The xenophobic attacks on foreigners in Alexandra were raised as a concern. The Minister said that preparations for a national indaba on the matter were under way.
The Committee met with Minister and Deputy Minister of Home Affairs to discuss the refusal by the Director General to allow provincial managers to report to the Portfolio Committee.
The Minister explained that the ministry felt that the Director General should appear on behalf of the provincial managers. The Ministry preferred it that the Director General, as the accounting officer, be the one who appeared before the Committee.
Members stated that Home Affairs was a crucial department and it was important that the provincial managers appear. The Department could not make conditions about how the Committee performed its oversight. The Director General had no right to refuse the appearance of the provincial managers. The Committee should be able to stipulate who should be present.
It was arranged that the provincial managers should appear with the Minister on 20 and 21 May.
The Independent Electoral Commission and the Film and Publication Board presented their strategy and budget for 2008/09. The IEC noted that the date for the 2009 Election had been set for 6 May and in preparation for the elections the 7 and 8 November 2008 had been allocated for voter registration.
Members asked the IEC to comment on preparations for the 2009 general elections, certainty about what identification document could be used for voting, voter education and adequate staffing. The Film and Publication Board was asked about SADC and African Union cooperation about paedophilia and child pornography. The FPB was also asked to elaborate on their policy, research and child protection units.
The Chairperson expressed concern about the attacks on foreigners in Alexandra. The last time a similar incident occurred the Minister visited the community that was under attack. One needed to look at the matter carefully and find solutions on how people could live together peacefully. It was mostly Africans from neighbouring countries who were attacked. There was a critical need for education programmes. The Department needed to find ways of addressing the situation as conditions were very serious for refugees.
The first agenda item was the stand-off between the Department and the Committee on the issue of provincial managers. The Minister had been invited to share her views on the matter. The media reports of what had happened in the meetings were also becoming of great concern.
The Home Affairs Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, said that the xenophobic attacks were regrettable. At the time of the previous xenophobic attacks in March in Attridgeville, she had called for a national indaba to discuss what was happening. Preparations for the indaba were under way. Once the process of consultation had been finalised the Committee would be informed of the dates of the national indaba.
The Minister said that the Chairperson had noted that a report on some of the issues relating to the Director General had been sent to the Speaker. It was regrettable that the Ministry was not invited to that meeting as there were matters which affected the Ministry. The matter of the “Who am I Online" contract had not yet reached the Ministry. On the provincial managers, the Ministry did not know what might have transpired between the Portfolio Committee and the Director General. However the Minister and the Deputy Minister had consulted the Director General who felt that the issues that would be raised with the managers would be issues that the Director General would be able to answer competently. The Ministry therefore felt that the Director General should appear and make a presentation on behalf of the provincial managers. On the turnaround strategy there were many issues at that time that the Department wanted to brief the Portfolio Committee. Therefore the Ministry preferred that the Director General, as the accounting person, be the one who appeared before the Committee.
The Ministry was also not part of the discussions, review or departmental briefings. There was no objection to the Committee’s invitation. However the provincial managers had been invited and the Minister had not been informed. If managers appeared then they should at least appear with the Director General present. There was no intention to defy the Committee and the Director General was not advised to defy Committee.
The Chairperson pointed out that during an Exco meeting, a decision was taken that managers should not appear. The Committee had asked the Minister many times to intervene. The Minister must therefore clarify at which meeting the decision was taken.
Mr K Morwamoche (ANC) said that he was not surprised by the sentiments raised by the Minister. He asked the Minister about the Exco meeting, where the Minister was present, in which a decision was taken that would prevent the Committee from performing its oversight. The Director General claimed that the Minister and Deputy Minister were his witnesses at that meeting. The Portfolio Committee had the power to perform oversight, and no clause stated that there must be permission requested from the DG. Concerning her comment about the turnaround strategy, it was not ok to assume that the Committee was going to ask about the turnaround. A letter had been written to the Director General to facilitate the meeting with the provincial managers and letters were written to inform Minister of the Department’s intentions. The Minister did not respond to the Committee’s letters and also had representatives in the meetings. The Director General should not worry if the provincial managers were called and if the Committee wanted the Director General, they would call him.
Mr P Mathebe (ANC) said that the Director General had informed the Committee that the Exco had agreed not to allow the provincial managers to attend. The Minister had been a Member of Parliament since 1994, therefore she should understand the importance of the oversight role of a parliamentary committee. The Exco in her presence agreed not to allow provincial managers. The Committee was therefore worried as for some time there had been a problem with the Director General, and the Minster had remained silent.
