Archive | Justice, constitutional

Minister Patel and the Copyright Amendment Bill

………article dated 2 September 2020….. 

Start made on returned legislation……

Trade and Industry minister, Ebrahim Patel, has made it clear to Parliament that in his view the Copyright Bill, which was returned unsigned to Parliament by President Ramaphosa, can be re-written in such a way that all six requirements set by the presidency on the Bill’s constitutionality can be met.

He has asked Parliament to undertake this process with an eye on the six conditions but at the same time wants as few changes as possible.  From the first meeting, it appears that the Minister will very much be involved in the Bill’s re-drafting, particularly on clauses that affect the application of fair use exceptions  and also re-focusing on a possible re-write of the sections of the Bill to include retrospective royalty claims.

Stage one

Over the next few weeks therefore the trade and Industry committee will consider as a matter of urgency the specific issues raised by the presidency, all debate and alterations staying within the parameters of those specific issues.    Such conditions will also apply to the tandem Performers Protection Amendment Bill, which was returned by the President at the same time.

The timing of the finalisation of a complete Bill will very much depend therefore upon whether Parliament decides to include provincial hearings on a re-write, the president having complained that public participation in the Bill was insufficient.     Minister Patel, from his comments on the subject, would obviously like the Bill to go to for provincial hearings to round up more support for his contentious retrospective royalty clauses.  However, he knows how long this could take with South Africa needing  to resolve trade issues urgently, all depending on the final shape of the Bill.

Bill to stay

It clearly was understood, from the recent the first meeting, that Parliament will not be considering the re-draft of a completely fresh Bill as hoped for by the Copyright Coalition of SA.   This grouping represents, amongst other interests, a number of publishing companies lobbying against specific issues promoted in the draft.

Such have garnered support from US counterparts to influence the final form of the draft Bill, appealing to the Minister to allow for international trade requirements, as expressed in various treaties to which SA is aligned.

Any changes to the anchor Copyright Act, untouched since 1976 and hopelessly outdated, are now necessary to adopt inter alia the rights to communicate literary and musical works to the public in a digital environment of internet platforms and media devices which involve easy copying for private and commercial use and different educational needs.

Where we are

The Bill has been sitting with the President, unsigned, for thirteen months after its original completion by the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry, but now has finally been dusted down and returned to Parliament with the six caveats for consideration to be considered before it can proceed further.

Matters raised by the President in returning the Bill are:

  • Queries regarding the tagging, meaning whether or not sufficient parties were consulted
  • Acceptability of retrospective and arbitrary deprivations of property clauses
  • Delegation of discretionary legislative powers to the Minister
  • Public participation in the Fair Use clause provisions
  • Copyright exceptions and the validity of such internationally
  • Concern over international treaty implications

To stay

However in principle, the Minister does not appear to be overwhelmed by any international pressure to either withdraw the Bill or completely re-draft it.   Rather, he sees minimal technical changes being undertaken only to meet presidential requirements. He has made available to all MPs a DTI pack detailing chronological the progress of the Bill through Parliament, who was consulted and why and decisions made.  (available to subscribers)

As an overall impression of the first virtual meeting  on the subject, it would seem that the main thrust of the Bill is accepted in moving away from defined fair dealing principles to fair use generalisations. The issue now seems to be all about past redress on localised royalty rights.  The meeting was perfectly aware of the needs to meet international copyright agreements and the fact that this has escalated into a direct confrontation between US trade interests over what is perceived by the governing party as protection and development of a local industry and for aspirational educational needs.

Strong views

Minister Patel told MPs that there are “significant commercial interests in each corner of the debate on retrospective rights and how they are defined”.  On this he said, “There has been a heavy lobby with a different view, and this will probably remain the case since South Africa is an open society and alternative views are always countenanced.”   Much pressure had been exerted upon government by the publishing industry with regard to the Copyright Amendment Bill draft, he said.

He was therefore acknowledging the issues surrounding the question of “re use” of educational material re-use in schools and universities raised by the publishing industry.  He must be briefed on the divisive matter of internet platform use and supply of material by such entities as Google and Facebook in which area of “fair use” there is much litigation in the US on user privacy.

From the way he spoke, the Minister is aware of the dogged objections expressed by opposition MPs on the risks of offending international partners regarding retrospective royalty payments and violation of past undertakings.

 Important history

In general, and throughout his presentation, Minister Patel referred much to the opinions of the Parliamentary Legal Advisor (PLA)  who throughout past meetings have advised Parliament with regard to legal issues on the  development of the Bill. The portfolio committee on Trade and Industry has had two sub-committees advising them as well – one on constitutionality  and the other on copyright issues.

Three years ago, Parliament who took over the drafting of the Bill from the DTIC legal team, taking advice from the Copyright chair at Stellenbosch University. The extent to which they followed this advice is for the experts.

Minister Patel specifically highlighted the issues that Joanna Fubbs MP, as previous chair of the Committee, had emphasised throughout the development of the Bill under previous minister of trade, Rob Davies   He said, “Creators often sold their rights to ownership and future earnings and use of the work to a person or to a firm. In some cases, the creators did not have a sense of the value of their work and had sold it at prices well below the true market value.”

All about redress

He said, “This past exploitation of creators who, unknowingly, had assigned their rights in unfair contractual agreements, has to be dealt with. Parliament has resolved in meetings that such redress is necessary”, he said. “ This is now a fact agreed upon.”   This issue, he concluded, was the basis surrounding the controversial clauses 6a, 7a and 8a in the Bill, and what the dissension has been about.  “The committee has voted to take into account those parties who have been exploited in the past”, he said.

He acknowledged to MPs that the President’s position was such that retrospective provisions might be unconstitutional as it may create arbitrary deprivation of property under section 25 of the Constitution. This could be possibly referred to as “arbitrary” because the courts may find that such a ruling applied to all copyright holders domestically even if an injustice was not done, thus bestowing a windfall on authors who had in the meanwhile received fair copyright value, he said.

He continued, “Such could be called the indiscriminate results of the wording proposed. In other words, the result was not specific to one case but applies to all and consequently what had been proposed in the Bill did not provide regulatory certainty”, Minister Patel said.    “I recommend therefore that the Committee consider the retrospective clauses 6,7 and 8 and re-consider the wording, without losing the thrust of the provisions that the Committee required in the first place.”

Ministerial powers

He also said, “I have taken note that various legal opinions hold that the ministerial powers in the Bills are sufficiently qualified as to address concerns about impermissible delegation, but as they were an attempt to cure potential constitutional breaches on the formulation of retrospectivity, they would be redundant if those clauses are changed and therefore, I agree that these powers can be removed,” Patel said.

