Interviews for appointment of Human Rights Commissioner

Appointment to the South African Commission on Human Rights

11 November 2008
Chairperson: Adv C Johnson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met to interview the candidates for the vacancy on the South African Human Rights Commission. It interviewed Dr Danny Titus, asking him for a brief background of his work experience and what he thought that he could bring as knowledge and experience to the Commission. The Members’ questions are recorded, and the full answers may be heard on the attached recording. Members’ questions related to the role of the Commission in combating xenophobic violence, how he would suggest addressing the rights of prisoners, how religious and cultural rights could be combined, whether the Commission could have played a significant role in identifying the cause of xenophobic violence, and whether he thought that the Commission should or could have done anything different in dealing with certain public utterances. He was also asked what he would do in particular if appointed, what might be the advantage of combining the Chapter 9 institutions, how he would address certain perceptions, and what could be done to institutionalise indigenous languages.

Meeting report

Filling of vacancies on the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC)
The Chairperson asked whether Members of Parliament who were nominated should resign from their posts when they were appointed.

A State Law Advisor replied that there was no legislation that barred sitting Members from serving on the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).

The Chairperson informed the Committee that a scorecard was circulated to help Members evaluate the interviewees, but they were not expected to submit the scorecards.

Mr S Dithebe (ANC) mentioned that Members who would not be able to attend all interviews would have unbalanced scorecards.

The Chairperson replied that the scorecard was meant to serve as a guideline only.

Dr Danny Titus:  Interview
Dr Danny Titus, giving a brief introduction to himself, noted that he had been working for the Afrikaanse Taal and Kultuur Vereeneging, as an Executive Director on Culture. In 2007 he had been employed as a Deputy Dean at the University of South Africa (UNISA), who had then seconded him to work for the Justice College. He mentioned that Human Rights was a speciality area of his, especially the international perspective, and it how it applied to the SAHRC. He said that he was part of the Human Rights Commission’s Foreign Relations Committee and that had dealt with xenophobic incidents. There was a need for proper management of the all the Chapter 9 Institutions. There was a need for a change the corporate role and management styles within the SAHRC. He said that there should be clear role delineation. Dr Titus said that human rights had lost its presence in the national agenda and in the political and economic spheres of life.

Questions were posed by Members of the Committee, as listed below. The answers can be heard on the audio recording available for this meeting

Ms D Smuts (DA) asked how Dr Titus, if appointed, would address the rights of prisoners given the public call for the more robust treatment of criminals. She wanted to know how he would he combine cultural and religious rights under the SAHRC.

Ms E Ngaleka (ANC) asked whether the SAHRC could have played a significant role in identifying the cause of xenophobic violence. She wanted to know whether the Commission also could have acted differently in dealing with the inciting utterances of Mr Julius Malema and Zwelinzima Vavi.

Mr J Sibanyoni (ANC) commended Dr Titus on the work he had done for Afrikaans language, particularly to help rural speakers of the language. He asked what would Mr Titus do differently if he were appointed to serve as a Commissioner.

Mr S Dithebe (ANC) asked what would be the advantage of combining the Chapter 9 institutions. He wanted to know how Dr Titus might have dealt with the Malema incident if he had been a Commissioner at this stage,  and if this would have been anything different to what had been done. 

Ms A Van Wyk (ANC) asked how could Dr Titus change the perception that the SAHRC was a reactionary body. She asked what would Dr Titus bring to the Commission that would be different to what had already been done.

Mr M Sonto (ANC) asked what could be done to institutionalise indigenous languages.

The Chairperson invited Dr Titus to ask any questions regarding the position.

Dr Titus said he knew the Commission very well, and he said that he would appreciate if he could be considered only as a part time Commissioner.

The meeting was adjourned


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