Ms M Maunye (ANC) asked whether it was possible to allow the Deputy Minister to add or subtract to this.
The Chairperson said that the Minister had given the input.
Mr S Swart (ACDP) said that Home Affairs was a crucial department and it was important to have the provincial managers appear. The Director General had no right to refuse the appearance of provincial managers, and there was no requirement requiring the Director General to be present.
Mr M Lowe (DA) supported the comments made by the Minister on xenophobia and he looked forward to the national indaba. He echoed Mr Swart’s sentiments and said that the Committee was dealing with a department that was in chaos. Whatever the reasons given for why the managers could not appear was beside the point. The Committee needed to engage with provincial managers on matters that did not deal with turnaround. The Committee needed to deal with small management issues which were not part of the turnaround. The Committee needed to get the department on its feet and it was not happening.
The Minister said that it was regrettable that some of matters that had been taken to the Speaker because they had not been raised with the Ministry, and may not have been entirely accurate. The Ministry would have demanded the truth if the matter had been brought to them.
The Chairperson ruled that the report to the Speaker would not be discussed.
The Minster replied that the Chairperson’s ruling should have been made when Mr Morwamoche was speaking. Now that the issue has been raised, the question must be answered.
The Chairperson ruled that there would be an investigation and the issues would again be raised when the time comes.
The Minister accepted the ruling and continued with the answers. On the silence of the Minister regarding the Director General’s behaviour, she said that the Ministry did not want to be dragged into issues between the Director General and the Portfolio Committee. The Ministry had never run to the media and given a blow-by-blow account on what should be done, and also had never intervened in personal conflicts even when the Ministry was humiliated by the Portfolio Committee.
Mr Mathebe said that the Minister was not told to address the media.
The Minister continued her answers by confirming the place where the discussion too place and where it was decided not to allow the provincial managers to appear. This was at an ANC study group workshop where the Director General, Chief Whip and the Deputy Minister were present. The decision was therefore not taken at an Exco meeting. At the time the Ministry may have provided the Director General with incorrect political guidance, but it was based on the issues pertaining to the turnaround. The Ministry was also not aware that issues of the study group were for the record of the Portfolio Committee.
The Chairperson ruled that the Minister was engaging in internal issues of the ANC, and those issues should not be placed before the Portfolio Committee. A committee workshop was held in February where the Director General was present and the issues raised in the workshop were agreed to, and the agreement was to allow provincial managers to appear. Issues pertaining to ANC operational matters must not be discussed in public. The Director General represented the office of the Minister and the executive accounted to Parliament directly.
The Deputy Minister, Mr Malusi Gigaba, replied that the Ministry had not taken a decision out of malice to preclude provincial managers from appearing. The Department was dealing with a situation where there was a turnaround programme. The turnaround programme also dealt with staff matters. It was the Department’s preference to first brief the Committee on the turnaround programme, which was meant to address the challenges faced by the whole department. The Portfolio Committee invited the Minister as the political head, who in turn agreed for the managers to appear.
Communication between the Department and the Committee was very important and there needed to be as much communication as possible. The turnaround strategy aimed to reconfigure the provinces and their offices, and there were many work streams which impacted on the reports of the provincial managers. The intention of briefing the Committee on the strategy was to give a broader picture and full account in order to empower the Committee with better information.
The Chairperson said that if the Deputy Minister had seen the invitation letter to the Minister, then he would have noted the issues the Committee wanted addressed. The presence of the Director General at the provincial managers meeting was up to the discretion of the Committee. The Minister was fully aware of the Portfolio Committee’s programme. The Committee needed to deal with the Department’s budget, and the Committee was already late with this. The provincial managers matter was still on the Committee’s programme. If the time came for summoning, then the Committee would summon individuals if needed. The Ministry could not have looked at the invitation letter. The Committee’s position had not changed. The managers would have to appear before them before the Committee dealt with its budget hearing.
Mr Gigaba replied that it was incorrect to assume that the Ministry had not read the letter. There was no resistance or ill intention from anyone. The Ministry was merely suggesting a different approach.
Mr Mathebe asked whether the Deputy Minister was suggesting that the Director General was lying when he said that a decision was taken which stated that the managers should not appear.
The Minister replied that there were several issues taken by the Exec, which could be reviewed. The Chairperson however had made a ruling that the Director General should not appear with the provincial managers. The Ministry on the other hand felt that it was necessary to contextualise the issues and explain why the decision was taken. Therefore there was no contradiction.