He concluded on this subject  that  alternative mechanisms to address the challenges of redress and to support those creators who are victims of past exploitation, may need to be considered.

Exceptions under Fair Use

A further issue which gave the President concern, Minister Patel said, were the powers given to a minister to both develop specific regulations on any defined retrospective cases and conduct an impact study on each case

In summation, Minister Patel seemed to be saying that to deal with specific cases at ministerial level was going to be difficult and that he as incumbent was more than prepared to surrender any such powers on the basis that, in his view, it was correct that there was a singular lacking public participation and involvement planned for in any such decisions that the minister might make.

Mind reading 

Consequently, Minister Patel said, “In an overall sense it is my view that at the heart of the President’s concern is the fact that it is not so much the content of the Bill per se that concerns him but rather a lacking in public comment and consultation generally in the parliamentary process, particularly as the Bill was progressed in its final stages on subjects such as this.”

On the conclusion of his coverage of the retrospective clauses and ministerial powers to define cases by regulatory means, Minister Patel said the Bill ought to be subject to further opportunities for the public to consult. He said he was aware that the Bill was rushed through to make the deadline of the closing of the Fifth Parliament.

Heated subject

On the subject of international agreements and treaties that were affected by copyright matters, Minister Patel put up a slide which referred to:

  • the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) treaty
  • the WIPO Performances and Phonograms treaty,
  • the Beijing Treaty on Audio-visual Performances
  • the Marrakesh VIP Treaty
  • the Berne Convention.

The Minister said the President’s main concern in returning the Copyright Bill was as to whether the Bill complied with these treaties.   He also said only two were in force, these being the two WIPO treaties and the others were in the process of being agreed to. It appeared that Minister Patel was aware of this although the PLA advocate seemed to be insisting they were not legally relevant for any discussion until signed.

Consultation

Minister Patel said that  DTIC, who had had sought legal opinion away from Parliament and the Parliamentary Legal Office who had given opinion to the Committee during debate, had both told Parliament that  the contents were in the Bill were in alignment with the Constitution when it came to the retrospective clauses and the record showed that Parliament proceeded on this basis.

However, there were no public consultations on this issue, he admitted.   PLA said later that as this was not ‘wording’ of the Bill and there was not a need for public consultation on this subject accordingly.   For a number of legal reasons however, which the Minister quoted at length, he said in summary, “It could be worthwhile for Parliament to re-consider the alignment of the Bills against treaties since the question of whether of arbitrary application might arise in terms of those treaties will arise.”

Both the same

He recommended that both the Copyright Amendment Bill and the Performers Protection Bill be treated in like manner giving MPs a number of further reasons their consideration which the Minister felt were important to if the Bill were to go back to the President resulting in a successful outcome.

The Minister stated that it was the view of the Department and Parliament’s Legal Advisors (PLA), the Committee might wish to be taken through the contents of the treaties compared to those areas of the Bills where the President had expressed constitutional concerns in order to give proper consideration. He gave his assurance of assistance in this regard.

Secret out

On the retrospective clauses contained in the Bills, Adv. Charmaine van der Merwe, Parliamentary legal advisor, confirmed that the previous Committee in the Fifth Parliament had in fact compromised on the issue of clauses 6,7 and 8 after having  been told of constitutional concerns, but had decided after forcing the issue by majority vote, to rather have such clauses contained in the Bill which went forward to the National Assembly and which could always be struck out should they be found unconstitutional.

This was against the wishes of the DA who voted against such a move but who were outvoted in a majority count.   PLA stated in their time slot that in their view the retrospective clauses could be deleted in their view. When pushed on the issue , they said in a likelihood they should be deleted but no final legal stance had been taken on the subject.

I told you so

DA’s  promptly advised all when the vote was taken that he had warned the Committee on approving the Bill with a “see how it goes” approach on such an important issue.  The debate at the time had become somewhat acrimonious. MacPherson warned that already the AGOA trade agreement had been drawn into the matter and indicated that such a price to pay was too high.

“Both Bills will achieve nothing if they contradicted international treaties and included arbitrary deprivation of rights”, he said. “As a result of this rash behaviour, the Bill has stalled, gone nowhere, and South Africa has found itself in a difficult trade situation.”  He added angrily that he had been accused of grandstanding at the time before the Bill stalled, warning that this would happen.  ANC MPs responded broadly on the basis that the DA was not interested in “people matters”, only money issues.

Conclusion

On the question of how the Bills were tagged, Adv v.der Merwe of PLA stated that in their view it was Constitutionally correct that the Bills could be tagged section 75 and debated therefore only in the National Assembly but if Parliament so wished they could be re-tagged section 76 and be debated in all nine provinces, meeting the President’s call for more public comment.

This was a decision for the Committee, she said, but such a process will cause some considerable delay.

Over to you

She said further public participation with public comment on the “fair uses” clauses was very much up to Parliament and the Committee chairperson.   On the arbitrary deprivation of property issue, she explained that copyright had always been subject to exceptions because without such they could limit the Bill of Rights.

Having seen clauses 6a,7a, and 8a as a problem, i.e. the retrospective clauses, it was the PLA’s view that the Bill otherwise and in general terms allowing for exceptions for Fair Use only, was aligned with the 3-step process used as a test on Fair Use exceptions and as was the Australian Fair Use case, such a law would no doubt be found to be acceptable.

She said as an aside that she had struggled to understand the wording of the retrospective clauses herself and because of this she was unable relate as to whether they were an influence on the  international treaties unless the wording was considerably refined.

Fair Use stays, no doubt

On this note, Minister Patel concluded, as the meeting closed, that on the 3-step process, it was “incredibly important to take note of the unique circumstances in South Africa”.   He said the Bill’s exception for educational purposes could be found in many countries in South America.

Copyright Bill goes back to Parliament – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Education, Finance, economic, Justice, constitutional, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Road Accident Fund stays as it was

……article dated 2 September…..

Parliament withdraws Bill making settlement changes…

The idea that MPs might be able to revitalize the Road Accident Fund (RAF) by changing the method of claims payments under a new Road Accident Benefit Scheme (RABS) Bill  has been dropped by the Parliamentary Committee on Transport.   The method envisaged, it has been decided, would massively increase costs against the national fuel levy which could not be tolerated, an increase which would have to be borne unfairly by the consumer.

