Tag Archive | Constitutional Court

Parliament goes into Easter recess

….editorial….

Now you see it, now you don’t

……    It has now become almost impossible to avoid the use of the time-honoured expression “politics aside” when following legislative developments in Parliament.

The body politic affects most things all the time – from drafting a Bill to a
government media briefing, from debating a departmental investigation to public hearings on new legislation. It all involves the ideology of who is in charge.

In fact, the Oxford Dictionary describes “politics’ as follows: the activities associated with the governance of a country or area, especially the debate between parties having power.

From this one can see how politics will always continue to dominate government policy, legislation, and the parliamentary process, since in the end all permeates down from Cabinet decisions. That’s the way it works. Until of course the moment occurs that corruption, cronyism and state capture dictate the parliamentary process itself.

Then the fine line between policy and politics gets rather tacky. Shady motives such as personal gain or protection from the law become evident. What started out as well-meaning policy can get warped by politics and the passage of legislation becomes erratic, if not unconstitutional.

Coded language

Clearly there are now two Cabinets in South Africa. Also, there are various government departments that tend to follow one faction or another, all reporting to their respective portfolio committees. Of these, some seem to adhere to parliamentary rules on oversight and others seem to be less deep in their probing.

This explains why Jackson Mthembu, Chief ANC Party Whip who conveys ANC messages to the party loyal in Parliament, plays such a critical and pivotal role.

When it becomes ‘a given’ that those in control willfully use the top-down structure to their advantage and become joined at the hip with the party list system, then the decision to follow the orders of the party begin to involve a fear of being unable to pay the school fees or pay the lease on the recently acquired BMW.

It is the party list system that is our constitutional blind spot. It encourages cronyism, defined once again in the Oxford Dictionary as: the appointment of friends and associates to positions of authority, without proper regard to their qualifications.

No change

When this aberration of the democratic process occurs on a regular basis, the expression “politics aside” seems to come back into usage. This time for a different reason.

Understandably, one cannot go through the whole laborious process in every debate and with every turn of inexplicable behaviour explaining the manipulation of facts or non-disclosure of relevant information; the influence that certain business persons have upon policy decisions; or the behaviour of state department heads who seems oblivious of their duties.

Therefore politically-correct shortcuts become necessary in order that one’s own opinion is not involved. It’s a sort of coded language that straight up and down people use as a replacement for the real thing.

So, politics aside, President Zuma is still holding up the Financial Intelligence Centre Bill to combat money laundering. Politics aside, Minister of Mining, Mosebenzi Zwane, is still attempting to get fifty-six changes adopted under the already approved Mineral and Petroleum Resources Amendment Bill and, politics aside, the Expropriation Bill is back with Parliament once again.

The good news

Far more interesting is that, politics aside, the separation of powers is still working to a greater or lesser degree; the legislative process is still being respected by most and irritating some; and the Constitutional Court is still out there as our standard bearer, minus a number of computers.

 

…. and, politics aside, we could be doing so much better.

editorial.... parlyreportsa....27 march 2017

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Restitution of Land Rights Act reversed

Concourt says land bill “improperly” passed

…,sent to clients 25 August….  The Constitutional Court has upheld anconstitutional-court application that amendments to Restitution of Land Rights Act were improperly processed by Parliament.  The Bill was tabled by Land Reform Minister, Gugile Nkwinti.

Groupings opposed to the legislation successfully argued that the amending Bill went through Parliament without sufficient consultation with affected parties.

The proposal made by the Bill was that further claims may be lodged going back to the 1913 Natives Act but the Bill, about to become an Act, had been in any case “put on hold” for 24 months to allow for existing outstanding claims, some 8,000 of them in terms of previous legislation, to processed first.

Existing claimants brought that particular application against the Bill on the basis that those who lodged claims under the new amendment to the Act would be “jumping the queue” and their claims might or were being ignored. The re-opening of the restitution of land process was therefore greeted by a mixed re-action, a fact not expected by the ANC amongst the populace concerned.

More haste less speed

madlangaOnce again the particular habit now regular of the governing party of hammering legislation through Parliament at the last minute before recess has bounced back on the Cabinet and the Presidency.    Justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga said in his finding that the Constitutional Court could find “no cogent reason” for the apparent haste to sign the Bill into law.