Mr Morwamoche said that when the Committee performed oversight it would not do oversight according to departmental conditions.
Mr M Lowe (DA) said that he agreed with most of the comments made by the Deputy Minister; however the issues that the Committee wanted to address were small management issues which the provincial managers needed to address. The issues pertaining to the turnaround strategy did not deal with the simple management issues. The Committee had great faith in turnaround strategies; however the provincial managers needed to appear.
Ms H Webber (DA) said that it had come to the Committee’s attention that the Department was not carrying out conventions that have been signed pertaining to refugees. It had been reported that refugees were shipped out without being given the option of asylum.
Ms I Maars (IFP) asked how the political heads of the Department anticipated the type of questions that would be asked by the Committee. The Committee had the right to raise any issues that were of concern.
The Minister said that she had seen and understood the issues that the Portfolio Committee wanted to raise.
The Chairperson reiterated that the budget vote would still be delayed and he informed members that the programme for the following week would need to be rescheduled. He added that the provincial managers should appear with the Minister on 20 May and it was likely to take two days to complete.
Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) strategy and budget briefing
The IEC was represented by Dr Brigalia Bam: Chairperson, Ms Pansy Tlakula: Chief Electoral Officer, Mr Mosotho Moepya: Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Mr Norman du Plessis: Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, and Mr Zolisa Mafuya: Chief Financial Officer. Dr Bam in her opening remarks said that the electoral experiences of Kenya and Zimbabwe had made many South Africans very nervous and had made people question what happened to their votes. South Africans could be assured that the South African process was one of the most transparent in the world and efficient systems were in place to ensure smooth elections.
On the registration, the IEC would like to have a much higher registration rate, and there was a new scheme which intended focusing on young South Africans between the ages of 18 and 25. A provision had been made in order to give every South African an opportunity to vote, because there were times when many South Africans were away from their provinces during the voting day. This provision would allow people to vote in a different voting district or province. However there were instances where the provision was abused, as people who were not on the voters roll were given an opportunity to vote. The IEC would therefore be stringent on ensuring that there were party agents at all voting stations. The IEC wanted to promote a culture of responsible citizenry and was counting on all South Africans citizens to come and vote in their numbers.
Ms Tlakula in her presentation outlined the ten key strategic objectives of the IEC which the organization aimed to adhere to. The objectives included protecting the Commission as the global leader in electoral democracy, developing and maintain organisational policies and strategy for the effective and efficient functioning of the Commission and providing and maintaining an effective electoral logistical infrastructure for the efficient warehousing and distribution of materials and equipment for all electoral events. In order to achieve these objectives, the IEC would have to improve access to voting stations for voters. It should also be noted that up to 20 000 voting stations had been secured and functionally equipped per registration and election event, and an Infrastructure Task Team had been allocated to each province.
Mr Zolisa Mafuya explained that the IEC had been allocated R878 million in which R18 million had been allocated to provincial administration and R309m allocated to the 6th strategic objective which was to provide and maintain an effective electoral logistics infrastructure for efficient warehousing and distribution.
Mr Beukman said that he had participated as a party agent in Cape Town during a recent by-election. The by-election was well run, however the IEC needed to target young people to vote. It was also important that more people were included in the electoral process in order to enhance capacity.
Dr Bam replied that there was a process of recruitment on the way at the voting stations in which new criteria had been adopted. The criteria focused on bringing in people with skills, and using influence in the community and the IEC was also looking for people who were not employed, so that they could acquire experience in the process. The inclusion of youth was also important, as it was key for them to learn about the importance of an election and at the same time gain experience.
Mr Mathebe asked whether the IEC ever thought of privatizing the 2009 elections.
Dr Bam replied that South Africa was not ready due to many reasons. The main reason however was that there were many coordination processes, especially at local government level, and legal frameworks that needed to be followed. There would be too many changes in legislation that needed to be made in order for privatization to be possible.
Mr Lowe noted that there was contradiction in allowing prisoners to vote, but not allowing South Africans living abroad to vote.
Dr Bam replied that the IEC had faced a constitutional court challenge pertaining to voting by prisoners; hence they were given the vote.
Mr Du Plessis added that provisions had been made for South Africans who had left for short period of time such as on holiday. However the right fell away for those South Africans who had left the country for an indefinite period of time.
Mr Morwamoche said that he was concerned about the reduction of staff in various provinces and asked the IEC to comment on how they expected to work effectively during the 2009 elections when there was a shortage of staff. The IEC had submitted documents to the Department of Labour, however the documents omitted newly appointed personnel, clarity should be provided on whether the matter had been rectified.