Under the present Road Accident Fund claims system, compensation paid has amounted to as much as R11bn for the year 2019/20, way over its budget allocation; meaning that the Fund technically insolvent.  Currently reliant on Treasury bail outs, it forms part of Treasury’s major national debt worries.

No blame concept

A switch has been thought possible to a ‘no-blame’ pay out system in order to avoid much of the costly litigation in determining liability,  all of which processes have resulted over the years in a disproportionate amount of the funds in the RA Fund landing up with the litigators rather than the litigants, and lengthy delays in settlement of claims awaiting court outcomes.

However, as was strongly suspected would be the case this year, there has been even more strain upon funds because of COVID 19 budget claw backs by Treasury on Fund allocations, resulting in yet more pressure to investigate  further possibilities of a different system of the payment of claims.

Extended social plan

The possibility was tabled some months ago of introducing a regular social payment similar to a pension payment and this paid over a number of years as a planned annuity-type settlement. This it was thought would both improve the Fund’s cash flows and would help to avoid the bad habit of claimants of spending cash pay outs in one initial splurge. Some pointed out that it was not the job of government to run people’s lives.

The Bill has been sitting moribund on the Transport Committee’s agenda for well over a year, simply because no one was prepared to actually cost out what was envisaged as an enormously expensive system needed to effect the plan.   ANC MPs who had become extremely enthusiastic on the idea, baulked at the costs in the face of Treasury misgivings.  Now it has now been finally admitted by a majority vote that the costs of instituting such a system would be similar to running a small SOE all reliant on the national fuel levy, idea not sustainable.

Another idea wanted

DA’s Carl Hunsinger successfully moved this week a motion this week for the Bill to be withdrawn by the Speaker, but this move is accompanied by a suggestion that the Department of Transport go back to the office on the subject and urgently work out a way, as put by Hunsinger, “address the structural manner the way that the Fund operates and bring down costs”. Parliament, he said, wants an answer.

Parliament has called instead for a draft Bill rather amending the RAF Act and “provide a working system that the country can afford”.  Presumably the matter will be taken off the parliamentary agenda.

 

Basics at play

The Fund is managed through a Board and receives its revenue direct from SARS, collected from the fuel tax levy by them.   Technically, as established by the RAF Act, the Fund does not have share capital, is an entity is owned by the South African public.   It is listed as schedule 3 public body in accordance with the Public Finance Management Act.

 

Posted in Justice, constitutional, Transport0 Comments

Little support halts National Gambling Bill

…..article dated 7 September…..

Some provinces see Bill as invasive….

The contentious National Gambling Amendment Bill took a nosedive in the Trade and Economic  Select Committee of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) following the outcome of mandates received from the nine provinces.   When read out they showed that only three supported the Bill, with two abstentions.

A section 76 Bill such as it is, the proposals require a minimum of five provinces in support, the question of a majority not arising in procedure on NCOP matters. The Bill now goes back to the National Assembly, where a final result on its future will be debated and noted.

Two years of slog

In the meeting, Dr Evelyn Masotja  DTI, awaiting mandate results, reviewed the Bill for the record being legislation borne out of the Gambling Commission’s report of 2010 on the industry, and updating the principles established by the Wiehahn Commission on gambling some twenty odd years ago.

The anchor Act mainly limits gambling opportunities and defines what is legal; protects the players; and governs the industry integrity and fairness of the industry with rules and controls.   The amending Bill proposes extension of National Gambling Regulator (NGR) activities and the current computer monitoring systems covering a fuller spectrum of gambling activities in all provinces, plus a widening of the territory covered by its inspectorate reporting back to the NGR.

How it works

The NGR has no board and the entity is run by an administrative office by DTI, as is the case with the National Credit Regulator.  The industry was worth around R31bn in 2019/20, with total taxes collected for SARS recorded then as R3.2bn, Gauteng contributing 40%, the Western Cape  approx. 18.0% and KZN some 17.5% of the tax collection.

Dr Masotja told MPs that concerns in the provinces revolved around the lack of a reporting board  at the NGR; the extent of the monitoring system extensions into many areas of the provinces which were controlled by them; the manner of voting and of quorum issues of the co-ordinating National Gambling Policy Council (NGPC) meetings; empowerment conditions; and lack of meetings by the NGPC currently.

Big brother

Quite obviously, there is an undercurrent of rejection by certain provinces due to the invasive nature of national activities of NGR into areas forming revenue for provincial and local authorities. Mandates were produced on the 28 August, the date of the meeting in question.

In the final count, M Moshodi MP (ANC) said the Free State province was against the Bill;  M Dangor MP (ANC) recorded Gauteng province against the Bill;   Eastern Cape, not represented did not support the Bill but their absenteeism meant abstention; Timothy Brauteseth (DA, KZN) informed that KZN abstained;    M Latchminarain (MPL from Mpumalanga Legislature) was in favour of the Bill; M Mmoiemang MP (ANC) recorded that the Northern Cape province was in support of the Bill; J Londt MP (DA, Western Cape) read out that the North West Province was against the Bill.

The Bill is to go back to the National Assembly on the basis of the fact that “there was not sufficient support for the Bill”, as distinct from being voted against as would be the case in the NA.

 

Posted in Finance, economic, Justice, constitutional, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Funny business at the National State Lottery

………article 25 July 2020……..

NLC Commission finally to be investigated…

For both the years 2018/9 and 2019/2020, Parliament has been unable to obtain from the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) any official list of beneficiaries and any funding details by the State Lotteries Fund run by the secretive Prof. Alfred Nevhutanda, also chairman of its Fund.

No amount of parliamentary requests, annual reporting requirements, or encounters with investigative journalists have convinced the professor to break the veil of secrecy on projects run by the Fund.

With the doors closed to any form of questioning on beneficiaries, even to the department of trade and industry reporting to the minister concerned, it also appears just as important to Prof. Nevhutanda not to part with any information on how decisions are made on funding and what criteria is used. Again he remains silent when  asked by MPs.

Playing mum

After three years of harassing the NLC when it presents its annual returns to Parliament and briefs the Trade and Industry Portfolio Committee as required by the public management financial legislation, opposition MPs over this period have so far only managed to get the Fund to categorize outgoing funds into the types of grant it makes. In accounting terms this means absolutely nothing, of course.

In the last few weeks, however, matters at last might be coming to a head.  If things are as Parliament suspects, there is to yet to be another mighty crash for the reputation of public sector governance.

