Proposed Guide for Members' Legislative Proposals: discussion

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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

30 May 2003

Mr P.A. Matthee (NNP) Kwazulu-Natal

Documents Handed Out:
Initiatives for Change: A Practical Guide for Members' Legislative Proposals (document awaited)

The briefing sought to achieve consensus on the need for a guide on the rights and powers of members of parliament was reached. The guide, currently in draft form, refers to the Constitutional mandate; NCOP rules and procedures; Rules and Procedures in Provincial Legislatures and practical suggestions. The committee was agreed to by the Democratic Development Program (DDP) and is based on the presentations held at the workshop.

In attendance were Mr B.J. Mkhaliphi (ANC-Mpumalanga), Mr R.M. Nyakane (UDM-Northern Province) and Ms D. Ramodibe (ANC-Gauteng).

The guide, presently in draft form, is the result of a workshop held last year which lists the procedures and rights of members to initiate legislation. The committee was agreed upon by the Democratic Development Program (DDP) and is based on the presentations held at the workshop.

The purpose of the manual is to empower members of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) and provincial legislatures to come forward with legislative proposals.

Few amendments were made because there was general satisfaction with the guide.

Mr Matthee highlighted the fact that the vast majority of democratic states allowed their members certain constitutional rights to initiate proposals, such as if they saw a gap in a Bill, if they had an idea or query for an amendment.

Unlike the USA - where it was impossible to distinguish between government and private bills- the select committee's primary function was to identify where new legislation was viable.
It was also responsible for the drafting of legislative proposals.

Parliament was of the opinion that there should be more interaction between institutions and better networking practices between the academic sectors, the public, NGO's and within the government itself.

Matthee believed that the guide was a powerful tool for any individual in parliament. It was also the best available opportunity for a politician to get on the statute books, as any issue that was voiced forced all role players to take a position, the proposal reached all nine provinces before it became a Bill. The proposal could involve any given subject, from multi-lingualism to labor law.

If the proposal was deemed useful, it would undergo the same procedure as a government bill - It gets debated in parliament. Hence the possible impact that this new committee had as far as transparency, and accountability was concerned.

Mr Nyakane (UDM) sought clarity on the issue of when a Bill had already been passed: Could a member challenge the Bill and identify possible weaknesses?

Mr Matthee stated that a Bill was always open to amendments and cold be scrapped or replaced if there was sufficient consensus. The select committee only dealt with Section 73 matters which were matters of provincial importance.

Mr Mkhaliphi suggested there be a Section 74 whereby a member could introduce any legislation. This matter is to be investigated. Mr Mkhaliphi also praised the guide, describing it as groundbreaking.

Amendments made to draft:
It should be decided by each province should they require a select committee of their own. The following discrepancies were identified:

The guide mentions that it was last updated on 2 July 2002. It was in fact in August 2002.

Page 18 - Under the heading of "What is the role of the select committee?" The word "guide" in the sentence should be replaced with assist. It should therefore read "Because the select committee has the expertise and knowledge of the relevant policy area, it is well placed to assist the Committee on Members' Legislative Proposals…"

Page 19 - Only the financial implications are relevant. Should a proposal go forward, the Committee does not decide if it becomes a Bill. The Committee purely decides whether time should be spent on whether a proposal is worthy of discussion.

Additional Notes
Mr Nyakane welcomed the notion of "no subordination" when it came to committee disagreements with the state.

Mr Matthee re-iterated that it was a members' constitutional right to initiate a proposal and a proposal was restricted only by the fact that it must be approved of by the committee and then finally, by the House of Parliament.

Crucially, the ultimate aim of the guide was to ensure that views were aired and enacted.

Mr Matthee suggested that the committee members go to each province and distribute a copy of the guide to each member of government.

The guide could also help members of the National Legislature with practical problems.

A province could even mandate a committee member to identify gaps in the system.

Programme for rest of the year 2003 (provisional)

The next proposal will focus on the Section 185 Commission on Language and Religious rights.

The Select Committee on Members' Provincial Legislative Proposals has a budget of R110 000 and should have its business plan ready by 15 June 2003.
It also had the support of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Germany, which likened it the committee to their own Bundesraad, a forum where all provinces were represented.

The committee was dependent on suggestions which were forwarded to it. It therefore worked in a pro-active fashion, therefore not in an oversight role.

Mr Mkhaliphi urged that the committee must make its presence felt. It was a fully-fledged, formal mechanism and should be seen in this light as to make a necessary impact.



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