Mr P Sibande (ANC) asked if adequate checks and balances would be in place in order to ensure fraud prevention for the 2009 elections. The IEC should also comment on what was being done to improve voter education.
Mr Beukman asked the IEC to comment on whether there were calls from the Zimabwean electoral authority for assistance. The IEC should also comment on their relationship with the Department of Home Affairs. During a previous meeting, the IEC CEO had raised the matter of gender at polling stations, and he asked if this was still an issue.
Mr Mathebe said that he was concerned about the issue of tenders, asked for clarity on how the local people were going to benefit from the tenders.
Ms Tlakula replied that the IEC consisted of almost 800 staff. The decision to cut down on permanent staff was based on the fact that the IEC had expanded tremendously as an organisation. On the report to the Department of Labour, the report included members of staff at all levels. The checks and balances that had been undertaken included the use of translucent ballot boxes for the 2009 elections. There were also environmental issues to consider as the IEC was required to use the biodegradable boxes.
The Chairperson asked what the SADC guidelines were on the use of ballot boxes.
Ms Tlakula replied that the IEC was committed to abide by the SADC guidelines; however it should be noted that the guidelines were not the norm. There were different considerations that applied to South Africa that may not have been part of the guidelines.
The Chairperson noted that guidelines were something that needed to be adhered to
Ms Tlakula replied that the translucent boxes were used in ensuring credibility and transparency, and when the issues of the ballot boxes came up, the IEC did not even look at the guidelines.
The Chairperson asked whether the IEC looked at the guidelines.
Ms Tlakula replied that the IEC looked at the guidelines from time to time.
The Chairperson said that it was important to be on a par with regional countries, and at times it was not good to be far ahead.
Ms Tlakula replied that other checks and balances included the numbering of ballot papers, which was a practice that has been taking place since 1994. The IEC also paid attention to the appointment of women, and women had been appointment at senior management level. This was done in order to address the gender balance issue.
Mr Moepya added that the reason that schools were used was the large number of facilities available. There was also a good working relationship with other departments such as public works and water affairs who were always ready to assist. Other facilities that the IEC planned to use for the upcoming national elections included churches and community centres. On the procurement of material, the IEC annual report specifically dealt with the issue of procurement. The report listed each village and the amount that been spent on every business venture.
Mr Mathebe asked for clarity on where one could register with the IEC.
Mr Moepya replied that registration could take place at all IEC offices, including the provincial office.
Ms Tlakula added that on relations with the Department, the IEC had constant interaction with the Minister of Home Affairs and had recently met with the Director General to discuss the issues pertaining to elections.
Ms Webber asked whether any other forms of identification would be accepted during the elections.
Ms Maunye asked whether the IEC had made arrangements with Eskom in order to deal with load shedding.
Mr Morwamoche said he was not happy with answers provided regarding the staff complement. There needed to be adequate staff manning voting stations. If the situation was not addressed then South Africa might end up being like Kenya or Zimbabwe. It had been reported that the IEC did not provide officials in rural areas with transport, clarity should be provided on the matter.
Mr Dithebe asked the IEC to comment on the matter of media accreditation
Ms Tlakula replied that the IEC would forward to Mr Morwamoche a document detailing the entire staff complement of the IEC, in order to show that there was sufficient capacity in the organization.
Dr Bam added that the IEC tried to avoid taking in people permanently as it was impossible to provide the staff members with work after the elections were over. However during election time the IEC appointed people on short term, and there were provisions that had been made for staff in every province. The IEC could not provide cars to each and every province since the numbers were too large for each individual to own a car. In order to rectify the matter, the organization rented cars on a short-term basis. The IEC also looked at global standards for the running of an election. However the model for South Africa was a model that was widely praised.
On Zimbabwe, the IEC did not go to a country unless they were invited. If invited, the IEC merely went as technical assistants rather than observers. As observers, there was a perception of one setting judgment of what was free and fair. South Africa went to observe the election as part of the SADC delegation. There were many different types of standards and one had to be careful when undertaking such kinds of political missions. It should be also noted that the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission had dedicated staff that were well educated and worked tirelessly. People had to realize that Zimbabwe was a country with a different set of laws which needed to be respected.
Ms Webber asked whether the stamping of ID books at voting stations would be enforced in the upcoming national elections, and whether voters would still be required to have their fingers marked with ink.