Fund income

The sale of lottery tickets to the public and disbursement of prizes are separated by law, such operations being run by a service provider, the names and addresses of winners being protected.   It is from the sale of these tickets that the Fund gets its percentage of revenue.

Every year, with the publishing of the NLC annual report, the professor has presented a picture of respectability with a special chapter devoted to the activities of the SL Fund.  2019/2020 was no different until it came to question time during the parliamentary briefing.

Extracting teeth

Professor Nevhutanda, (who was bestowed with his doctorate in Azerbaijan it appears) was asked this year by the same MPs the same questions.  Once again he quoted the necessity for privacy on the grounds of the Fund’s need for neutrality and to maintain the appearance of impartiality.    The same phrases were trotted out that the naming of projects would expose the Fund’s beneficiaries to all kinds of risks and accusations that the Fund favouring one NGO or beneficiary over another.

The professor also told parliamentarians this year that his enemies could include extortionists and spamming operators, even refusing to supply such a list to MPs “for their eyes only” which would have been subject to parliamentary rules. In the past, ANC MPs had nodded at these wise comments.

Enough is enough

For the last three years  at the same time but coming to a head this year, has been a parallel series of stories appearing in the Daily Maverick into the funding of the of SLF projects staring in the Northern Cape, more appearing in Free State, then Gauteng. Pressure this year was seriously put upon the Professor Nevhutanda to answer questions on the Funds’ activities.

In committee beforehand, ANC MPs have stood mute and never commenting, the EFF subsequently joining with the DA this year demanding answers.  It was a stormy meeting.

Turnabout

ANC MPs were finally convinced this year by Mat Cuthbert (DA) in a recent August meeting that it was in everybody’s interests that there be a court challenge on whether Parliament was constitutionally supreme in calling for oversight of all State Lotteries funding, unanimous vote being recorded to request such from experts.

Legal opinion has now come down in time for the most recent meeting with the NLC advising that, on this matter, the Constitution clearly indicates that Parliament can trump the State Lottery Fund Act in equal fashion to any other government institution and that all financial aspects of the Fund should be subject to disclosure and parliamentary oversight thus obtained.

The truth will out

Thanks therefore to the persistence of two DA MPs, Mat Cuthbert and Dave Macpherson, yet another castle of cards involving senior government officials is about collapse.

Looking back things had started to get hotfor Professor Nevhutanda when he was reported as suing a group of investigative journalists, known as Ground-up, for R600,000 in respect of defamation damages. This was an unusual incident in the life of the NLC, it seemed.

Rumblings

It also appeared at the time that the argument was all about reports run by the Daily Maverick, sourced by Ground-up, that in Kuruman, Northern Cape, there were three particular State Lottery projects, an old-age home, a drug rehabilitation centre and a library/museum, being built and all meant to celebrate the life and work of a sangoma, Credo Mutwa.

According to the Daily Maverick article some R60m was granted as far back as 2016/7 but by 2019 two were still “under construction”, having received funding two years before.  The third, a museum, had not single exhibit therein and the library’s shelves were empty”, said Ground-up, who had been to Kuruman to see for themselves.

Photographs of fences, a few walls and piles of bricks were included in various articles and in subsequent articles the construction companies had suspicious links to NLC officials, the Daily Maverick said.

Out of sight

The NLC has distributed on average around R1.6bn per annum in recent years before Covid 19 arrived.  For a good deal of the earlier years, Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies, has presided over the affairs of the NLC very much at arm’s length since his department has been at pains, it seems, not to get too involved in lottery matters to any great depth.

Similarly, the Chair of the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry for years, Joanna Fubbs, just asked for assurances every year that all funds went to good causes and were distributed particularly amongst the poor. She received such assurances.

Writing the rules

Prof Nevhutanda, always aware that the Lotteries Act demanded no political interference in its affairs, would talk little on what motivated decisions on his  grants. This was a tightly held process within the NLC, he said, and the tenets and principles behind the formulae for consideration of funding had been designed by no less than the professor himself, the annual report of the State Lotteries Commission stated., with the Professor as author.

Consequently, DTI presentations to Parliament on this portion of their responsibilities made to the Portfolio Committee of Trade and Industry have been less than sketchy, particularly on report backs on whether DTI inspectors of NLC staff ever visited project sites.

Grants were declared as annual totals simplistically broken down into projects falling into four categories, the arts, charities, sports and miscellaneous. No more.

 Build up

Meanwhile, Minister Patel has been playing difficult and not really helping obviously not wishing to get too involved in problems of an entity run for so many years by a predecessor.

 

The Auditor General over the years seems to have accepted that no follow through was necessary but last year, with a tightening up of the rules, has now flagged some of the  issues as “irregular”.

D-Day

The letter now sent from Parliament to Prof. Nevhutanda from Parliament demands that the NLC should submit within seven days of receipt of the letter the names of beneficiaries who had received funds from the NLC in respect of the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the amount received as  beneficiaries referred to in the 2018/9 annual report and which were required by the Lotteries Act.

It also calls for details of all the categories under which the grants were made, names of beneficiaries and the amounts involved.  A similar call is made for 2019/20 figures in the 2019/2020 annual report as required in law.

 In the past

To sit through a meeting with the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) has been an insult to the average person’s intelligence for some years now, but the last virtual meeting was short and quick.  Chair Duma Nkosi read from the Courts findings and all quickly sided with Opposition MPs that Parliament had to exercise its authority immediately.

In the most recent meeting, Cuthbert said he was “horrified” to see how many ANCs had suddenly decided to vote agreeing on the matter after three years of disagreement, only siding with the DA when the Courts opinion posed a threat to the blind-eye approach of the past.

Nevertheless, it was a total majority decision made that NLC be hauled before Parliament and explanations given.

Past bad apples

Prof Nevhutanda is not short of publicity either.  Two years ago, he stood accused when a company with the improbable name of the Makhaya Arts & Cultural Development Co, and which employed Prof Nevhutanda’s daughter, controversially received a massive R64m from the National State Lotteries Fund, a story covered by Mail & Guardian.

The charmed life of Prof Nevhutanda seems set to end very shortly. One hopes that endless SIU reports, NPA paralysis and blunted Hawks investigations are not to follow, as the State Lotteries Fund Pandora’s box opens up.  It would seem a question of who gets there first; the SIU or Parliament.

Posted in Justice, constitutional, Public utilities, Security,police,defence, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Employment Equity Bill sets BEE targets

…..article July 26….

Minister gets tough on B-BBEE…. 

