House of Assembly: Vol2 - TUESDAY 19 MARCH 1985
announced that the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Private Members’ Bills had reported to him as follows in regard to the proposed Constitution Amendment Bill, the proposed Aliens Amendment Bill and the proposed Agricultural Workers Bill:
- (i) Constitution Amendment Bill—(Mr J A Rabie);
- (ii) Aliens Amendment Bill—(Mr J A Rabie); and
- (iii) Agricultural Workers Bill—(Mr A E Poole),
and I am accordingly unable to recommend that these proposed Bills be introduced.
19 March 1985.
Mr Speaker, I would like to continue from where the hon member for Durban Point left off yesterday when he wrestled with the PFP. Before I get to that, however, I would like to express my thanks to all the members of the standing committee. I would like to go further and thank the chairman for the way in which he guided the standing committee, especially since this legislation initially gave rise to a fair number of problems. I also want to express my thanks to the SATS for all the assistance they rendered us in solving the problems we encountered in regard to this Bill. I thank them for their willingness to go and do their homework and then come back and furnish us with information so that we could reach consensus in this instance.
This Amendment Bill makes provision for the amendment of approximately 10 existing Acts or Amendment Acts. I do not, however, want to say much about the contents of the Bill. I think the contents of the Bill are spelt out reasonably clearly in the memorandum which the SATS laid upon the Table for our benefit. In his second reading speech the hon the Minister also clearly outlined for us the objects of the different clauses. However, I also want to say here that the clauses, as they appeared, have been changed somewhat. The amendments that were adopted are contained in Bill 35A which indicates what changes the standing committee introduced.
I want to return to the standpoint of the Official Opposition. The hon member for Port Elizabeth Central said here that he could not support the Bill. He consequently moved an amendment that clause 18(c) be scrapped if they are to agree to the Bill being read a second time. I should like to return to the question of the standing committee. The hon member lauded the standing committee and I would like to associate myself with that. In the debate on the SATS Appropriation I said that I considered the system of standing committees to be a big improvement as regards the functioning of this Parliament, especially since we all get a chance to participate in attempts to improve legislation where necessary. However, I did experience a problem on that committee with the hon members of the PFP and I should like to dwell on this for a moment.
The hon member for Port Elizabeth Central spoke here about our scheming, and tried to suggest that the chairman took part in it. He also maintained that there was no quorum at one stage. The absence of a quorum arose because the committee members of one House, in accordance with the requirements of their faith, attended prayers one Friday afternoon and were late returning from these. At that stage there was no quorum. That was not something about which we in the standing committee could do anything.
That had nothing to do with it and you know it.
In that particular case, those people turned up later and there was indeed a quorum in the standing committee. My point is, however, that they in any case voted against the Preamble to the Constitution which incorporates freedom of religion. So I can see why the hon member for Port Elizabeth Central objected.
While I am engaged in battle with this hon member—which I did not intend doing originally, since we did reach consensus—I would remind him that, when he was an MP in East London, everyone regarded East London as the worst place on earth. Everyone complained about East London at the time. Since he has left East London and come to Port Elizabeth, it is the same story in Port Elizabeth. Now things are going badly in Port Elizabeth. I get the impression that the hon member attracts misfortune. Just for a change he should make an effort to convey the positive aspects in this case.
He must stay away from our homes.
The hon member for Randburg says he should stay away from our homes. I believe that is a good recommendation which we could lay upon the Table.
You take your lead from Hendrik Coetzer!
Bill 35B indicates what we changed and that has been laid upon the Table. We have indicated exactly what was amended and what was voted on. My point, however, is that we all attend standing committee meetings with an open mind. On each occasion our chairman—for whom I have a lot of respect—appeals to us to consider the legislation with an open mind. We get full co-operation from the State officials. The members of the PFP put forward and motivated their standpoint. In my view the chairman of the Standing Committee on Transport Affairs is a man with a lot of patience. Indeed, I would not have been able to exhibit as much patience as he did every time. At the end of the day we voted on the proposal. If no one other than the two members of the PFP voted in favour of it, they should in my opinion accept that they were defeated. I believe that that is what consensus means in essence. They had the opportunity to put forward their standpoint, and their standpoint was voted on. So they should have realized, after only the two members of the PFP voted in favour of their standpoint, that the rest of the members on the standing committee placed no value on it.
The sooner the PFP—and I want to specify who the two hon members are with whom I am concerned, namely, the hon member for Port Elizabeth Central and the hon member for Bezuidenhout who is unfortunately not here now, but who will, ten to one, speak after me—tell us with what purpose they attend standing committee meetings, the better. For the benefit of the hon members of this House and also of the other two Houses, these two hon members must tell us specifically with what purpose they attend the meetings of the standing committee. Are they like children who go to fight, and, when they cannot get their way, come back to this House?
They want to help you.
I think “Father Horrible” should rather keep quiet. The Kaspaas of Parliament is not at issue in this case.
An hon member of the PFP will get up to speak after I have done. I should really like him to tell us what they come to do on the standing committee. Even the members of the Opposition parties of the other two Houses come to the standing committee meetings with a more open mind than do those two hon members.