He said that there had been a complete lacking in the required public consultative process by all nine provinces as the Bill went through the NCOP process of approval. He described Parliament’s behaviour with regard to the passage of the Bill as “improper”.

How it started

When the Bill was first tabled in a meeting of the National Assembly’s Rural Development and Land Reform Parliamentary Portfolio Committee, Minister Gugile Nkwinti confirmed that the whole process of land restitution for black persons dispossessed of their land was to be re-opened for a period of five years.

Under questioning,he confirmed that no constitutional changes were envisaged, despite the fact that the new Bill would mean an Act that backdated claims to 1913.    Critics of the Bill noted at the time that the tabling of such legislation was, as they put it, “politically motivated” in the light that it was being processed before national elections and with the then forthcoming provincial elections in mind just around the corner. The outcome of those elections would confirm the Minister’s fear and that of the Cabinet.

Critics also stated that there was insufficient time to process the Bill properly. ANC MPs chose to ignore this warning. Thw whole process has therefore been a waste of public funds.

In the kitty

Minister Nkwinti then announced that Cabinet had set aside R47bn for theGugile_Nkwinti envisaged exercise over a period of five years. Opposition members were again alarmed, stating the country had neither the resources nor court time to process such a plan and, in any case, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform was already facing an uphill struggle to process and finalise the existing claims it had on their books. Opposition members also called for sight of Treasury approval.

During the course of the Minister’s departmental presentation on strategy leading to the budget vote a week later in Parliament, when confronted by opposition MPs asking for a direct answer as to whether he would call for constitutional change on property rights or not, he replied that there was “no such question arising.”

The whole truth

Since that time the tandem Expropriation Bill has also been returned to Parliament unsigned and similarly passed in haste before a recess but, in this case, in the light of a possible adverse opinion by the Constitutional Court.

Minister Nkwinti chose to issue a statement on the the passage of the Expropriation Bill upon its being voted through the National Assembly although not in the domain of his Ministry.

cronin2This statement completely contradicted the declared motivations of Deputy Minister of Public Works, Jeremy Cronin, who had steered that Bill through Parliament declaring his legislation to be necessary for public works to execute infrastructure projects.

Nkwinti’s statement  claimed  that the Expropriation Bill “would bring about the possibility of at last of speeding-up land restitution and reform” thus laying the groundwork of his new land Rights Bill and contradicting the assurances of Cronin.

The numbers game

In his original briefing on the tandem Restitution of Land Rights Bill, Minister Nkwinti stated at the time that since its inception, the state’s restitution programme had benefited some “370,000 households”.    Normally one refers to “claimants” but it was his way of getting to his point using self-serving mathematics.

This meant, he said, that some “1.83m persons had benefited so far from theland-reform process, as against an estimated 3.5m people who had been forcibly removed from their land as a result of colonialisation and racial and discriminatory laws”.

A new closing deadline for lodgement of land claims was set by the Act as mid-2019 and a booklet on how to lodge a claim published.  Mobile lodgement offices were to visit all areas, the department told subsequently told MPs, and the lodgement process required no fees.

Tough words

Whilst the Constitutional Court has now re-affirmed that the right to restitution “could not be overstated” and that “restitution of land rights equals restoration of dignity”, Justice Madlanga was not prepared to overlook the fact that the time line of the parliamentary process had been manipulated.

“As an example, the process of public participation in the Northern areas was reduced to a shambles by haste”, he said, “and as a result of the truncated process of the NCOP, the whole parliamentary procedure had been tainted”. The NCOP was found to have “not applied its mind to the task.”

Give it time

Pending re-enactment of the Act, the Commission on Restitution on Landland-claims-court Rights may continue to receive claims and acknowledge receipt but only process them once existing outstanding claims that had a closing deadline of 1998 are finalised. After 24 months, further consideration can be made on the possible re-enactment of the legislation.

In conclusion, Opposition parties fear that the new Act will allow traditional chiefs with the additional powers granted in terms of legislation favoured by President Zuma to supersede rights on land already granted to communities.

One way only

Disquiet was also expressed by some MPs with the land acquisition claim alternatives as financial compensation was mainly the choice for claimants.

Some MPs expressed the view that they were “uncomfortable” with a monetary solution as a solution to dispossession since this almost amounted to a bribe.

