Gerber legislative proposal for repeal of St Andrew’s College, Grahamstown, (Private) Act 15 of 1932, St Andrew’s College, Grahamstown, (Private) Amendment Act No. 82 of 1985, Diocesan College, Rondebosch, (Private) Act No. 72 of 1942, Natal Ecclesiastic

Private Members' Legislative Proposals and Special Petitions

05 June 2008
Chairperson: Adv P Swart (DA)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee noted with concern that there had still not been any response from the Speaker, other than that the matter was being dealt with, in respect of Mrs Kellerman’s petition, despite the fact that Parliament had endorsed the Committee’s decision already in March 2006. It was resolved that this matter be taken up urgently and directly by Mr Gerber with the Speaker.

Mr Gerber presented a legislative proposal to repeal four pieces of legislation: St Andrew’s College, Grahamstown, (Private) Act 15 of 1932,  St Andrew’s College, Grahamstown, (Private) Amendment Act No. 82 of 1985, Diocesan College, Rondebosch, (Private) Act No. 72 of 1942, Natal Ecclesiastical Properties And Trust (Private) Act, No. 60 of 1975. All were to be repealed for the same reasons. He stated that there was no basis for an Act of to regulate agreements and arrangements that only affected specific religious institutions. All four Acts were discriminatory because they permitted only persons of a certain religion, or a certain rank in the church, to be appointed as headmaster. This was probably unconstitutional. Mr Gerber suggested that the views of the institutions concerned be sought, and it was decided that they be asked to attend a future meeting to comment.

The committee discussed its Status Report.

Meeting report

Adv Swart was elected to chair the meeting. He raised his concerns at the few members present and noted that although the initial briefing could be taken, there was not a quorum to conclude matters at this meeting.

Kellerman Petition
The Acting Chairperson noted that the previous week the Chairperson Ms Mentor was asked to immediately raise the status of Mrs Kellerman’s petition with the Speaker. He asked the Committee Secretary to raise this matter again with the Speaker. 

The Acting Chairperson thanked Mrs Kellerman for attending and noted that she was regrettably now in dire financial straits. He assured her of the Committee’s support to have the matter resolved. He explained that the Committee’s decision was approved by Parliament and the Committee was trying its utmost to get the Speaker and the Minister of Finance, who were dealing with this matter now, to do something about it.

Adv Zuraya Adhikarie (Senior Parliamentary Legal Advisor) advised that the Speaker was attending to correspondence from Mrs Kellerman.

Adv Swart remarked that this was the situation the previous year.

Mr A Ainslie (ANC) said that that was totally unacceptable. The Committee’s resolution was passed in March 2006 and the same reply – that the matter was being dealt with – was still being received. He proposed stronger pressure and more assistance from this Committee so that this long outstanding issue could be resolved.

The Acting Chairperson added that after being passed in Parliament the matter was referred to National Treasury and the Minister but there was some dissension between the Minister and Speaker about the Minister’s involvement. The Speaker was the person who must deal with this. Last week the committee took a unanimous decision that the Chairperson of this Committee must again speak to the Speaker.

Mr Ainslie proposed writing to the Speaker, stressing the urgency and calling for a written reply as to what the problem was.

The Acting Chairperson said that unfortunately the permanent Chairperson, Ms Mentor, had been unable to attend the Committee for three weeks. He asked Mr Gerber to try to have a discussion with the Speaker, and suggested he be tasked to get an official document to her. Last week Adv Swart had handed in a document from Mrs Kellerman noting her dire financial straits, including the fact that she had been threatened with eviction. This was the result of the Executive not acting on what Parliament had decided two years ago. He suggested that Mrs Kellerman also speak to Ms Mentor.

Gerber’s Legislative proposal to repeal St Andrew’s College, Grahamstown, (Private) Act 15 of 1932, St Andrew’s College, Grahamstown, (Private) Amendment Act No. 82 of 1985, Diocesan College, Rondebosch, (Private) Act No. 72 of 1942, Natal Ecclesiastical Properties And Trust (Private) Act, No. 60 of 1975
Mr Pierre Gerber presented his legislative proposals, which related to the three Acts as described. The motivation for the repeal was set out in the objectives, which were the same in respect of the three Acts he sought to repeal.

He noted that the Constitution had created a democratic state founded on the values of human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms, non-racialism and non-sexism.
It was interesting to note that, fourteen years into our democratic dispensation, there were still existing pieces of legislation, inherited from the previous regime, that were inconsistent with the values outlined. These statutes undermined the attempts by Parliament to realise a better quality of life for all.

Mr Gerber noted that legislation would have to apply to all citizens of the country. There was no basis for an Act of Parliament to regulate agreements and arrangements that only affected specific religious institutions.

Both the Saint Andrew’s College Grahamstown and the Diocesan College Rondebosch legislation provided that only a person of a certain religion could be headmaster of the school. The Natal Ecclesiastical Properties and Trust Act provided that a headmaster would have to hold a certain position in the church. He pointed out that these Acts were in fact not necessary. Any school should be permitted to decide who it wished to have as its headmaster. If someone applied for the post of headmaster at the specific schools and was precluded from getting the job simply because he was not a member of the church, then this would surely be unconstitutional.

The Saint Andrew’s College Grahamstown (Private) Amendment Act, 82 of 1985 and the Saint Andrew’s College Grahamstown (Private) Act 15 of 1932 were discriminatory, creating an impression that discrimination along religious lines was acceptable. He thought this legislation entrenched stereotype prejudices that the Constitution sought to eradicate and proposed that these Acts be repealed.

In his view this Act entrenched stereotype prejudices that our Constitution sought to eradicate. He therefore moved the Saint Andrew’s College Grahamstown Amendment Act No. 82 of 1985, and the Saint Andrew’s College Grahamstown (Private) Act 15 of 1932 be repealed.

For the same reasons he moved that the Diocesan College Rondebosch (Private) Act No. 7, 1942 and that the Natal Ecclesiastical Properties And Trust (Private) Act, No. 60 of 1975 be repealed.

He would be interested in hearing the comments from the various schools, because there were a lot of symbolic matters around the Acts, and clearly these were fine schools, so he proposed that the Committee make an effort to call them to hear their views.

Discussion
Adv Swart noted there was also reference to male persons in these Acts, so there was gender discrimination as well. He asked that copies of the Acts be made available.

Mr Ainslie agreed that it would be very useful and important that the affected schools were asked to give input. He asked if the process could possibly be completed before the end of June.

 Ms M Maine supported the proposals, saying that the objectives were good.

Adv Swart suggested that it was probably only necessary to deal with these specific bodies, as very specific principles were being established by this legislation and there was no necessity to draw out the proceedings. He asked Mr Gerber to brief the secretary, and noted that documentation must go out today, and the schools given a week’s notice to give their input. He would follow up whether the Committee could pay expenses for one representative from each body.  He thanked Mr Gerber for his proposal, noting that it was important to clear the statute books of superfluous legislation that was no longer applicable.

Committee’s Status Report
The Committee Status Report was tabled.

It was noted that Mr Lowe’s proposal to amend the Labour Relations Act had to be rescheduled as Mr Louw was out of the country. Ms Dreyer’s proposal to amend the Employment Equity Act would be discussed in the following week. It was noted that the van der Merwe proposal, the Buthelezi proposal, and the Minnie proposals were still to be considered by the House.

 The meeting was adjourned.

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