I know that the hon members of the PFP do not want to accept the system that the State President has instituted. I know they are opposed to it. It seems to me that they come to the standing committee to air their views on this. A vote is taken and, if they are defeated, they return to this House demanding that the legislation be not proceeded with. If this is the way they act, then for the benefit of the other members of the standing committee, I ask very nicely that the next speaker from their ranks should tell us what they come to do on the standing committee. Do they come seeking consensus or confrontation? They come seeking one of the two, nothing else.
Another point I should like to add is that, in my view, we as Nationalists would also have liked to have seen certain aspects of the Amendment Bill changed. Once we had reached consensus, however, we did not try to impose our own standpoints upon the committee.
Another thing that bothers me is that everything is again discussed here in detail. The Amendment Bill concerns a few amendments to existing Acts, but every time it gets discussed in a wider context. Take for example clause 18(c). Under this clause the whole question of the Railway Police and why they were established suddenly gets discussed again. The hon member for Port Elizabeth Central was quoted on this aspect today in one of the newspapers, and the Press have every right to do that. I do not think, however, that it was intended that legislation in connection with the Police be dragged into a discussion in the Standing Committee on Transport Affairs. I therefore ask the two hon members of the PFP not to do that sort of thing because it not only makes the chairman’s task more difficult, but it also delays proceedings in our standing committee. There is after all more important work to be done than to drag matters not related to specific legislation into a discussion with the object of trying to make political capital out of it. The Official Opposition, and specifically the two hon members to whom I am now talking, should now realize—we get on well, but I think we should be candid with each other for once—that, if any of the other two Houses has something to say, they will say it to the chairman themselves. It is no longer necessary for the PFP to speak for them.
That brings me to the point on which I want to conclude. I am afraid that the seeking of consensus on the Standing Committee on Transport Affairs—I cannot comment on the other standing committees since I do not serve on them—will eventually develop in such a way that we as majority parties will try to reach consensus amongst each other and with those minority parties or Opposition parties who are prepared to co-operate, but not with these people who participate in a system and yet try to put a spoke in the wheel to wreck or retard it. I regard it as a privilege to support the Second Reading of this Bill.
Mr Speaker, I would like to associate myself with the hon member for Primrose in his praise of the officials. We support this Bill which, amongst other things, in clause 9 clarifies the situation regarding the recovery of debts, especially in the case where a member, on account of fraud or dishonesty, is either dismissed from the Service or absconds from it.
It is further also proposed in this Bill to substitute the designation “system manager” with “regional manager”. The designation “regional manager” is actually already in use. What is happening here, then, is that clause 11 is, as it were, providing for the legal use of the new designation. I trust that this change of designation to regional manager will be effected at as low a cost as possible.
It is also proposed that the period of notice in respect of the dismissal of a police officers in temporary employment be shortened from 90 days to 30 days. I put forward my standpoint on this in the standing committee, but I was in the minority. I should like to ask the hon the Minister again, within the context of the current economic climate in which work is very scarce, perhaps still to consider the possibility of shortening this period of notice to 60 days instead of 30 days. This will at least give the person two months in which to look for other employment.
The hon member for Port Elizabeth Central referred in his speech to certain things in the standing committee. He also said that negotiations were taking place. I do not know whether negotiations are taking place, because I was not present there. However, one thing I am sure of is that for the NP members consensus means making concessions. That is very clear.
Mr Speaker, at this stage I should like to put it to the House that we are all aware that in that standing committee work was done and consensus was reached, also with the two hon members of the PFP. That is so, Sir.
Yes, but not as far as clause 18(c) is concerned.
Yesterday the hon member for Port Elizabeth Central hedged in regard to this whole issue. He accused the hon members of the standing committee, and especially hon members on this side of the House, of scheming. I want to be very frank today. If any scheming or attempts at scheming took place in that standing committee or outside where tea was drunk, then it was done by that hon member himself. He tried to scheme with the other members.
The hon member for Port Elizabeth Central eventually began to co-operate. Yesterday, however, he vacillated a bit here. It reminds me of the old lady who sat alongside the field watching members of the Defence Force carrying out a drilling exercise. Her son was among them, but he could not stay in step to save his life. When he had to move his left foot he put his right foot and vice versa. When the parade was over, however, the old lady said: “Only my Johnny was in step.” Now it would appear that only that hon “Johnny” was in step as far as this standing committee was concerned. [Interjections.]
The hon member told us very adroitly yesterday that this legislation is very good legislation but that it could have been better. I want to ask the hon member just what it is that could have been better. I ask this because in the standing committee the hon member moved an amendment which reads as follows:
That is the proposal which the hon member for Port Elizabeth Central put forward.
That is exactly the same as the position that obtains in the private sector.
Mr Speaker, this matter was referred to the law advisors, and the hon member agreed with this. The hon member said further that the onus should be placed on the Administration and that he would then agree. I think I am right in also saying that.
The law advisers then set out the matter once more. They drew up a new clause which, inter alia, reads as follows:
This is what the whole affair is about:
that money may be collected. The following proviso was, however, added at the end of the clause:
The hon member for Port Elizabeth Central agreed to this too. I was therefore very surprised when the hon member performed all kinds of antics here yesterday and again raised the objections that were raised by hon members of the PFP in the committee this time in public and in the presence of the Press. I say this because neither the public nor the Press are allowed in the committee. I therefore found it remarkable that the same objections raised in the committee were raised again in public and in the presence of the Press. We deliberated on this matter for a long time in order to reach consensus. If the actions of the hon member are really not an attempt to steal a march on us politically, then I do not know what they are. As far as we on this side of the House are concerned, it is in poor, in very poor taste.