DA MP Thomas Walters said in his view the reason for the slow rate of land occupation was not, as the ANC claimed, the result of whether or not there was a solution on the willing-buyer, willing-seller principle but rather a reflection of the fact that 92% of land claimants preferred to take cash pay-outs instead of working the land and creating jobs.

Minister Nkwinti strongly denied this as did the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.

Previous articles on category subject
New approach to land reform – ParlyReportSA
Land reform: Something very sad is going on – ParlyReportSA
Minister says need for legislation on land reform a priority
Agri-SA gives views on minimum wage – ParlyReportSA

Posted in cabinet, Land,Agriculture, LinkedIn, public works, Special Recent Posts0 Comments

Parliament, ConCourt and Business

...editorial…

Parliament wins with ConCourt judgement…

Political comment on recent and fluid events involving Parliament and ConCourt are beyond the brief of ParlyReportConcourt other than perhaps the effect on Parliament as an institution capable of assisting business and industry. Nevertheless, these following words rang out from eleven of our judicial elders from the precincts of the highest court in the land when making their recent unanimous judgement…….

“Certain values in the Constitution have been designated as foundational to our democracy. This in turn means that as pillar-stones of this democracy, they must be observed scrupulously. If these values are not observed and their precepts not carried out conscientiously, we have a recipe for a constitutional crisis of great magnitude. In a State predicated on a desire to maintain the rule of law, it is imperative that one and all should be driven by a moral obligation to ensure the continued survival of our democracy.”

Parliament drawn in

national assemblyGiven those precepts and the fact the highest court in our land took it upon itself to chastise the Speaker of House, ANC’s Baleka Mbete, and the workings of the National Assembly in that there was a lack of respect by the Secretary for Parliament for the Public Protector’s report on the Nkandla issue.The judgement spoke volumes on the lack of Cabinet’s understanding of the principle of separation of powers and focused on its disrespect for Parliament.

But ParlyReport rarely attends the National Assembly (NA) since that it is a place where a politicized debate takes place and the NA merely “dots the i’s” on legislation and registers its vote – legislation that has already been worked on by the parliamentary portfolio and select committees, i.e. the engine room of Parliament.

Most of this “engine room” process has only been slightly compromised by the ConCourt judgement.

ParlyReport’s mandate also is to watch and observe government departments as they spell out their targets, policies and decision-making on major issues affecting business and industry as they report to their relevant committees in terms of oversight. Some of these committee debates are intelligent contributions in the national interest, others less so. Here the system with government departments reporting to Parliament is even less compromised by the ConCourt judgement.

Political debate

The National Assembly, however, is where the political, ideological and debate on party lines takesEFF 2 place, assumedly in a democratic manner but sadly turned into a circus quite often by the EFF. However, one should remember that the judgement of ConCourt was as a result of a decision on the matter brought by the very same Economic Freedom Fighters vs Speaker of the National Assembly and Others and Democratic Alliance vs Speaker of the National Assembly and Others.

In other words, some of the people have spoken but not all of the people. At National Assembly level the ANC closed ranks on the impeachment motion as the nation knows and which was their democratic right whatever the Opposition members might have thought and said. The sight of the Speaker being told to stand down and for the Deputy Speaker take over was sad to see but for the rest, it was democracy in process.

Throughout, the final debate, the level of insults was high but this could be expected on an impeachment motion but Parliamentary procedure was observed by all; the bells rang for ajournment and consideration; the votes counted; the results confirmed on the motion to impeach and all other outstanding motions called for, before closing.

speaker UKIt was just noisier than PMQ in the British Houses of Parliament, that’s all.

In the end it may be said that the Constitution was the winner. The Parliamentary process was indeed observed after ConCourt had noted that the subject matter of the charges had resulted an abuse of Parliament in a number of ways. Now the political process takes over and however dirty it may seem at times in National Assembly debate, this is indeed democracy.

Where it goes wrong

It is unfortunate that what was not foreseen by the authors of an otherwise an excellent Constitution (or perhaps foreseen but could not be avoided) is the fact that South African MPs get their jobs and receive their pensions, perks and housing on a party list system which is very much adjustable, we have learnt, not only by parliamentary performance and hearing the voice of the Party whip but by other elements outside of Parliament.

