ATC210531: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services on the appointment of commissioners to the South African Human Rights Commission, dated 29 May 2021
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services on the appointment of commissioners to the South African Human Rights Commission, dated 29 May 2021
The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services, having considered the requests by the Chairperson of the South African Human Rights Commission for the National Assembly to initiate a process to fill the vacancies arising from the expiry of Commissioner MS Ameermia’s term of office and after the passing away of Deputy Chairperson P Jana, referred to it, reports as follows
- In a letter, dated 21 February 2020, the Chairperson of the South African Human Rights Commission wrote to the Speaker, alerting the House to a vacancy that would arise at the Commission when Adv. Mohammed Shafie Ameermia’s term of office expired at the beginning of February 2021. The Speaker referred the matter to the Committee in a letter addressed to the Chairperson of the Committee, dated 10 March 2020, for processing.
- More recently, in a letter dated 28 October 2020, the Chairperson of the Commission wrote to inform the House of the vacancy that had arisen at the Commission as a result of the Deputy Chairperson of the Commission, Ms. Priscilla Jana, having passed away. The letter contained the request that the House begin a process to fill the vacancy. The matter was referred to the Committee for consideration and report on 13 November 2020.
- Both letters highlighted that, at present, there is not a proper balance of women and men at the Commission and, without wishing to be prescriptive, this might be a factor that the National Assembly might wish to consider when identifying a suitable candidate for the position. (Since Commissioner Jana passed away, there is only one woman serving as a commissioner). The second letter also highlighted that youth might be another factor that the House could take into account.
- Section 193(4) of the Constitution provides that the President, on the recommendation of the National Assembly, must appoint the members of the South African Human Rights Commission.
- Further, section 193(5) of the Constitution provides that National Assembly must recommend persons nominated by a committee of the Assembly, proportionally composed of members of all parties represented in the Assembly; and approved by the Assembly by a resolution adopted with a supporting vote of a majority of the members of the Assembly.
- Section 5(2) of the Act provides that the recommendation must also indicate whether the member is to be appointed in a full-time or part-time capacity. The section further provides that there can be no fewer than six full-time members of the Commission. As both Commissioners Jana and Ameermia were appointed in a full-time capacity, the Commission has only four full-time members at present. Both vacant positions are, therefore, full-time.
- The Act provides that the commissioners will be appointed for a period of not more than seven years and will, at the expiry of such period, be eligible for reappointment.
- The Committee advertised the position requesting members of the public to nominate candidates for appointment, receiving 59 nominations or applications, in all.
- The names of all those who applied or were nominated were published on Parliament’s website for comment.
- The Committee agreed to ‘short-list’ ten candidates, who were as follows:
- Mr. Jonas Sibanyoni
- Ms Philile Ntuli
- Ms Ferrial Adam
- Ms Nomfundo Ntloko-Gododo
- Adv. Mohamed Ameermia
- Ms Fatima Chohan
- Mr Leonardus Joubert
- Ms Vidhu Vedalankar
- Ms Nomahlubi Khwinana
- Mr Moss Ntlha
- Once the shortlisting took place on 26 February 2021, all candidates were requested to complete a questionnaire that also contained disclosure provisions. In addition, the Committee agreed that the academic qualifications of those shortlisted would be verified and that Parliament should be asked to facilitate screening of the candidates. These were made available to the Committee before it made its decision on which nominees it would recommend to the House before appointment to the positions.
- On 9 and 10 March 2021, the Committee interviewed the candidates on the virtual platform Zoom.
- After deliberating, the Committee resolved to nominate Ms Philile Ntuli and Ms Fatima Chohan for appointment as full-time commissioners for a period of seven years.
- Position of Deputy Chairperson
- The Committee also considered the appointment of a Deputy Chairperson of the Commission, in terms of section 7 of the Act.
- In addition to the considering the shortlisted candidates, the Committee wrote to the Chairperson of the Commission with the request that should any serving commissioner wish to be considered for the position of Deputy Chairperson, they should inform the Committee by 5 March 2021 so that their names could be included for interviewing. As they are serving commissioners, they would only be questioned on their suitability to fill the position of Deputy Chairperson.
- Commissioners A Gaum and A Makwetla indicated their interest in being considered for the position. Unfortunately, the Committee was unable to grant Commissioner Makwetla’s request that her interview be postponed for two months as she is recuperating from an illness. The Committee is of the view that to have done so would have unreasonably delayed the process: this would not be in the interests of the Commission, which is already under-capacitated, and would unfairly prejudice the other candidates who would be kept waiting in the meantime.
- In order to assess the suitability of the candidates for the position of Deputy Chairperson, the Committee directed specific questions aimed at probing their understanding of what the position would entail, their experience and possession of the necessary skills.
- The Committee, therefore, recommends that:
- The National Assembly resolve to recommend that Ms Fatima Chohan and Ms Philile Ntuli be appointed as full-time commissioners of the South African Human Rights Commission; and
- The National Assembly recommend that Ms Fatima Chohan be appointed as the Deputy Chairperson of the Commission.
- The Committee would like to thank all those who made themselves available to be considered for the appointment.
Report to be considered
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