We support the second reading of this Bill.
Mr Speaker, before I come to the actual clause I want to deal with in the Second Reading debate, I want to reply to the hon member for Primrose who asked some specific questions and is therefore, I feel, entitled to an explanation.
I want to remind him that when hon members of this party on the standing committee opposed certain aspects of the Bill, namely the clause dealing with the police, they did it in the standing committee, they did it throughout the standing committee, as we have done in this House. I am sure that that hon Minister does not expect any hon member on this side of the House to be inconsistent and oppose this when it appears in other legislation but then support here merely to go along with the crowd. I do not think he would expect that. One has to take one’s stand and follow it through, no matter how right or wrong one might be.
Secondly I would like to make it very clear that there are a number of other questions relating to our overall attitude towards standing committees. There is no doubt in our minds that in principle standing committees, by definition, are a very great improvement in the handling of legislation. However, it must be stressed that we do not regard standing committees as some kind of rubber stamp. We are not prepared to accept that at any cost. We will support those aspects of legislation which we believe are consistent with the principles and the policies of this party, and what is good for South Africa. We will oppose legislation, whether it be in the standing committee or in this House or outside, if we believe that it contradicts that which is good and right for South Africa. I believe that that is our right and that that is the role that this opposition party has sought to play in the past. Despite the fact that we have now introduced standing committees, this will not change our overall attitude. However, we will go out of our way on standing committees to try to find one another in the hope of producing better legislation. That is the answer I want to give to that hon member and to this House as far as our attitude is concerned. Consensus does not mean agreeing with the NP. Consensus is trying to reach the very best solution that we can. Sometimes, even when we have opposed a certain aspect, we have then supported a second-best option. That is why our actions may sometimes appear to be inconsistent. We will continue to do that because we want to do what is right and best.
I want to tell the hon the Minister that my contribution this afternoon will focus completely and solely on clause 2 of this Bill which refers to section 1 of the Railways and Harbours Pensions Act, 1971. When one looks at the explanatory memorandum, one finds that there is no reference at all to a very important change that one finds in this particular clause, namely the deletion of the definition of “staff association” and the insertion of the following definition:
That is a major step. I think the hon the Minister will agree with me. Yet, strangely enough, there is no reference to it in the explanatory memorandum whatsoever. We could therefore skate very easily over it. I would suggest that there are a number of reasons why we should pause and look at the significance of this change.
Are you for it or against it?
You will hear in a moment, if you will just possess your soul in patience, which I know is not easy for you.
The key word here is of course “regulations”. I must say that I have tried very hard to secure a copy of these regulations. I telephoned the parliamentary officer a number of times and I left messages, but I still do not have a copy of the regulations. I know that hon Minister, however, and I know what he has said in previous debates. I know what he said in 1981 in a very major debate in this House, and in 1983 with the introduction of the Conditions of Employment (SATS) Bill at the time. I am quite convinced in my own mind, however, that the regulations give the Administration—specifically the Minister—the right to decide which groups can be recognized as trade unions and which ones not. I will try to motivate this statement of mine as I go along.
In South Africa, since 1977, we have seen a veritable revolution in our labour practices and in industrial relations in general. Many of us, over the past eight or nine years, have participated in significant reforms and changes in industrial relations. The appointment of the Wiehahn Commission was a watershed, and out of that flowed a new understanding of what it means to support freedom of association in the labour field. When one looks at the White Paper—Part 1—which was issued by the Commission as far back as 1979, one will see that the commission at that time recommended as follows, and I quote:
It pursues the matter even further but I will not quote the whole passage now.
The Government’s response in 1979 was mixed. The recommendation was accepted, with certain reservations. I quote now from the comment by the Government the comment issued by the Cabinet at the time, as follows:
Then it states that it hesitates to give a permanent part of the Black workers, who are in permanent jobs and who therefore constitute a permanent part of the labour force, access to machinery which was in the first instance developed for and is being utilized in aid of South Africa’s permanent labour force. This is really an exercize in cynicism. The hon the Minister knows that if one looks at the figures pertaining to the distinctions that are drawn in the SATS one realizes that we have permanent, temporary, regular, casual and contract workers. The only people who are designated permanent workers just happen to be White.
Where do you get that from?
That is according to the latest figures given in reply to a question asked here in the House by the hon member for Port Elizabeth Central. When he asked how many were involved—and I will come back to that again—the reply given was quite staggering. That hon Minister rules over a mighty empire in this country, both in terms of numbers and in terms of rand and cents. That is why it is so important that we pause a moment and ask ourselves what we are doing when we change a definition in terms of the regulations. The Government has changed the word “apartheid” so many times, it just is not true. We have had terms such as “separate development” and so many others. You name it, it simply carries on and on and on. We all know, however, that until this …
How many times has the word “apartheid” been changed?
About five times, I should guess. The hon the Minister is probably thinking already of using a new one. We have had “apartheid”, “separate development”, “plural relations”, “co-operation and development”, “Bantu affairs”—I do not have the time to go into all those various descriptions and designations. The only point I want to make is that this hon Minister knows—as we all do, I hope—that it is only when one changes the substance other than the name that one can genuinely talk about change. The same goes for reform, whether in labour relations or in race relations or in the country as a whole. We are in the middle of that process now. We must therefore not try to play wordgames with one another.
