold-card members were to be subject to searches. The policy should be being enforced equally.
Ms De Lille agreed that the issue was one of consistency. Tension was also being caused by the random moods of the SA Police Service (SAPS) officers, and in some instances they seemed to do as they pleased.
Ms S Rajbally (MF) asked what was the situation with those who did not have gold-cards.
Ms B Dlulane (ANC) added that the SAPS officers were not allowed to do physical searches and that what was required was that bags be put through the X-ray machines. She stated that the matter had been brought to the attention of the officers and it was stressed that they needed to ensure that they did not interfere with the duties of members. He acknowledged that not all SAPS officers were acting incorrectly, but highlighted the necessity for appropriate manners.
Ms Mbete agreed on the issue of equality and dignity. However she added that it was also members’ responsibility to ensure that the security not be compromised.
Ms Seaton pointed out that Clause 8.5.4 required that possessions be X-rayed or manually searched, so physical searches were allowed. She stressed the issue that senior officials and ministerial aides were not being subjected to searches.
The Chairperson stated that all members seemed to be agreed on the principle. He was worried about the unbecoming behaviour of some members in terms of compromising security by refusing to cooperate. He stated that they should set a good example and show some respect to the SAPS, who were only carrying out their duty.
Proposed Rule Change To Joint Rule 220 (2)
Adv Masutha stated that this proposed change was intended to formalise current practice of ensuring that official translation of documents be done three days prior to those documents being addressed in either house, and that amendments must be translated before any Bill and amendments were forwarded to the President. He added that it was not necessary to legislate for this, as it could be regulated internally through the Rules.
Members agreed to the proposed change.
Presentation Of Correct Version Of Draft Rules For The Joint Standing Committee On Intelligence
Adv Masutha stated that the wrong text of the draft rules had been endorsed and that the correct version should be agreed upon. He noted that the correct version now circulated did reflect the correct version of the rules of the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence’s rules.
The Chairperson sought agreement and Members indicated that they were agreeable.
Mr Nel thought that the correct draft should be presented and read out, not simply endorsed. He stated that there seemed to be serious problems in the secretariat support given to committees, and this highlighted the issue of the relationship between parliamentary committees and the state law advisor. He added that this was not an opportunity for recriminations, but there were problems that needed to be addressed.
Ms Mbete appealed that the Committee should not discuss this matter now. The presiding officers were convening a stakeholders’ meeting on the matter and all parties would be present. They could bring back a report to the first Joint Rules meeting of the next session of parliament. She noted the problem of legal drafting services and the reliance on the state law advisors.
The Chairperson concurred.
Adv Masutha agreed, but added that the printers must be included in the meeting.
Mr M Mzizi added that he hoped NCOP committees were included as well.
Serving of orders on Members
Ms P De Lille (ID) raised the complaint that sheriffs of the court were not allowed to serve summons to members and asked if this could be amended to allow the serving of maintenance orders.
The Chairperson suggested that the Committee should investigate more on this issue, and suggested that the Committee return to discuss the issue at a later date.
The Chairperson noted that the minutes had not been passed.
The meeting was adjourned.
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