Spies’s Legislative Proposal to Amend Employment Equity Act; Lowe’s Legislative Proposal to amend Labour Relations Act; Bekker’s Legislative Proposal to Amend Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist & Related Activities Act

Private Members' Legislative Proposals and Special Petitions

11 August 2008
Chairperson: Mr P Gerber (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

As there was no quorum, the Committee was not able to take any final decision on the legislative proposals.

Mr Spies’s legislative proposal to amend the Employment Equity Act, to include “free born South Africans” to the group of designated persons, was noted as almost identical to that submitted earlier by Ms Dreyer. It was noted that the Department of Labour was opposed to this proposal.

Mr Lowe’s legislative proposal to amend the Labour Relations Act was intended to address the situation where damage to personal or physical property was caused during authorised strikes, and sought to hold the trade unions, federations or bodies that organised the strike liable for this loss. The Department of Labour noted some problems with the proposal, pointing out that often there would be “hangers on” who were not part of the unions who caused the damage, and other problems were cited with this proposal.

Mr Selfe’s legislative proposal to enact automatic expunging of criminal records resulting from convictions under apartheid legislation had been overtaken, to a degree, by a similar Bill being introduced by the Department of Justice, which did not go quite so far but covered the same principles. Mr Selfe had indicated that he would be happy to discuss incorporation of all his principles into that Bill, and wait and see how the Departmental process developed, before pursuing this Bill actively or withdrawing it. Members did believe that there was merit in this proposal, and wondered whether it would not be better to pursue it vigorously and try to get the Bill passed, as it was possible that the Department’s Bill would not be passed before Parliament ended. The matter would be further discussed with Mr Selfe.

Mr Bekker’s proposal to amend the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorist and Related Activities Bill aimed to address the problem of copper theft, by including theft of cables in the definition of terrorist activity, and by amending the Act to ensure that dealers as well as thieves could be charged with and punished for the sale of cables. Members agreed that theft of cable was a very serious and urgent matter, and the point had been made at the previous meeting that it in fact also extended to theft of non-ferrous metals also. The South African Police Service had indicated that it supported the principle, but suggested that it be incorporated, for practical reasons, into the Second Hand Goods Bill that was currently before the NCOP. It was reported that Mr Bekker had since proposed that perhaps the Police Service, in conjunction with the Minister of Minerals and Energy, should declare copper to be a precious metal, so that its sale was regulated, in an attempt to fight theft. He did not necessarily wish to be the sole proposer of a Bill, but did believe that the time had come to address the matter seriously. Members agreed that there was merit in this and it would be discussed further at the next meeting.

All the proposals stood over for further discussion.

Meeting report

Mr P Gerber (ANC) was elected as Acting Chairperson. He congratulated Ms I Mars (IFP) on her 80th birthday. He briefly outlined the agenda for the meeting, and suggested that the three legislative proposals should be finalised, if time permitted, at the meeting on Thursday. Mr Selfe had agreed that his proposal could stand over.

Ms S Rajbally (MF) believed that there was considerable merit in it and that it should also be discussed at the next meeting.

Members agreed.

Spies’s Legislative proposal to amend the Employment Equity Act
Adv Swart remarked that the proposal was almost identical to that of Ms Dreyer, in that it sought to extend the designated group to include “free born” South Africans, or those who had been described as being of school going age in 1994.

Lowe’s Legislative Proposal to amend the Labour Relations Act
The Acting Chairperson reminded members that Mr Lowe’s proposal related to instances where a Trade Union or federation or body, having the right to strike, had conducted strike action that resulted in damage to private or public property. Mr Lowe had essentially proposed that those trade unions or federations should be able to be liable for that damage caused.

Adv Swart felt the Committee had a very good discussion the previous week. He asked for clarity as to whether the Department of Labour had agreed that there was a need to look into the accountability of the unions for such actions.

The Acting Chairperson responded that the Department had made the point that even with political rallies there were always some “hangers on” who might be causing the damage, and that was difficult to control.

The Acting Chairperson noted that since there was not a quorum, the Committee could not take any final decisions.

Adv Swart asked that the notices sent to Members for the meetings should include a plea that there must be a quorum for the next meeting.