The Government’s reaction, as I have said, was mixed. It was certainly an exercise in cynicism because there are no permanent Black workers in terms of the approach by this Administration. As a result of that they do not come under the protection of the Act. That, as far as I am concerned, is the key phrase.
This Government has, however, not stood still on this matter, and in 1981 there was a further report. I quote now from the White Paper—Part 5—of the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Labour Legislation, as follows:
What was the Government’s response to that? It is written here in black and white and this is how it reads:
This was in 1981. Steps in this regard may have been taken in the private sector but certainly not in the SATS, as that hon the Minister well knows. When he was challenged on this previously, his reply was: “I want to maintain control.” That is true. The hon the Minister wants to rule that empire with a rod of iron. He does not want to participate in the reform which is taking place in the rest of South Africa; he wants to keep that situation rigid. I want to say to that hon the Minister he takes an enormous risk by refusing to move on this key issue, for as long as one denies workers freedom of association, one is putting at risk industrial peace in this country. This has been proved many times in many parts of the world, and I know the hon the Minister will say that I am talking rubbish, that I am talking nonsense, but I hope he will remember these words that I am using today. Freedom of association in other sectors of our economy has proved to be of tremendous assistance in negotiation, in finding our way. We have many teething problems in that respect and we will continue to have them but it is a decidedly better situation than it was before.
You are creating a pressure group.
No, not at all, Sir. Is that hon the Minister saying that he does not agree with the changes in the labour laws in this country? [Interjections.]
This is a business we must control to show a profit. We cannot afford to have disruptions.
The hon the Minister says that they cannot afford disruptions, but that is exactly what they are going to get when they deny people certain basic, fundamental rights. [Interjections.] How does the hon the Minister square that with the report I have just quoted from, in which the Government says that it accepts the principle of the freedom of association and that steps have already been taken to implement this principle? Did he persuade them to exclude the SATS? I do not understand what steps the Government has taken when we have a Bill of this nature in front of us.
Why has the hon the Minister come with this change of definition? Why has he removed the definition of “staff association” and brought in a new definition of “trade union”? I maintain that so long as freedom of association is denied he has no right to call that a trade union because it is not a trade union in the true meaning of that expression.
When one looks at the Conditions of Employment (South African Transport Services) Act of 1983, which is the latest Act on this subject on which we had a very long debate a couple of years ago, I want to say that there is no freedom of association in the SATS. There is no genuine collective bargaining as it is understood in the marketplace. The SATS is sealed off from unions which it is not prepared to recognize. We know, for example, the problems arising from the General Workers Union and the stevedores. Their workers attached to the SATS were denied the right to belong to the unions, even though many of them had actually signed on. What happened to them? They were fired—over 400 of them, if my memory serves me. That hon the Minister threw down the gauntlet then. He may think he has won but he will never ever be able to control the situation as long as there are in-house staff associations which have no teeth whatsoever. One cannot, on the one hand, give management power or give a vast number of White employees a certain amount of power, without also correspondingly sharing that power between both labour and management.
I believe there are about 11 recognized unions in the SATS. Three are multi-racial, four are White and then there are the four staff associations, namely Black, two Coloured—South and North—and Indian. They do not have any access to the Industrial Court. That is another area which is denied them. Therefore they cannot be judged in terms of being a trade union. How can the hon the Minister then come with this change now and how can he still expect the House to endorse it?
My hon colleague raised that in the standing committee, but I gather there was no support at all. I think there is very little understanding as to what is happening here. What we are saying is that there is security of tenure for Black, Coloured and Indian …
Are you against the amendment proposed by the hon member for Port Elizabeth Central?
No, I am supporting it.
He is asking for clause 18(c) to be amended.
Yes, I realize that.
But you are now talking about clause 18(a). Are you against the provisions embodied in that paragraph?
Yes, I am. I thought I had made that clear. Perhaps I should say it all over again. [Interjections.]
By the latest count—I suppose the hon the Minister keeps chopping this—there are about 241 000 workers in the SATS of whom 110 000 are Whites and about 111 000 are Blacks, 18 000 are Coloureds and 2 000 are Indians. If one is permanent and therefore if one is White, one gets protection under the Act. The hon the Minister cannot then try to slip this through just as he did the other day when he said that we should ban everybody who drives a car on his own, while in the meantime he rides along with his chauffeur.
I did not say that.
Well, then I take that back.
I drive my car myself.
I am very glad to hear that. I thought it was a motorbike, but anyway I withdraw what I have said.
I conclude by emphasizing the significance of the change which is being introduced here. I would welcome the removal of the definition of a staff association and welcome the definition of a trade union if the hon the Minister gave all workers in the SATS a fair and free opportunity to join any trade union of their own choice and to engage in genuine collective bargaining, but he is not doing that and that is why I am opposing the legislation. It is just not consistent. If he does not want a trade union he should for heaven’s sake not come with a half-hearted, wishy-washy definition like this which enables him and the Administration to decide who can do what, when and why.
The SATS is out of step with the rest of South Africa, its workers and management, and the sooner it comes to order, the better. What is of significance is that 250 000 workers are involved. A third of the total South African budget is involved with the SATS. In finance, in costing, in productivity the hon the Minister has led the way, but in industrial relations he belongs to the Victorian era, and until he comes right into the 1980s or the 1990s, he is going to have a man-sized problem on his hands. Therefore, if he wants to have a trade union, then I urge him to let it be the real thing.
