Mediation on the Second-hand Goods Bill

NCOP Security and Justice

09 February 2009
Chairperson: Ms M Sotyu (ANC) and Kgoshi L Mokoena (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Mediation Committee of National Assembly and National Council of Province members was formed as the Portfolio Committee of Safety and Security and the Select Committee on Security and Constitutional Affairs could not reach unanimity on the final amendments to the Second-hand Goods Bill. The inclusion of second-hand books in the Bill was the point of difference. However, by the time this mediation meeting took place, the differences between the majority party in the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces on the matter had already been resolved. In the meeting, debate proceeded along party lines.

The Democratic Alliance expressed the firm conviction that inclusion would force second-hand book businesses to close down. These were defined as small enterprises that would not be able to cope with the administrative burdens the Act would impose on them. Their standpoint against inclusion was based on the premise that black market trading in second-hand books did not take place, and that books rarely got stolen. It cited the South African Police Service statement that it would not be able to police book theft, anyway. Evidence was cited that the Second-hand Book Dealers Association was not satisfied about inclusion.

The ANC position was that inclusion would in fact be to the benefit of book dealers, and that they could choose to be involved with the drafting of regulations. Book theft did occur, especially of student books, and this called for regulation. It was defined as an anticipatory measure, geared to pointing matters in the right direction. It was stressed that books under R100 in value were not to be regulated, and that the Second-hand Book Dealers Association could apply for exemption form the requirements of the Bill. The ANC, for its part, claimed that there had been a meeting with the Second-hand Book Dealers Association who had expressed themselves as satisfied with the provisions.

The two Chairpersons indicated that unanimity would be preferable to voting on the issue, but the DA held to its stance.

The result of voting was overwhelmingly in favour of inclusion of second-hand books in the Bill.

Meeting report

Election of Chairpersons to a Mediation Committee on the Second-hand Goods Bill
The Committee secretary greeted all present and announced that nominations for two chairpersons were awaited. Ms A van Wyk (ANC) nominated Ms M Sotyu (ANC) to represent the National Assembly as Chairperson. The nomination was seconded, without further nominations.

Mr Z Ntuli (ANC, Kwazulu-Natal) nominated Kgoshi L Mokoena (ANC, Limpopo) to represent the National Council of Provinces. The nomination was seconded, without further nominations.

Ms Sotyu addressed the meeting first, with a brief reference to the route the Second Hand Goods Bill had travelled thus far. The Bill had proceeded from the National Assembly (NA) to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), and then back with amendments. Parliament had established the Mediation Committee to deal with differences and possible misunderstandings that still existed.

Kgoshi Mokoena expressed gratitude for being empowered to champion the process. NCOP had studied the Bill and endeavoured to build further upon the foundation laid by the NA. The amendment that the Mediation Committee had to consider was the inclusion of second-hand clothing and -books in the Bill. There had been informal discussions about the matter. From there it would be the business of the Mediation Committee.

Mediation Discussion
Ms Sotyu referred to consultations with the Second-hand Books Association. Ms Van Wyk had led parliamentarians in discussion with that association. Ms Sotyu invited Ms Van Wyk to report on that.

Ms Van Wyk reported that the Second-hand Book Association had come away satisfied from the meeting. Association members had been under the impression that every single second-hand book would have to bear an identification mark. Association members had been assured that any goods valued at under R100, would be excluded.

She expressed the conviction that the inclusion of books would benefit that association, as valuable books would not get into a black market. The association had to be encouraged to get involved in the drafting of regulations, in the same way that associations were usually involved in legislation. She concluded that the Second-hand Book Association was satisfied.

Mr Ntuli noted a willingness on the part of the NCOP to agree with this.

Ms D Kohler-Barnard (DA) stated that it had taken the Select Committee long to agree, but that unanimity had been reached after two sessions with book dealers.

The South African Police Services (SAPS) had said that they could not police illicit dealing in second-hand books. How could book dealers be satisfied?

The NCOP and the Select Committee had reached unanimity, and he had minutes compiled by members at a book dealers meeting that indicated that they were not satisfied. Book dealers were saying that they would have to shut down. These were small businesses, often husband and wife teams. They would be severely affected. The SAPS were on record as saying that they did not have cases involving theft of books.

The administration required would be out of proportion to the value of any possible theft. University books were stolen, but not resold, they were used. Three universities consulted, had reported no problem with trading in second-hand books. Second-hand clothing was an entirely different matter; stolen items were supplied with different labels and resold. Books were rarely stolen.