Selfe’s legislative proposal to effect expungement of criminal records pursuant to apartheid laws
Ms Rajbally said that broader discussion was needed on the proposal, and she wondered whether the Committee could have any say in this matter.

The Acting Chairperson explained that the example given by Mr Selfe was that when Transkei and Ciskei were “created”, the people from those areas ended up not being able to have South African passports, and found themselves in breach of immigration laws unwittingly. In addition, Mr Selfe had noted that people who were prosecuted under the colour bar laws still had criminal records although the laws themselves were repealed. Mr Selfe was proposing a Bill setting out a mechanism for expunging all those records that resulted from apartheid legislation. However, the Department of Justice was dealing with a similar bill. Mr Selfe was quite prepared to hold back his proposal to see the outcome of those deliberations. This Committee should see how far the Department’s Bill had progressed, as this was a very serious matter.

Adv Swart was concerned that the issue was very urgent and if not dealt with in this Parliamentary term it would lapse. He suggested that this Committee could go ahead and set an example, or agree to wait for the Department of Justice Bill.

Ms I Mars (IFP) said whatever the Department of Justice did, their Bill would be unlikely to be passed before the next Parliament.

Adv Swart suggested that if not finalised it would lapse.

Ms Rajbally asked what was the viewpoint of the Department of Justice.

Adv Swart clarified that the Department of Justice was preparing a Bill to be tabled some time in Parliament. He did not think that it was not likely to be tabled this term, and then it would lapse.

Ms Rajbally asked what powers the Committee had.

The Acting Chairperson explained that the Committee had to take decisions as to whether it was desirable or not for the proposal to go forward, and the procedure it would then take.

Adv Swart added that the moment this Committee took a decision and submitted a report, it was effectively finished with that proposal. He believed that there was a slight possibility that this proposal could make it through the process. He would speak to Mr Selfe about the limitations of the time frames so that he could reconsider whether he still wished to wait for the outcome of the Department of Justice’s bill.

The committee could discuss the desirability of the proposal when there was a quorum.

Bekker’s legislative proposal to amend the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorist and Related Activities
Adv Swart agreed that the theft of cables had reached such proportions that it was now a matter of national security.

The Acting Chairperson summarised that Mr Bekker had proposed that theft of copper and non-ferrous metals be included as a terrorist activity under the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorism and Related Activities Act. He added that it had emerged during discussions that in fact concerns should relate not only to the theft of copper, as the price of steel was so high that thieves were stealing from the railways tracks and rolling stock, and stealing fences from farms.

South African Police Service (SAPS), when commenting on the Bill, had made the point that they would consider inclusion of certain aspects of the proposal into the Second Hand Goods Bill, which was currently before the NCOP, as there were certain practical problems in including this under the terrorism legislation.  He noted that he had, already in 2001, paid a visit to the Department about the Second Hand Goods Act. That was seven years ago, and he was horrified how many millions of rands losses in copper had been suffered since then.

Ms Mars said that he had a note from Mr Bekker in which he stated that he supported the Second Hand Goods Bill but would like his suggestions to form supplementary clauses to it. He proposed that SAPS, in conjunction with the Minister of Minerals and Energy, should consider taking steps to declare copper to be a precious metal, and in that way to fight theft. He did not necessarily wish to be the sole presenter of a bill, and would be happy for SAPS and other departments to take over his suggestions, but he believed strongly that the time had come to take active steps.

Adv Swart submitted that if copper were declared a precious metal it would be possible to regulate its sale.

Ms Rajbally added that there was a market for the sale of copper, and the Committee should put a finger on the pulse of what was happening and take steps to restrict such sales.

Adv Swart said that putting copper theft on the schedule of a terrorist activity offence would certainly be a preventive measure; as people would be deterred by the heavy sentences that could be imposed. He was of the opinion that the proposals of both Mr Selfe and Mr Bekker would be opportunities for this Committee to address and test the Parliamentary systems to see how they could deal with them.

The Acting Chairperson agreed, but said that the discussions must continue the following week when there was a quorum. He asked the Committee Secretary to liase with Ms Mentor.

Ms Mars tendered apologies for both herself and Mr Bekker for next week’s meeting, as they would be attending a conference. She noted, for the record, that both she and Mr Bekker supported the Selfe and Bekker proposals.

The meeting was adjourned.

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