Mr Chairman, when the hon member for Pinelands commenced his speech, I noticed that he was fairly touchy about what the hon member for Primrose had said to him, since he reacted quite sharply to it. The hon member for Pinelands then simply went ahead and did precisely what the hon member for Primrose had accused him of, and that is that even with a short piece of legislation—we could call it an omnibus Bill—they want to alter practically every Act on our Statute Book. What was the hon member for Pinelands doing here this afternoon other than trying to give us a lecture on the Labour Relations Act, and so on? What the hon member for Pinelands said was totally irrelevant to this legislation, except for that small…
That is not true. Look at the definition.
Because only employees of the SATS are permitted to belong to the trade unions of the SATS, the hon member for Pinelands wants to weave a plot around it and make as though it is a sinister movement.
Yes, it is.
The hon member asks for freedom of association; in other words, that people who have nothing to do with the SATS may be permitted to join such a trade union.
But you were not listening.
As far as its trade unions are concerned, the history of the SATS could be presented to South Africa as an example of labour peace. Each time the example given here is that these people can negotiate on matters that directly affect them. They do not allow themselves to be prescribed to by outside organizations, least of all by the hon member for Pinelands.
That hon member wants to alter the Labour Relations Act, but it is not relevant here. The Labour Relations Act provides that when a trade union to which the employees of the State belong is established, the members of that trade union may only consist of employees of the State. That is how it came about, and we have no problem with that. I do not understand what the hon member’s problem is, except if he wants to make his ideological mark here. The hon member for Port Elizabeth Central did the same thing.
I want to refer once again to the standing committee. Unfortunately, the hon member for Bezuidenhout is not here today, and that is why the PFP’s chief spokesman on Manpower wants to come and put the case here, but it does not belong here.
They would like clause 18(c) of the amending Bill to be deleted, but what is concerned here is the particular political ideology of the PFP. They are opposed to most of the security measures in this country, and now they also want to delete clause 18(c).
I want to refer once again to the standing committee—and the hon member for Port Elizabeth Central must listen. In his speech he said that every now and then, when we were unable to reach consensus, we adjourned. He said that he did not know what stick we use to persuade people or perhaps even—I do not know whether he used the word—to bribe them. I really think that was a slanderous thing to say about hon members of the other two Houses of this Parliament. In this House the hon member accused us of scheming. Is this in the fine spirit of the standing committees where we are trying to reach consensus?
The hon member complained about the quorum. Why is there a quorum? Inter alia, it is to give the members of the minority parties of the various Houses an opportunity to take their place in the standing committees. The hon member for Port Elizabeth Central is insinuating that we should do away with it. There are times when hon members are unable to take their places in the standing committees. For the same reason I could ask the hon member for Port Elizabeth Central where he was last Friday. We all experience problems in being present at times. There have been occasions when I was unable to be present, or rather, I was unable to be present for a short time. I do not think the hon member should speak about these things so lightly.
Mr Chairman, may I ask the hon member if he does not believe that were there just one quorum for the whole standing committee rather than three separate quorums, proceedings would be made much easier?
No, since one would then be upsetting the whole concept of a tricameral Parliament. During the discussion of the Constitution, the hon member’s party asked that all the parties in all three Houses of Parliament should be represented in the standing committees.
You know why …
No, that is not what it is about.
In conclusion, I do not want to let the speech of the hon member for De Aar go by unnoticed. I want to associate myself with the hon member on just one matter, and that is that we owe the officials, who truly assisted us in word and deed in obtaining consensus, a great deal of gratitude. The hon member’s praise only went as far as the officials. I want to extend this praise to the chairman and members of the committee, who all tried to make a contribution. The hon member remarked at the end that members of the NP only reach consensus by making concessions. I completely repudiate that statement of his. He may perhaps have been present at the meetings of the committee in the flesh, but he was most certainly absent in spirit, since he does not know what he is talking about.
I also want to say something about the period of notice of 90 days which a member of the SA Railways Police can be given when he is dismissed. We request that this period of notice of 90 days be reduced to 30 days. I understand that one does not wish to leave people unemployed, but one must at least use one’s common sense. When a person is dismissed it is done for a particular reason. He therefore no longer fits into the post to which he was appointed. One is then saddled with an unwilling worker for 90 days. I think that notice of 30 days is quite sufficient.
I wish to conclude by saying that I have a great deal of appreciation for the chairman and the other members of the committee. I believe that in future hon members of the PFP will also learn to seek consensus in the way in which this should be done and that they will not drag in all kinds of other legislation and that they will co-operate to a greater extent. This would be to the benefit of us all. I support the second reading of the Bill.
Mr Chairman, I am not going to reply to the hon member for Kroonstad who spent most of his time replying rather ineffectively to the arguments put forward by the hon member for Pinelands on the question of labour employed by the SATS. I want to tell him that what he conceives of as being consensus is very different to what we consider consensus to be. His idea of consensus and that of the whole NP is that as long as the majority parties in the standing committees agree, it does not matter whether the minorities disagree or not.
It is the way you go about it.
He does not like the way in which we disagree. We will try to do so with some old-world charm in future. As far as we are concerned, consensus means winning the agreement of everybody, not just the agreement of the majority. It is very unlikely, therefore, that we are going to satisfy the hon member for Kroonstad in future on the standing committees. I just want to give him due warning.