At the same time as Minister of Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi, tabled in Parliament the new Employment Equity (EE) Amendment Bill proposing that new BEE targets for business and industry should be set, the Department of Labour (DoL) appears to be acting as if the legislation is already in place.

Already government has been making overtures to the public in general on what the employment changes will be and how they will be implemented giving full details of the proposed outcomes of the parliamentary process.

This is all happening before Parliament can even meet to debate the Bill, both the Department of Labour and the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), recently announcing in a joint statement that that they  have teams touring the country to educate the public “on the new amended labour law processes and targets involved”.

Hold on

Opposition parties have objected to such premature announcements, stating that such a move will only hurt further an already troubled investment climate.    DA leader John Steenhuizen has stated that the setting of targets and quotas is “racial bean counting” and has queried the constitutionality of such proposals, even if they are set “after discussion with industry sectors”.

After nearly three years of beating about the bush with a draft Bill for discussion, its sudden tabling in final form would seem to come at a most inopportune time.   Commentators note that business morale is understandably low in the light of COVID 19 restrictions, unemployment figures are at the worst since the Great Depression and any new investment is only on a distant horizon.

Low punch

It is also difficult  to understand why Cabinet would chose this particular time to damage even any fertile territory for investors wishing to buy in at the bottom of the opportunity curve.   Some worry that the persistent clash over labour policy in the upper echelons of the governing party maybe to blame for its sudden introduction, the Bill being tabled just as Parliament was closing for a short recess.

The heavy-handed approach appears to be an attempt to use the parliamentary majority to rubber stamp what the COSATU power base has always wanted  from NEDLAC negotiations on BEE outcomes. The route was chosen some eight years ago by the trade union movement and to many the EE Amendment Bill is merely part of a pre-destined process.

Even major businesses, banks and mining houses, reading between the lines, seem to have accepted the Bill’s inevitability and seem also to have been mesmerised into the  acceptance of a status quo governed by agreed targets and have agreed also with Minister Nxesi that that such are not “quotas”.

The DA disagrees and calls the target proposals “racial”.  From the perspective of inequality in the workplace, the EE Bill will also bring in mandatory training of employees, meaning that companies will have to focus on their training and development which the mining companies have already accepted publicly in statements. They note to their members in a circular that they will not get government business unless they meet both the employment “targets” and get certification on the new training requirements.

 War talk

“We are not waiting for this Bill and the process has started already,” said soft-spoken Thembinkosi Mkhaliphi, Director of Labour Relations and top man in government as the draft Bill went up on the DoL website.

Nice guy that he is most of the time, Mkhaliphi is fully aware that the well-known quartet of laws, the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Act, the Labour Relations Amendment Act the Employment Services Act ,and the soon-to-be, it appears, the Employment Equity Amendment Act is all that it is needed to tame the private sector on any labour matter, particularly if either quotas or targets are legalized.

To many in the older generation, putting people into quotas is one short of putting then into cattle trucks and calling them “targets” is merely the use of synonyms.

One realizes that the mining industry is wearisome after some five years of argument with such obdurate politicians as the past minister of mining, Zuma’s Mosebenzi Zwane.  Probably, and understandably so, mining captains wish to get on and at least get back to mining whatever the labour environment, accepting that compulsory training is certainly morally acceptable.

Racial facts

Whatever the current situation is, an explosive report suddenly appeared recently in the labour environment. A report of the Commission for Employment Equity (CEE) showed that after 20 years whites still dominate top management positions in the private sector.  In top management, 65.5% of positions are held by whites, 15% by Africans, 5.3% by coloured persons and 9.7% by Indians.   This ammunition was devoured by the labour camp and shortly after that, the EE Bill was tabled.

The final results of the discussions between all parties apparently is that the new Bill gives the Minister the authority to set employment equity targets for employers across the economy; that the wording of the Bill proposes fines of up to 10% of turnover for failure to meet gazetted targets, with the State having the powers to disqualify firms from “working with government” for failure.

Enough said

The department has said the targets will be set at sectoral level after consultation with business and it will be up to companies to implement these according to conditions laid down in the Bill. “A company that does not meet the target must have a justifiable reason. If it does not, then it is not in compliance with the law.”

In terms of timing, using the law would seem to be the final route taken by the Department of Labour as the only way the CEE figures as published can be changed.

For Tembinkosi Mkhaliphi, also previously acting director at NEDLAC, this is the end of a long journey and the beginning of a new adventure.   When asked by Business Day, during an interview at NEDLAC in 2019, whether NEDLAC was relevant to the labour movement, he answered that indeed it was.

“The issue of the national minimum wage and the strike ballot and the amendment of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act were all implemented at NEDLAC” he said, endorsing apparently the value of the entity to both himself and COSATU.

Railway line

Looking back, the EE Bill  indeed began its journey twenty years ago in draft form at NEDLAC.  In 2003, President Mbeki, in his opening address to the National Assembly in February 2003, said that legislation would be finalised for a strategy for Broad-Based Black Empowerment, which was the formalisation of partnerships and ‘charters’ with the private sector the use of a ‘balanced scorecard’ approach to gauging success.

Everybody got to work, and redress was not only found acceptable but necessary.   Now, in 2020, things are to change further, says Minister Nxesi in his Bill, but this must be in the knowledge that argument is bound to arise that whilst human rights treaties endorse the redress measures as promoted by B-BBEE,  whether to enforce black empowerment at law with targets is acceptable.

Latest moves

In a virtual  interview last week, in a well-tempered and firm tone,  “It is recognised that B-BBEE was operated on the premise that there should be no involvement of government enforcing transformation in terms of target setting and it had left it to companies themselves to set their own targets and goals”, he said, “but we have got nowhere”.

He continued, looking straight at his camera,” It has been government’s role to monitor these targets over the last 21 years but nothing has happened that should have happened and no real significant change has taken place”,  inferring that the Minister’s Bill would do this.

The other side

Martin Kingston, vice-president of Business Unity SA, has said on the side lines that the Bill has been two years in the making and that business will indeed be involved in setting targets. “The Minister has to consult with each sector and the consultation process leads to agreeing targets, which go to NEDLAC, a process that is already currently underway with retail and mining”.

No doubt, Parliament will allow for hearings in the new session starting 18 August and full details of BUSA’s view will be expressed although they will obviously be happy with concessions given to small business.

The DA’s shadow minister of labour, Michael Cardo, has been more vocal, stating, “This Bill will have the effect of choking SA’s barely breathing economy and its will  be opposed tooth and nail. These numerical targets imposed by ministerial fiat are quotas in all but in name.  The minister has no business in ramming them down the throat of employers.”