Mr Moepya replied that the enforcement of the stamping of ID books would be carried out. Every identity book of every voter would be stamped. The marking of the fingers would still take place, and it would be done in a manner that would not get the fingers in a mess. On the accreditation of media, the media did not have to be accredited but were bound by a code of conduct of what they could and could not do. On observers, the electoral commission received applications and the electoral commission encouraged organizations to be accredited so that they could monitor the elections.
Mr Mathebe asked whether they would accept the smart card, as the Department had indicated that they intended to launch the smart card early in 2009.
Mr Moepya replied that the Chief Electoral Commissioner had indicated that the IEC was in discussion with the Department in finding alternatives, and the implications of how departmental actions affected the work of the IEC.
The Chairperson said that there should not be any confusion about the documents that needed to be presented.
Mr Moepya replied that on the security of voting it was not just the identity book and the marking that mattered, it was also ensuring whether or not the voters name appeared on the voter’s role.
The Chairperson sought clarity on the preparation for registration
Mr Moepya replied that the Department had a much-improved process to ensure that registration improved. The IEC also organized to go to communities in order to ensure that everyone had access to registration. Every month the IEC would update the voters roll against the population register. On the preparation for the elections, finalization of municipal boundaries was still taking place and information would be provided on the voting districts that would be affected by the boundaries. The IEC would go on a voting drive and inform voters of their voting district. In early November the IEC would provide the public with the opportunity to confirm their details and check whether they had been registered in the correct district.
Ms Tlakula added that continual registration was taking place; however there was a challenge in ensuring that the voters roll was updated and correct. For the planning of the 6 May 2009 elections, the 7 and 8 November 2008 have been allocated for voter registration.
Dr Bam added that the greatest challenge for the elections was not the shortage of staff or technology; it was the accuracy of the voters roll, as it was a very important instrument in the running an election. The IEC always had to check carefully all the information and also the accuracy in the adding and removal of information. Another big challenge was the mobility of South African society, and the IEC faced a major challenge in tracking this mobility in order to update the voters roll.
The Chairperson said that the goals had been set to solve the challenges faced in the running of the elections. There should not be any confusion about what type of document should be presented as identification. The Committee had noted the issues raised and committee members appeared very satisfied with the strategic plan of the IEC.
The Committee adopted the strategic plan and budget of the IEC.
Film and Publication Board (FPB) strategy and budget briefing
The FPB was represented by Ms Thoko Mpumlwana, Deputy Chairperson: FPB Board, Ms Shokie Bopape-Dlomo: Chief Executive Officer, and Ms Mapule Makoala, the recently appointed Chief Operational Officer. Ms Mpulwana begun the briefing by announcing the departure if Ms Bopape-Dlomo, and noted that her departure would be a huge blow to the organization. The FPB presentation outlined a performance summary of the FPB, highlights of the 2008/2009 strategic plan and the proposed budget. The organization had made tremendous progress in the pursuit of its strategic plan for the financial year. Some of the key highlights of 2007/08 included the strengthening of international partnerships and relations and ensuring the retention of skills. The FPB also managed to improve its monitoring capacity, and create a new information technology response plan.
Ms Webber asked for an elaboration on the FPB policy and research work and the child protection unit. FPB should also touch on the research that they were undertaking
Mr Beukman said that it was vital for the Committee to be assured that the CEO’s post was filled as soon as possible. Clarity should also be provided on the timeframes of appointing the new CEO.
Ms Bopape-Dlomo replied that the policy and research unit had been reshaped. It was termed as policy and research because there was a direct link between what the organization tried to achieve and its advisory capacity to government on matters pertaining to film and publication. The child protection unit was termed child protection because the organization wanted to focus on more than child pornography. The two units were part of the organization’s core functions and the COO would be running the two programmes. The FPB performed research on its communication and marketing survey in order to determine the impact of the FPB’s activities on public. A survey was done on public perception of the FPB’s classification guidelines. An international investigation was also being done on how compliance monitoring systems around the world functioned. The current research was on paedophilia and the systems in place in the corporate environment in order to prevent pornography in the workplace.
Ms Mpumlwana replied that the FPB would have to advertise. Time frames would be set and the Deputy Minister would be involved in ensuring that the right individual was appointed in a clear and transparent manner.
Ms Maunye asked whether SADC and the African Union had at some point come together to address paedophiles and child pornography.
Ms Bopape-Dlomo replied that European countries tended to have stringent laws, hence it was becoming increasingly concerning that sophisticated paedophiles would start operating from African countries. The FPB has therefore decided to lobby SADC and other African countries in order for them to implement laws that would curb the exploitation of children.
The Committee adopted the strategic plan of the Film and Publication Board.
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