I want to come back to the major clause which has been the reason for this party opposing the Second Reading of the Bill, namely clause 18(c). This is the third in a series of measures which have been introduced by this Government with a view to censorship, with a view to muzzling the Press, with a view to making it difficult to report what goes on, for example in prisons, as was the case with the introduction of section 44 of the Prisons Act as long ago as 1969, which we know led to the celebrated case of Saan versus the Prisons Department, where two editors were arraigned before the courts and found guilty of minor inaccuracies in reporting on prison conditions in those days. I think one of them had to do with the necessity for the prisoners to clean their teeth over the toilet bowls and the other the general conditions under which they were served their food. The important reporting on for example the use of electric charges and other forms of torture on prisoners was never disproved. Therefore these people were found guilty on minor charges because of the wide nature of section 44 of the Prisons Act. As a result of this, although they received suspended prison sentences, they emerged with criminal records and had to pay small fines. However, the fact is that that case took something like 2 to 3 years from its inception till it was concluded in the courts. It cost the newspapers something like R300 000. This resulted in a fear of being taken to court, as a result of which there has been very little reporting on prison conditions in the newspapers unless those conditions are exposed, either in court or in this House which, as we all know, is royal game. It is protected and it may therefore be reported.
We—or rather I—opposed that. I was the only member of my party in those days, and I certainly opposed the introduction of that section.
And how we have grown!
How indeed! We have grown enormously since then.
In 1979 came the second of these measures, and that was the amendment to the Police Act. That amendment to the Police Act is almost identical to clause 18(c) of this Bill. That this hon Minister who prides himself on his honesty …
It is identical.
It is identical. Very well, mutatis mutandis, or whatever the lawyers say. It is identical. I want to know how he has managed all these years without it. He did not introduce it in 1979 when the Police Act was passed. Another six years have gone by, and how has he coped without this protective umbrella of clause 18(c)? I wonder what makes him introduce it at this juncture with a very grave penalty provision attached to it in terms of which, as the hon member for Port Elizabeth-Central pointed out when he spoke against this yesterday, a fine of up to R10 000 or imprisonment for a period up to five years or both can be imposed. Why does he find it suddenly necessary to introduce this?
We also know that reporting on police matters is being made more difficult, although I must give the Police credit for this one thing. They have established some form of liaison whereby items can be checked. Much more is in fact published now than was the case say a few years ago before that channel of communication was set up.
I want to ask the hon the Minister if it is his intention to set up the same channel of communication between the Railway Police and the Press, so that they can check on incidents which they have heard of. Not long ago there was the report of a Railway policeman chucking a Coloured man off a moving train. There were also incidents where Railway police should have acted and did not act, such as the case of children returning from holidays recently. Is he going to set up some channel of communication, or is the Press going to mull things over and wonder: Should they take a chance because there is a prima facie case for publishing—and certainly it is in the interests of the public to know—or are they going to have to refrain from publishing because of a fear of being taken to court by this hon the Minister because of some small inaccuracy in the reporting on the behaviour of the Railway police? Why does the hon the Minister need this clause? He has not explained it.
I was interested yesterday at the end of the day, and I am sorry that the hon member for Durban Point is not here …
He made his apologies yesterday.
I am sorry about that, and I hope that the hon Whip of that sadly diminished party will convey what I am now about to say.
I shall give him your love.
Oh do! And kisses, naturally! Do all that. [Interjections.] That is a fine thought, is it not?
He had the impertinence yesterday to say that this party was opposing clause 18(c), and therefore the Second Reading of this Bill because—and I have his exact…
You want a licence to lie.
That is right! I see it is imprinted on the hon the Minister’s brain: “Licence to lie,” he said. Now is that not an interesting thing? It is that sort of silly argument. We are against this in principle because we believe it is the public’s right to know, and we are against any more restraints on the Press—we have far too many already. I want to add that there are recourses the hon the Minister can use if the Press has in fact reported inaccurately and has slandered the Railway Police. [Interjections.] There is the Media Council. Right now there is a case before the Media Council as a result of the Police taking a newspaper, The Star, to task for reporting on their telephone tapping and bugging …
There is the ordinary law too.
Yes, there is the civil law as well, but the Police have taken The Star to the Media Council … [Interjections.]
Order! The hon member for Houghton must be given the opportunity to make her speech.
Thank you, Sir. It is nice to get your protection for a change instead of being reprimanded.
The hon the Minister has that recourse. There is the civil law if the reporting is libellous. The penalties the Media Council can impose are also pretty high, if I am not much mistaken.
Yes, R10 000, the same penalty we have in this Bill. That means, of course, that people will be careful about reporting what they know to be untrue. The difficulty is, of course, that it is often very difficult, if not impossible, for the newspapers to establish the truth. If they telephone the Police, for instance, or the Prisons Department, for that matter, and say they have a story about someone’s ill-treatment by the Police or by the prison authorities, it is up to the Police or the prison authorities to verify their story or otherwise. I dare say they often do not do that. The newspapers have to rely on hearsay evidence, on witnesses or on what informers tell them. That, indeed, is what the Police rely on very often. So they are put in a most invidious position and have to take a chance, a very considerable chance, before deciding whether to publish or not.
Let me return just for an instant to the hon member for Durban Point.
That will be the third time. That is enough.
I shall tell the hon member why. I have not yet used my main argument against him.