Next stage

Tembinkosi Mkhaliphi has repeated in a subsequent virtual media briefing that consultations on the new amending Bill, then still a draft, had already been conducted with the mining, banking and retail sectors. He did not elaborate on the responses, however.

The Bill does, however, propose the reduction in regulatory burden upon small employers, since those with less than 50 employees will no longer have to report on their employment equity targets, irrespective of their turnover, Mkhaliphi said .

He put forward a different view. He said that with B-BBEE, “target setting is not new except that now government comes into the picture”.   It’s a question of give and take, he said, admitting that the proposal in the Bill to lessen the burden on small business “was to sweeten the carrot”.

Kicking it along

Mkhaliphi said in conclusion that he realised “not everyone at NEDLAC was happy with the Bill.”

Indeed, it does seem, from a parliamentary viewpoint, a total contradiction that in the light of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent commitment that government was making “structural economic reforms that will ease regulations for investors”, that the Cabinet has now approved a Bill for tabling in Parliament which raises the bar by a whole number of regulation notches – and difficult ones at that.

The Bill will now be scheduled for meetings into the next session of Parliament to commence mid- August.

Posted in Agriculture, BEE, Finance, economic, Justice, constitutional, Labour, Trade & Industry0 Comments

By-passing Parliament at one’s peril

….editorial,  30 May 2020

Regulations mania hits South Africa …..

Winston Churchill, perhaps the greatest political and parliamentary figure of the last century, said that if you make 10,000 regulations you destroy all respect for the law.  Take a look at South Africa where far too many conflicting and nonsensical regulations are espoused on a weekly basis, some of them with only a loose and highly doubtful connection to the law, the Disaster Management Act, under which they are gazetted.

What started with good intent in the rush to halt the spread of Covid 19, ‘flatten the curve’ and buy time to build medical supply lines and PPE reserves, has turned into a regularised pattern of government by dictate.  We are in danger of getting used to the idea of government finding a way around the people’s Parliament just because 400 people can’t gather together in the light of social distancing, in itself another regulation.

This shortcut to governance has to be stopped before it becomes regularised in any way.  In the process of searching for a way to speed up what at times can be a cumbersome system of democratic checks and balances, the country has invented an immensely powerful and what could well be an illegal intervention named, by somebody unknown, as the National Coronavirus Command Council.

Rules in bulk

After only a month of the president’s announcement of the declaration of the national state of disaster, more than 50 sets of Covid-19 related regulations, directives, notices and directions have been published nationwide in its name.    Lawyers and business chambers are struggling to keep up with it all.

The problem now being faced is two-fold.  Firstly, the high-sounding and most unfortunately militarised name of “Command Council” represents an entity not recognised in the Constitution, or anywhere in the statute book.   It is purely an invention of a clique within the governing party as an instrument to administer a law cobbled together in a few months called the Disaster Management Act.

Somehow, without the knowledge of Parliament, a handpicked number cabinet ministers, chosen one has to assume by persons residing at Luthuli House, has granted executive functions and powers to a pick of between 8 and 19 cabinet ministers (the number varies) who meet at undisclosed places and take national decisions.

The same unknown group has ignored some thirty to forty other cabinet ministers for reasons unstated to form this command unit and there we have it, a new grouping administering a whole country by regulation.  It is so important that we do not get used to this alien concept as a substitute for ordinary democracy, whether or not it has a body a scientific expertise advising it or not.

Power point

On the subject of powers, the Constitution is quite clear – all cabinet ministers are accountable “collectively and individually to Parliament”.   But to repeat, this caveat is made nonsense of when a cabinet cabal, including the Deputy President, start making government policy affecting citizens’ rights without even a parliamentary nod.

Granted, that originally there was a need for speed and given the fact that Covid 19 is a disaster of global proportions, it was understandable that hastily convened and rushed virtual parliamentary portfolio committee meetings tried vainly to “debate” the issues that might arise as a result of implementing the Disaster Management Bill.    In fact, they did remarkably well in the circumstances and South Africa became the first country to try and handle parliamentary debate electronically in the light of lockdown.

Law by laptop

Virtual meetings make any meaningful debate nearly impossible at the best of times. They are designed more for briefings than for discussion.  In the understandable rush, the buttons pressing the “ayes” became the norm in the short time allowed. The Disaster Management Act (DMA) is the result and is now history.

Now, the buttons are being pressed by Dr Nkosazana-Zuma, the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), the department which the DMA empowered, most assuming that COGTA would be more of a spokesperson for the system to be adopted.

Governance by regs

However, “risk-adjusted strategy regulations” were published in a flash by COGTA in the light of the disaster (not emergency) powers with a statement that read, “The Cabinet minister responsible for cooperative governance and traditional affairs upon the recommendation of the cabinet member responsible for health and in consultation with cabinet, declare which of the following alert levels apply, and the extent to which they apply at a national, provincial, metropolitan or district level.” It all sounded like we had things in hand.

In the UK or Commonwealth countries, this process would have amounted to making Dr Nkosazana-Zuma prime minister and Dr Zweli Mkhize her deputy prime minister.  Nevertheless, Parliament in SA  soon fell outside of the inner circle when it came to oversight. Parliament deals with legislation not regulation.

What sticks to the wall

After a week or so,  it became more than noticeable that many of the regulations just did not link up and appeared randomly unconnected. The cooked chicken problem, no flip flops and absurd choices on who could and could not work.   Looking at it from a parliamentary aspect, to create temporary hospitals and to ban liquor and cigarette sales, and then cancel one factor but not the other, seemed not only a stretch under the same law but also a legal anachronism.

Worse, just the act of banning liquor sales and thus damaging the tourism and hospitality industry possibly forever is unlikely to pass any “justification analysis” constitutionally.    Most of the public comments called for in the form of  business submissions are now accumulating in government offices or parliamentary boxes and certainly unlikely ever be seen by Dr Nkosazana Zuma.   She is known for having no appetite for this sort of thing, as was discovered by the African Union.

LIFO

Now many of the regulations are causing serious “unintended consequences” in application, such as schooling, resulting in a law gone rogue.  A further well publicised example has been where regulations allow religious gatherings whereas most major religions did not call for them, nor will exercise them. Gatherings include funerals for the dead but not a healthy game of bowls for the elderly. Most have no idea of who consulted who on outcomes, representing more muddled thinking by a body which records no minutes and meets in secret.

