Civil Aviation Bill: deliberations & adoption; Metrorail Accidents: discussion

NCOP Public Services

03 February 2009
Chairperson: Mr R Tau (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee deliberated on the Civil Aviation Bill. The Department of Transport responded to questions posed previously by Members. The questions focused on Clauses 133, 16(1)(i)(i) and (ii) and 16(j). Members were particularly confused with Clause 16(1)(i)(i) and (ii) which dealt with disqualification and removal of members of the Aviation Safety Investigation Board. The Committee was concerned that the section still referred to old Acts and that people who were convicted of minor crimes would be disqualified from the Board based on old Acts. The Department explained that to save the integrity of the Board, they did not want to employ people who were habitual criminals with criminal records. They wanted the employees whose integrity was beyond reproach. In order to move forward and to find ways of excusing those with minor offences, the South African Law Commission in the Department of Justice would have to come up with a General Law Amendment to the general provision contained in most statues dealing with disqualification.

The Committee also noted that the Interim Constitution of 1993 gave amnesty to those who committed certain crimes prior to 1993. The Committee felt that this was a bit of a contradiction. The Department explained that that there was not any contradiction. A person may not be a member of the Board if he/she had been sentenced, after commencement of the Constitution of the Republic (1993), for a prison term of more than one year without the option of a fine.

The Committee discussed the recent Metrorail accidents that had occurred in Gauteng. The Committee resolved to leave for Gauteng that evening so that Metrorail could brief them on what had happened and they could visit some of those who had been injured in the accidents.

 

Meeting report

Deliberations on the Civil Aviation Bill
The Chairperson informed the Committee that the Department of Transport (DoT) still had to respond to a number of issues that Members had raised about the Bill. He asked the Department to address the Committee.

Mr Abdul Gamy (DoT Chief Director: Civil Aviation) discussed Section 133 of the Bill. The Committee had asked if 30 years imprisonment was a sufficient or severe enough punishment for an accused person who had killed many people or passengers. The Department’s response was that a person would be charged with a statutory offence but could also be charged in terms of the common law [See document for further detail].

Mr V Windvoel (ANC, Mpumalanga) asked if this meant that a person could be charged twice for the same offence.

Mr Ntukulelo Ntwana, the Parliamentary Legal Adviser, stated that it did not mean that the person would be charged twice for the same crime. He explained that if a murder occurred when the person committed any other offence then this person could be charged with a statutory offence and with common law. For example, a person could be charged for destroying an aircraft and for murder if the person was involved in the aircraft’s destruction.

Mr Gamy referred to the second question which had previously been raised by the Committee. The Committee had asked why, in Section 16(1)(i) (i) and (ii), it still referred to the Prevention of Corruption Act 1958 (Act no. 6 of 1958), Corruption Act 1992, and Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act 2004. The Department thought that there was no problem with referring to all the different Acts because there were still people in prisons serving their sentences, which had been imposed in terms of those Acts.

The Committee also wanted to know why section 16(1) (i) (i) and (ii) disqualified people who were convicted of offences provided by this section despite having fully served their punishment.

The Chairperson was concerned that people would still be disqualified from applying to the Aviation Safety Investigation Board because they served sentences based on the old Corruption Acts.

Mr Ntwana asked if the Chairperson was concerned that younger people who had been convicted of minor offences in the past would be disqualified from applying to the Board.

The Chairperson stated that this was the case. He wondered how the Committee and the DoT could respond to this matter.

Mr Windvoel stated that this was worrying, as there were people who were convicted of minor offences who had been rehabilitated; however, they could not find employment because they had a record.

Mr Gamy stated that to ensure the integrity of the Board, they did not want to employ people who were habitual criminals with criminal records. They wanted the employees whose integrity was beyond reproach. In order to move forward and to find ways of excusing those with minor offences, the South African Law Commission in the Department of Justice would have to come up with a General Law Amendment to the general provision contained in most statues dealing with disqualification.  [See document for further detail].

The Chairperson stated that he understood the difficulty; he just did not want the Act to disadvantage the younger generation in the country.

Rev P Moatshe (ANC, North West) stated that he still did not understand the Department’s response to the question. He did not understand what the DoT meant by not wanting to “create a legislative vacuum”.

The Chairperson explained that because there were people who were serving sentences imposed in terms of the old Acts, it was important that reference was made to the old Acts. He explained that a person who had served a sentence given from the 1958 Act and who committed another crime afterwards would not be charged with the 1958 Act again, but with the 2004 Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act. All people who committed crimes now would be charged on the basis of the 2004 Act. For now, reference was made to old Acts to deal with any vacuum that could arise as a result of not mentioning the old Acts.