Yes, “ah!”. I looked up the record of the debate on the Police Act. The hon the Minister has just told us that this clause is identical to the provision introduced in 1979. I am surprised that the hon Whip did not do his homework, because the NRP voted against that provision, believe it or not. I have the Hansard here.
I think it was Malcomess who made that speech.
Yes, Malcomess made a good speech; but Malcomess has been consistent. Malcomess voted against it then and Malcomess is voting against it now, unlike the hon diminished members of the NRP— and it serves them right that their numbers are so diminished …
You have said that before.
Well, I am saying it again. Their history of support of “our” McCarthy Commission, the Schlebusch Commission, of the 90-day law, of section 6 of the Terrorism Act, of the Internal Security Act, etc, has led to their diminution, and it is well deserved. In fact, they should disappear from the scene altogether.
In any event, if one cares to look at col 3394 of Hansard, Vol 80, of 1979, believe it or not one will find voting against the clause introduced in the Police Act of 1979 none other than Mr Vause Raw, Mr Sutton, etc.
And Mr Page himself. [Interjections.] I want to know why they voted for the licence to lie in 1979.
Can I make a speech?
There is nothing to stop the hon member doing so. There is all the time in the world. Why did they vote for the licence to lie in 1979? That is what I want to know. I think it is a very relevant question to put. The hon member sits there nodding his head like McCarthy’s brother. [Interjections.] Anyway, let us leave them to their …
… inconsistency, their lack of destiny—they do not have a future.
I still want an explanation from the hon the Minister of Transport Affairs as to why he finds it necessary to insert this clause. I was not on that standing committee, so I do not really know what went on and neither have I seen the minutes. I have been informed, however, that members from the other two Houses, the Delegates and the Representatives, actually abstained when this was put to the committee. Someone serving on the committee will be able to say whether that is correct or not. However, the other two Houses did vote with the Government on the whole issue of the onus of proof, which is another of our objections to this insertion in the Act.
The fact is that this clause places the onus of proof on the newspapers to show that what they are printing is correct. If we could get an explanation from the hon the Minister, it would be very interesting indeed. Pending that, we are certainly voting against this Bill.
Mr Chairman, I should like to remind the hon member for Houghton that we discussed this clause for days during 1979. This is exactly the same as the provision in the Police Act. Now she asks me—and I do not want to start arguing the whole issue again—how we managed all these years without this provision. Does the hon member think that the world has become safer? Does she think the railways have become safer?
Have they become more dangerous?
Hon members are aware of the dangers and of the terrorism prevalent in South Africa. So it stands to reason that we must bring this provision into effect as soon as possible. I cannot see why not. [Interjections.]
The hon member for Houghton referred to a few small inaccuracies. An inaccuracy is an inaccuracy. Our experience is that, in view of the prevailing conditions, we must have this clause. Our position must be brought into line with that of the Police. Must we start arguing the whole matter again? It was argued on the standing committee. The hon member for Houghton is very able in playing to win the favour of the Press. I give her 10 out of 10 for that. They like it too. Yes, that hon member is fighting for the Press. We admit it.
For the freedom of the Press, yes.
I am also in favour of a free Press—but as it is in South Africa, not as it is in the rest of Africa. There is no country on the continent of Africa that has as free a Press as ours. The hon member can go and have a look at the Zimbabwe newspapers.
I will fight for a free Press. However, there are certain conditions …
Is that your basis of comparison?
Mr Chairman, great care has to be taken in dealing with some of these matters because one has to guard against the ANC and on top of this there is the infiltration of terrorism on an enormous scale. Errors will creep in, but there is no question of denying the Press anything. In 1976 we argued for days about a similar clause.
†Sir, there is something I want to know from the hon member for Port Elizabeth Central. He said that we had consensus and then asked what we had offered. Now I would like to know from that member whether he was insinuating that money was paid to certain people in order for consensus to be reached. [Interjections.]
What did he insinuate? What did we offer? Sir, I think Mr Speaker must go into this matter. That hon member has made an allegation here that we offered people something to reach consensus.
Sure, you wanted to share a little power with them.
No, he made an allegation, and we cannot leave it at that. I think that the House of Delegates and the House of Representatives will demand a reply from this hon member. They will want to know about this matter of our gaining consensus only after we made a certain offer. What is the hon member insinuating?
I am insinuating that the whole of politics is a situation of trade-offs.
Sir, the PFP is against consensus; they are against this new Constitution. They spent millions of rands in an attempt to get South Africa to vote “no”.
We do not have millions. Give us a few.
Yet what happened? [Interjections.] I am speaking on behalf of two thirds of South Africa, the people who want this new Constitution and …
Two thirds of White South Africa. There is a very big difference.
Who voted you into this place?
The Whites, yes.
Yes, and you are not prepared to do anything for them?
Of course, I am; but there are a whole lot of other people out there.
May I, as far as consensus is concerned, ask the hon the Minister whether he will be able to reach consensus with the House of Representatives if they should insist that Blacks be brought into Parliament?
The hon member for Port Elizabeth Central posed the same question as that posed by the hon member for Pinelands. [Interjections.] I wish to reply to the hon member for Pinelands and the hon member for Port Elizabeth Central. It is so that we call non-Whites regular workers while the Whites are called permanent workers. To establish a situation of parity immediately will cost us R450 million. We will, however, implement parity in five phases. Phase one has already been completed. The whole idea is to get parity if the money situation allows it; if we show enough profit.