South Africa has invented a most dangerous mechanism where everybody just relies on the Presidency to eventually “put things right” when the panic is over.  To do this, President Ramaphosa, in the light of a forthcoming ANC conference, will have to dissolve this mechanism somehow and terminate its powers. This politically powerful entity is led by a person who contested with him the position of president and who split the governing party in half doing this.

Its going to be a bumpy ride.

Posted in cabinet, Cabinet,Presidential, earlier editorials, Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, Justice, constitutional, Security,police,defence, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Copyright Bill goes back to Parliament

….posted on July 13 2020….

Hung by its own petard: Copyright Bill 

Threatened not so much by the US administration, as Cabinet advisers would like us to believe, but more probably actioned more as per the presidency statement because of incompatibility with international agreements,  President Cyril Ramaphosa has made his long outstanding move with regard to the Copyright Amendment Bill, was sitting with him for over a year for assent.

Correctly, we believe, he has returned the Bill to Parliament in the light of the Bill’s constitutional and legal deficiencies, particularly in respect of non-compliance with the international “3-step test” of the Berne Convention and WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights

Long time coming

This delays further the implementation South Africa’s much-needed revised copyright legislation which has been stuck in the same groove with regard to royalties since before the digital age.  But then the Presidency also sat on their hands for 13 months before deciding on the matter, a decision which for most in business and industry should have been a complete no brainer.

Sad it will be for academics and educationalists who will remain with standard limitations on published works and sad also we understand for local performers and artists but, in the case of the latter grouping, this we admit is outside of our scope and brief.

Most of the delays so far have emanated from an overwhelming and misguided socialist belief that the Bill, as it stood according to the tenets of the governing party and particularly the beliefs of the previous Trade and Industry Minister, Rob Davies, that the Bill should introduce an emphasis on the “protection” of local artists and performers, a matter which seemed well worth to them a disregard for international copyright norms.

As the Bill is to be returned to Parliament, the delays will obviously be compounded.

Where we were

The Copyright Amendment Bill and the Performer’s Protection Bill as tandem Bills have both considered at the same time by Parliament’s Trade and Industry Portfolio Committee, both dealing with the same broad subject but both by their names dealing with separate issues.  By far the major issue was the matter of international copyright agreements and hence it was the Copyright Amendment Bill that came into the public eye because of international trading issues.

The view was originally espoused by Joanna Fubbs, stalwart and ANC chairperson for many years of the Portfolio Trade Committee on Trade and Industry that local performers and educational bodies were injured by the extensive international controls on copyright matters.  She personally took on the job of drafting the Bill with an emphasis on this subject, calling for help with various committees of experts but at the same time, as was called for, drafting a Bill which contained the tenets of a new approach to copyright matters.

Disadvantaged

She was undoubtedly driven by her beliefs that that the SA music and publishing industry was largely ignored, and she referred regularly to “well known SA artists and performers who had died penniless”. The position was even reached a point where a submission on the Bill was made in song by one grouping to MPs, an extraordinary moment,

Although it was generally acknowledged that local bodies in South Africa in the past were not famous for adherence to internationally accepted copyright norms ,particularly following sanctions by the Free World in years previous, it was agreed that a tightening up of this process had to happen and that copyright collection agencies, although not much liked by small business, were a part of the generally accepted process of royalty governance.

It was agreed by both government and business that something had to be done urgently about the fact that the existing Copyright Act had not been updated since 1976

Started by DTIC

The first draft on the subject from the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) was rejected outright by eminent legal opinion, including that of the well-known Stellenbosch University, Anton Mostert School of Copyright Law.

This original draft, in the opinion of many legal experts, introduced “crude wording on the de-colonialisation’ of issues on royalties”, views which were only slightly watered down in subsequent years of endless and boring re-written versions whilst the Bill progressed under the two sub-committees formed by Joanna Fubbs.

Probably to stay in new Bill

The process resulted in a locally invented “hybrid” compromise wording regarding royalty usage, drawn up from the international norms of ‘fair use’ and ‘fair dealing’ principles of copyright application. The parliamentary authors felt they had achieved a result that would result in better protection of local author’s and performer’s copyright and a fair slice of royalties.

The point was, however, that the World Intellectual Property Organisation already provided latitudes with regard to the publishing industry in this regard but Fubbs persisted with her draft, fired by belief that South African educators were being denied educational opportunities by an over-zealous and, in her opinion, a somewhat pernicious publishing industry.

Rumpus followed

Book publishers then complained to the US Intellectual Property Association, which escalated by circumstance into a threat to South Africa in respect of  GPS benefits under AGOA.  Such produced a major moment of unhappiness in Trump/SA relationships.  One sensed that for some thirteen months whilst the Bill sat for assent, President Ramaphosa did not know which way to jump, although perhaps Covid 19 pre-occupation must have played a part in the extraordinary delays.

With President Ramaphosa now returning the Bill to Parliament, it is important to understand why the Bill is returned and what this implies. The process now could be lengthy and somewhat torturous.

Provincial and local input

The Cabinet statement merely states, aside for concern for visually impaired persons, that both the Copyright Amendment Bill and the Performers Protection Bill had been incorrectly tagged as Section 75 Bills in terms of the constitutionally prescribed process for parliamentary legislation. However, the President is of the view that the Bills concerned are in fact Section 76 Bills, given that they affect cultural matters.  To business, this remains a blind alley.

Section 75 Bills, which categorized the previous Bill, require just the mere acknowledgement of the National Councils of Provinces, but Bills tagged as Section 76 require a mandate from all nine provinces, and in some case cases provincial public hearings in each of the nine.  By returning the Bill on the basis of not being tagged correctly, this possibly means that as well as the Copyright Amendment Bill being altered and re-worded, the result will have to be considered by all provincial legislatures as well.

Rough guess

We expect that there will be a continued attempt to champion legislatively  “local user rights” in a compromised form, something that is mostly foreign to all international copyright statutes and agreements. At the same time, we do not expect any Copyright Amendment Bill to be passed any time in 2020 and if by July 2020, this will be going some.

Nevertheless, what we can expect is a Bill more along lines that the World Copyright Organisation would expect, the book publishing industry will want, and the US music and film publishing is used to seeing on the world stage. It is assumed that Minister Ebrahim Patel will gazette a new draft for public consideration, DTIC having learnt much in the four years of process.

 

Posted in Cabinet,Presidential, Home Page Slider, Justice, constitutional, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Parliament goes virtual for lockdown


….20 May 2020…

SA first with virtual e-debate

….At the same time as the venerable British Parliament was tackling what seemed to them a totally invasive idea of a virtual e-Parliament, South Africa was simultaneously tackling the same subject as COVID 19 arrived at the shores of Africa.  Immediately, the issue of the consideration of lockdown conditions arose in SA and the question of how Parliament could work with everybody boarded.