In the case of the ANC Alliance, who are the majority by far in both Houses, obviously this leads tolithuli house patronage by those who run the party list at Luthuli House. It is a fact which cannot be avoided. One could say the same for the DA, the EFF and any smaller party that patronage must apply when MPs are not answerable, as is the case in South Africa, to a particular constituency of citizens.

In the case of South Africa, this leaves national policy and leadership very much in the hands of Luthuli House, particularly because Jacob Zuma is not only President of the country but, as is ANC practice, he is also the elected leader of the ANC. It was at this point the system failed and but not because of parliamentary failure.

Puppet on a string

What ConCourt found therefore was not only that President Zuma was guilty of certain charges and had to take remedial action but there had been a determined ANC attempt, with considerable success, to run the National Assembly from Luthuli House. It was on the Nkandla issue that ANC MP and party whip, Stone Sizani, probably realized that things had gone too far and that he was probably implicated.

Mbete,Baleka sworninThe eleven judges unanimously singled out the current incumbent of the position of Speaker of the House, Baleka Mbete, as also being tangled in the web of patronage. She has denied this but has conceded the “matter could have been better handled”. In fact, later she handled matters a lot worse in the initial moments of the motion on impeachment even agreed to by the ANC who obviously saw that she should have recused herself.

Outside the ring – a little

But as far as business and industry is concerned, our institutions are a little more insulated from such shenanigans.

Whilst all committees are indeed run by ANC Alliance chairpersons (the Standing Committee on Finance was originally by tradition chaired by the majority opposition party but now changed by the ANC) public hearings on legislation are encouraged. The public may attend any meeting government oversight hearings, which ParlyReport does – as well as members of the media, and all members of the public can attend any meeting with the exception of the Security and Intelligence Committee debates.

Good, healthy debate

In our ParlyReport this fortnight, we report on the very sensible suggestions of the Bankingbasa logo 2 Association of South Africa (BASA) made to the Standing Committee on Finance on the Financial Intelligence Centre Bill, tabled by the Minister of Finance. These suggestions were not only heard but acted upon.

In fact, BASA with other financial institutions were invited to subsequent debates under committee Chairperson Yunus Carrim (SACP) and with National Treasury, under the guidance of Ismail Momoniat, a Bill was crafted that was much more acceptable to all.

In some cases, changes called for were justified successfully by Treasury not to be in the national interest in terms of the international call for compliance against money laundering but in other cases calls for less red tape and overwhelming paper work heeded and requests for better definitions acknowledged. For example, the list of “prominent persons”, i.e. those who might be involved in “suspicious transactions”, is to be compiled by Treasury itself and not left to the intuition of financial institutions and the private sector, all suggested by BASA and other financial institutions and bodies.

Separation of powers still there

In conclusion then, it will take the continued support of business with submissions and voicing opinion at hearings at committee level to keep the playing fields level and to point out what is best for South Africa’s economic interests by influencing debate at this level. Business has rarely expressed its voice in the National Assembly since this is not the forum for such unless a summons to appear is made.

parliament 6As for the future of the National Assembly itself there is very little anybody can do until the majority party gets its moral compass adjusted in terms of its relationship with this important component of Parliament, the issues ahead being purely political ones.

The Constitution, Parliament and the Public Protector’s office have survived and the ordinary democratic process of citizen politics now holds sway, hence the current issue ahead of business and industry being described by Standard and Poor as “political noise”.

 

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Electoral Reform Bill based on new constitutional rulings

Voting for those overseas….

extNAThe Electoral Reform Bill, introduced as Private Member’s Bill by James Selfe MP of the Democratic Alliance (DA), has now finally reached the stage of parliamentary hearings on a number of issues that could change the face of South Africa’s next elections.

The changes proposed will bring the electoral act in line with two constitutional rulings made that have restored voting rights to prisoners and South African citizens based overseas but the proposals in the Bill also seek to introduce elements of proportional representation as a mix with the present party list system, such proposals referring only to the National Assembly.

The cabinet discussed and approved the publication of the draft Bill earlier this year.

Only parliamentary hearings

As a Private Members Bill and as a draft approved by the Speaker of the House, the Bill is immediately tabled as such in the light of the fact that it will not have to be published first through gazetting with departmental public hearings for comment.   This stage of transparency disappears and hence the need for both cabinet and the Speaker’s approval before tabling.