Mr C Van Rooyen (ANC, Free State) discussed Clause 11(2) and (3) of the Bill. It read, “The Aviation Safety Investigation Board must not apportion any blame or liability in any report following an investigation of any aircraft accident or aircraft incident”. He did not understand the role that the investigator would play, as it was “not the function of the Aviation Safety Investigation Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability”. He also wanted to know what use the Board would be if they could refuse to investigate aircraft accidents and incidents.

The Chairperson informed Mr van Rooyen that these issues had already been raised at a previous meeting. 

Mr Gamy informed the Committee that Annexure 13 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation covered Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation. The intention of the International Civil Aviation Organisation was to prevent reoccurrence. If a pilot made an error, he would have to say voluntarily that he had made the error. However, if the pilot gave false testimony at a later stage, he/she could be charged with perjury. A report would be written on the incident or accident and circulated to all aviation authorities to ensure that corrective action took place. However, not all minor aircraft accidents or incidents required investigation, as investigations were costly.

The Committee also wanted more clarity on section 16(j) of the Bill. Mr Gamy informed them that the Department was aware that the cut off date for a particular disqualification was 1993 and that the disqualified person was a person who was imprisoned without an option of a fine. This clause was meant to preserve the integrity of the Board and its members.

The Chairperson noted that at a previous meeting reference was made to the 1993 Interim Constitution as opposed to the 1996 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

Advocate Adam Masombuka (DoT Acting Chief Director: Legislation) stated that it was clause 16(1)(j) that made reference to the Interim Constitution of 1993. This was a “cut-off date” for people who were convicted prior to 1993. These people could be given amnesty in terms of clause 16(1)(j) and would be eligible for appointment to the Aviation Safety Investigation Board. Anybody convicted after 1993 would not be eligible for appointment to the Board.

The Chairperson stated that this was confusing, as on the one hand the Department was saying that everybody who was convicted in terms of the 1958 Prevention of Corruption Act would be disqualified to serve on the Board. However it was then stated that those who were convicted prior to the 1993 Interim Constitution, could be granted amnesty. He wanted more clarity on the matter, as it seemed as though there was some contradiction.

Mr Johannes Mokgatho (DoT Deputy Director: Legislation) stated that there was not any contradiction. A person may not be a member of the Board if he/she had been sentenced after commencement of the Constitution of the Republic (1993) up to a period of not less than one year without the option of a fine.

The Chairperson clarified that a person could be appointed to the Board as long as they were convicted according to the 1958 Act and as long as they were not sentenced to longer than a year without the option of a fine. The amnesty that could be granted applied only to this.

Adv Masombuka stated that the word “interim” could be inserted before the word “constitution” every time the Bill spoke of the 1993 Constitution of the Republic.

Ms H Matlanyane (ANC, Limpopo) stated that it was already understood that the 1993 Constitution implied that it was the interim Constitution.

The Chairperson stated that since all matters regarding the Bill had been clarified and no amendments were being made, the Committee would vote on the Bill.

The Chairperson read the motion of desirability. He then asked for someone to move on the Bill. Rev Maotshe from the North West Province moved to adopt the Bill and Mr F Adams (ANC, Western Cape) seconded the motion. The Bill was adopted.


Informal Discussion on Recent Metrorail Accidents
The Chairperson informed the Committee that there had been two recent accidents involving Metrorail in Gauteng. There had been a head-on collision of two trains and on another occasion, a passenger train had crashed in to another train from behind. This brought to question the safety of trains. School children as well as pregnant women were injured in the accidents.

The Chairperson agreed with the Whip of the Committee that the Committee had to meet with Metrorail to discuss the accidents and to visit some of those who were injured in the accidents. The Committee had the option of leaving for Gauteng that night, so that Metrorail could brief the Committee the next day, or they could wait 10 February 2009, the following week. The Chairperson was concerned that leaving it until the following week would be too late.

Mr Windvoel agreed with the Chairperson. He stated that this was the people’s parliament and the sooner the Committee went, the better.

Adv Leon Kellermann (DoT Consultant) stated that he would check if Metrorail would be available the next day to brief the Committee on the accidents. After speaking to Metrorail officials, he informed the Committee that Metrorail would be available for the briefing.

The Chairperson stated that he would contact Members after the final arrangements had been made.

Adoption of Minutes
The Chairperson asked the Committee to consider the minutes of 28 January 2009. The minutes were adopted without amendments.

The meeting was adjourned.

 
 

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