Whilst British parliamentarians dithered on the subject and due to the fact that the UK kept social distancing going for a much longer time before their lockdown came into force, South Africa’s virtual website portal went up in an incredibly short time and was first in the world by a few days.

Maak ‘n plan

In comparison, the British virtual system. which is also now also working, only allows for debate in the House of Commons whilst South Africa, in terms of its Constitution, follows proceedings in both the National Assembly and the NCOP and also at committee level as well, with the current joint meetings providing provincial coverage.

The design of the entrance website is pretty similar to the UK portal, the principle being the same but with a British budget, the UK presentation is a good deal slicker.  All the same, the Daily Telegraph complained after the UK launch that all that the voice links in the meetings sounded like Darth Vadar and it was confusing to know who was speaking.

Many players

The beginner’s look of the SA virtual meetings is understandable in the situation.   One can see in SA technicians are having a daily struggle with people using Skype and Zoom connections for the first time, some of whom have little knowledge of the difference between an app and a hard drive.

Most are trying, knowing it all has to happen and it would be best to learn quickly but a certain number of senior politicians still demand studio facilities and a camera.   We shall no doubt look back in years to come and laugh at these early attempts to live a virtual reality life.

48 hours allowed

In South Africa, where the decision to suspend the SA Parliament was a “precautionary measure” in the light of a forthcoming Cabinet decision on how to deal with the pandemic, Parliament’s presiding officers in the form of chief whips and political parties all agreed beforehand on the 17 March that the remaining two days of parliamentary business would be devoted to urgent legislation only.

As a result of this decision, Budget Papers in the form of the Division of Revenue Bill were hustled to the National Assembly for adoption in order that money could flow to the provinces and local government.   A Cabinet meeting followed and the Speaker of the House, who acts for the President in Parliament, was summonsed for a meeting soon after.

Hard facts

The role of Parliament is indispensable for the country to run.   The Constitution demands that Parliament scrutinise and oversee all Executive actions, processes Bills in the  form of legislation, to provide a forum for public consideration of issues and to facilitate public involvement in its legislative and other processes. Such is inviolate, whatever the conditions facing the country.

Realizing that the only way was virtual meetings to consider matters,  Speaker Thandi Modise issued a statement that Parliament would have to “intensify its technological capabilities for a transition to an “e-Parliament”.   She concluded that as a result, a decision had been taken that “Parliament will be able to resume taking advantage of virtual media technology”.

 Into action

The leave period, or recess, for MPs was duly cancelled and parliamentary staff were assigned permits to stay at work.  They used this time for urgent meetings -to assess how Parliament could best resume its proper function under lockdown regulations and deal with the lacuna (i.e. a situation where there is no applicable law to deal with the matter).

It was agreed by the Speaker that priority had to be given in Parliament to virtual meetings that required oversight on COVID-19 matters, bearing in mind the limited number of meetings that could be held at any one time.  It was also agreed that any virtual meetings would be primarily joint meetings based on the government cluster system, i.e. meetings comprising the various representatives from a number of differing committees affected by one subject.

 Order, order

Chief whips were then tasked to adapt parliamentary rules to meet the new conditions. All this had to be based on the procedures, precedents, practices and conventions, which have been developed over the years, known as parliamentary rules.  This was in respect of not only how NA and NCOP virtual plenary meetings were to be run but how debate was to be conducted committee.

Speaker Thandi Modise then confirmed to all political parties that in the planned virtual meetings, members of parliament would have the same powers, privileges and immunity as they have ordinarily in parliamentary proceedings.  Quorum requirements were to be exactly the same she said, and MPs would be entitled to cast their votes either electronically or by voice.

Public participation and access to virtual proceedings had to be made possible, said Modise, “in a manner that is consistent with a participatory and representative democracy, virtual meetings to be live-streamed wherever possible”.

Global comparisons

Despite time limitations Parliament was indeed able to try and benchmark against some other legislatures who were operating as legislatures whilst their countries were fighting against COVID-19. To the surprise of all, little was found.

The prime constitutional constraint in South Africa’s case was that any virtual meetings had to involve both the sittings of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces and these had to be seen to be happening if the public wished to observe proceedings, a factor necessary according to the Bill of Rights.   This was overcome by making most meetings “joint” committee meetings of parallel committees from both Houses.

One and only

In the UK, which has no constitution, a parliamentary virtual meeting concept had been designed and planning was six months into happening.  From a standing start, SA Parliament achieved their deadline in about a fortnight.  Australia and New Zealand are still only thinking of going about it and the USA is still fighting about lockdown itself.

Without fanfare, the parliamentary process under the extraordinary conditions began internally in the Cape Town precinct after a very short training period on 20th April, with access being made to the existing  public parliamentary website on the link www.parliament.gov.za/parliament-tv.

 Time will tell

The whole thing seems to work quite well but obviously glitches occur regularly whilst MPs struggle from time to time to find the mute button and some appear if they have just got out of bed.  Already, however, after an initial learning curve, things are changing and before long it will be the way things happen.

At each meeting, provision is made for the parliamentary secretary to log in those MPs present at a virtual meeting, name them, see them, accept apologies and at point count voting if required from those logged in through the  electronic response system.   Minutes are established later through the audio track recorded in the same manner as before. This is quite some procedure to witness in some of the hallowed chambers where the Speaker once wore a wig.

An MP’s presence in any virtual meeting is established through a secure link sent to their email address which also enables counting to be established for the purposes of establishing a quorum, taking decisions on issues or voting on a matter. Links are established on Facebook, Linked-in, Twitter and Instagram, the photography on Facebook on parliamentary issues being quite stunning.

 7 out of 10

In general, the new parliamentary virtual world established is considered by most quite for such a rush and the process will no doubt tide the country through this terrible period in its history.  This aside from any opinion on how well MPs handle their own inputs and deal with difficult question of switching between one another to pose and answer questions.  What you see is what you get.  The result is not always pretty but it is legal.

One advantage is that with so much happening with lights flashing and buttons to worry about, there is little time for any MP to have a quiet slumber.

Posted in Agriculture, cabinet, Communications, Defence, Earlier Stories, Energy, Fuel,oil,renewables, Home Page Slider, Justice, constitutional, Police, Public utilities, public works, Security,police,defence, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

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