The Electoral Reform Bill proposes the introduction of special votes, prior to election day in respect of provincial legislatures for those South Africans who cannot vote as a result of their physical infirmity, disability or pregnancy.

It would also cater for officials on national duty, members of the security forces, as well as South Africans who intended to be absent from the country for various reasons, including business. It also caters for people serving as election officers who were absent from their voting district.

SA voters abroad to register

Those South Africans who are abroad and interested in voting would have to register at the nearest South African embassy to vote only for the National Assembly.

In submitting the Bill, the DA said, “It is an attempt to ensure that members of parliament are more directly accountable to the people they represent.”   This, they say, is the culmination of a process which was started last year to give effect to the party’s “long-standing policy to ensure that Parliament is tied more directly to constituencies across the country.”

The Bill was aired for the first time by DA leader, Helen Zille; Lindiwe Mazibuko DA parliamentary opposition leader in Parliament; and chairperson of the DA federal executive, James Selfe MP.

Form of constituency voting

The statement said, “While the current “party list” proportional representation electoral system has its advantages, including the fact that we accept that it is inclusive, immune to gerrymandering, and is perceived to be fair, at the same time it does not ensure accountability over members of the National Assembly to individual voters. People have no way of voting out an MP who clearly does not represent their views or whom they disapprove of because of his or her actions”.

“In a list system therefore there is no geographical linkage between MPs and voters. The allocation by political parties of MPs to non-existent ‘constituencies’ is a very poor substitute, as there is not accountability to, nor mandate from, the voters in those constituencies”, the statement concluded.

100 constituencies, 300 MPs

The Bill contemplates the establishment of 100 three-member constituencies, each with approximately the same number of voters. The task of determining the boundaries of constituencies will rest with the Electoral Commission.

The three MPs representing each constituency will be elected by a system of proportional representation within those constituencies. In practice, this would mean that voters will vote for the political party of their choice, and the three members who obtain the requisite quota of votes or largest surpluses could be elected as the MPs for that constituency. Three hundred members of the National Assembly would be elected in this way. National lists are still included in the proposals.

100 MPs still on party lists

The Bill further proposes that 100 members of the National Assembly be elected from national lists submitted by the various parties.

The reasons for having three members from each of the 100 constituencies, rather than one member from each of these constituencies, are that it both “increases the likelihood of an individual voter being able to identify with at least one of his or her elected constituency MPs.

“It also enhances”, the proponents say, “the practicality of achieving the correct party proportionality in the National Assembly after the 100 members from the national list have been allocated.”

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Extra constitutional time needed to draft land use bill

Muduzi Shabane, director general, department of rural development and land reform (DRDLR), told parliamentarians that there were so many challenges surrounding the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Bill that there was not sufficient time left to process the Bill in order to meet the Constitutional Court deadline of 17 June.

The Bill was therefore not proceeded with.

Once again the problems related to the apartheid era on the land issue and the fact that this had left a legacy of challenges around land use and planning, causing distortions brought about by separate development policies and Group Areas Act, were explained by DRDLR when briefing the relevant portfolio committee on the long delayed Bill.

Accompanied by Dr Nozizwe Makgalemele, deputy director general, DRDLR, Shabane said it had been known since independence that the legislation clearly had to be repealed but in June 2010 the Constitutional Court had ruled certain provisions of the anchor act and legislation on land use as it stood to be unconstitutional and invalid.

A decision had been taken to repeal that legislation and to replace it with the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Bill, but it was now clear that the Bill could not be passed before the deadline and the Constitutional Court was being asked to extend the deadline for a further two years.

Questions arose from parliamentarians regarding the ability of smaller municipalities to manage the processes envisaged by the new Bill; what would happen in the case of conflict between the spheres of government; whether argument on the separation of powers would arise on what government wanted and what Parliament would accept and whether DRDLR realized that a two year delay would possibly cause more confusion, argument and insecurity.

These were indeed some of the questions being wrestled with, said the departmental representatives, and called for the right amount of time for further debate, consultation with legal experts, particularly on constitutional issues, and regain consensus thinking.

The Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Bill, DRDLR said, had been an attempt to bring about repeal on some of the issues that were causing blockages but it was impossible to debate these fully and hold public hearings across the country on the basis of the present document in the time allowed.

“ The matter was not going to go away”, Shabane told parliamentarians. The Bill will probably have to be re-introduced.

 

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