A huge burden would be placed on small industries. Books were an intellectual commodity. Student books traded at above R100, and would fall under the regulations of the Bill. People would have to deal with thousands of forms. It would be an impossible burden.

The Second-hand Book Dealers Association was a close-knit community, who regulated themselves seriously. The Honourable Ms van Wyk had expressed concern about her own valuable books. But a copy of Oliver Twist could not be tracked down. The SAPS had indicated that there were no book stealing syndicates. No research or evidence existed. Hardship for second-hand book dealers was a foregone conclusion.

Ms van Wyk responded that she could produce an email from the Second-hand book Association, to the effect that they were satisfied. Their being an association made them eligible to apply for exemption from the Bill. Ms Kohler-Barnard had said that it would be impossible to track down a copy of Oliver Twist. But it was not the theft of single books that the Bill sought to address, rather combinations of books.

Three years before, people were saying that CDs would not be stolen. However it had become a prime target. In the Western Cape, many people were looking for ready money with which to buy drugs. In Stellenbosch, the theft of gas bottles had been unheard of, as little as a year before. Currently gas bottles were being stolen every weekend.

Above all, the inclusion of books was geared towards pointing things in the right direction. It was a measure of anticipation.

Mr N Mack (ANC, Western Cape) protested that it was unacceptable to doubt a Member asked by the Chair to represent a certain matter. It amounted to questioning her integrity. The validity of the email Ms van Wyk had received, should not be questioned.

Mr F Maserumule (ANC) pointed out that he had a few years earlier, been a member of a committee that had advocated the tapping of cellphones for security purposes, Some people had found that very far-fetched, and then along came 9/11. Prevention was better than cure. Why had the process to be reviewed? It was but a minor amendment.

Ms Kohler-Barnard stressed that she trusted Ms van Wyk. What puzzled her was that different emails existed. It was possible that views had been expressed that were not in accordance with those of the chairperson of the association. Who had formulated those? The email that she had received stated that businesses would have to close down. There would be unanticipated consequences. Who had it been who presumed to speak in place of the chairperson of the association?

Kgoshi Mokoena reminded the meeting that the National Assembly would be sitting at 14h00. He mentioned that Ms van Wyk had said that exemptions could be granted. It was necessary to reach consensus on the matter.

Mr Ntuli asked what Ms Kohler-Barnard was attempting to lead the Committee to. What did she expect the Committee to do?

Mr Bert van der Walt, SAPS, said that the SAPS did not intend to adopt a definite position on the matter. It had stated in the NCOP that the fact of exemption made it acceptable.

Mr J Le Roux (DA, Eastern Cape) argued that if exemption could be granted, why had it been deemed necessary to include it in the first place? That put the book dealers at the mercy of whim, what if exemption was refused? His party respected Ms van Wyk, but it had been she herself who had suggested bringing an email before the Committee. It had not been demanded. For a small book dealer, inclusion would be experienced as a major amendment to the Bill.

Ms van Wyk responded that the legislation had to be properly understood. Its purpose was not to cause people to close down. The problems of the book dealers had been addressed, they were satisfied with the explanation provided for them. It was wrong to suppose that books did not get
stolen. Student’s books got stolen, and their parents had to replace them. Two representatives of the Second-hand Book Dealers Association had been convinced that the Bill would not close them down.

Ms Sotyu noted that during deliberations, not everyone had been in favour of what the Bill proposed. Second-hand car dealers had been opposed to it. The Portfolio Committee advised them on other routes to follow. When the Bill went to NCOP, the inclusion of books had not been not a problem.

She called on Ms Kohler-Barnard to consider that the aim was not to close book dealers down, but to regulate. She would prefer it if unanimity could be reached, without having to vote on the matter.

Ms Kohler-Barnard reiterated that she had email and phone calls testifying to dissatisfaction. The evidence to the contrary that had reached Ms van Wyk, surprised her. Student books were generally priced at over R100. The NCOP had had it right, and had then apparently decided that the NA knew better.

Ms Sotyu stated that any organisations that had a problem, could bring it back to Parliament. There was a Safety and Security Chair in place. Members could be called in to deliberate.

Kgoshi Mokoena made a final appeal for unanimity.

Ms Kohler-Barnard insisted that she did not see her way open to do this.

Kgoshi Mokoena replied that he was not disposed to reply to Ms Kohler-Barnard’s disparaging remark about the NCOP adopting the NA position.

Voting on Bill
Ms Sotyu asked for votes in favour of, and against the inclusion of second-hand books. Nine Members, and the two Chairpersons, were in favour. The two DA members were against.

Ms Sotyu noted that there would be a report to Parliament, and adjourned the meeting.


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