Why did we change this? “Trade union” is the terminology used in the Labour Relations Act of 1956, in terms of which our trade unions are registered. The trade union status was obtained when our trade unions were admitted as members of the national and international federations. They asked for the change of this name. In Afrikaans it is “Personeelvereniging”. Hon members know the whole story. However, what is the hon member for Pinelands fighting for?
For a change in substance, not only in name.
The hon member is fighting for domination by the General Workers Union. That is what he is fighting for.
No, that is not true.
The hon member said we fired 300 people.
I think he said 400.
I gave that as an example. What I am fighting for is freedom of association.
We have labour peace in the SATS. I communicate regularly with all the labour unions—White, Coloured, Black and Indian.
You tell them what to do.
I have their co-operation, and I have asked them to give us time. Why does the hon member want to disrupt that situation?
I do not want to disrupt it; I want to help you.
How does the hon member want to help me? We are enjoying labour peace at this moment.
You cannot guarantee it without freedom of association.
The hon member also said we have a staff association with no teeth.
That is quite right!
They are satisfied. They have a job, they receive salary increases and enjoy labour peace. However, as soon as labour unions from overseas bring pressure to bear on them in certain directions of which the hon member is aware …
I am not talking about overseas unions.
I should like to conduct a conversation with this hon member. He is a learned evangelist, a theologist, but even theologists can be crooks. This hon member has a plan with which I cannot go along.
†I want labour peace among the 250 000 people working in the SATS, and they are satisfied. I fight to improve their labour situation and their wages. My ultimate aim is to get parity. Why does the hon member want to disrupt this situation?
I just want them to fight for themselves. They do not need a big father.
I want to correct one thing. The hon member maintains that I said that one person should not be allowed to travel on his own in a car. Let us get the record straight. We have congestion of our roads in South Africa, and I merely said that the time would come, it might be within 20 or 30 years, when one man would not be able to travel on his own in a car. [Interjections.]
You’re okay. You have a chauffeur.
That hon member may travel with me on Friday. My car is parked at Jan Smuts Airport and I drive it myself. [Interjections.] However, some of those fat cats have Mercedes Benz sports models. Now we are putting a tax of 125% on those cars.
Speak to the Minister of Constitutional Development and Planning. [Interjections.]
I should like to reply to the hon member for De Aar. Everybody has to give or be given 30 days’ notice but in the case of the Police it used to be 90 days. So if a man committed an offence we had to keep him in our service for a further 90 days. It is a rare exception for us to dismiss a man for neglecting his duties. We have now decided, in co-operation with the staff association, that anyone may be dismissed after 30 days’ notice. However, I am pleased that the hon member has indicated that they support the legislation.
The hon member for De Kuilen did an excellent job. In fact, he replied effectively to most of the questions by the hon member for Port Elizabeth Central. He is also a fine chairman. However, one thing is clear to me, and that is that these people do not want consensus. [Interjections.]
The hon member for De Kuilen said that the hon member for Port Elizabeth Central cannot pose as the great White induna now.
They are laughing at him.
Yes. He cannot be the great White induna, he is only a third class induna. His performance brought him nowhere. I thank the hon member for De Kuilen.
†The hon member for Durban Point quite rightly said that the NRP agreed with them in 1976 but they see things have changed. There is a complete change taking place in South Africa. That is the reason why the hon member for Durban Point said that the PFP wanted a licence to lie.
*The hon member for Primrose replied very effectively. Only once did we not have a quorum and that was on a Friday. That was for specific reasons and the matter was rectified. Why should it be rubbed in?
I also thank the hon member for Umhlatuzana. Consensus was reached. The hon member for Kroonstad, too, replied very effectively and he thanked the staff, the chairman and the members of the committee. I, too, should like to thank the staff for the concessions made. In order to reach consensus one makes concessions, and that has been done. I also thank the chairman and members of the committee, except the PFP members.
In conclusion I should like to say that I found it very interesting that the PFP moved that:
18(c). They are only against 18(c), but they argue against each clause in this Bill.
That is not true.
They are so inconsistent. [Interjections.] What happened with the question of tollroads?
Mr Chairman, on a point of order: Is the hon the Minister allowed to state something in this House that is not true?
That is not a point of order. The hon the Minister may proceed. [Interjections.]
I admit that the PFP did agree with some clauses but they argued about a large number of them. However, let us not divide on this because they are bound to lose. It will be a waste of time.
Question put: That all the words after “That” stand part of the Question,
Upon which the House divided:
Ayes—105; Alant, T G; Aronson, T; Ballot, G C; Botha, J C G; Botma, M C; Breytenbach, W N; Coetzer, H S; Conradie, F D; Cunningham, J H; De Beer, S J; De Jager, A M v A; De Klerk, F W; De Villiers, D J; Du Plessis, B J; Du Plessis, G C; Durr, K D S; Fick, L H; Fouché, A F; Fourie, A; Geldenhuys, B L; Golden, S G A; Grobler, J P; Hardingham, R W; Hartzenberg, F; Hefer, W J; Heine, W J; Hugo, P B B; Jordaan, A L; Kleynhans, J W; Kriel, H J; Landman, W J; Le Roux, D E T; Ligthelm, C J; Ligthelm, N W; Lloyd, J J; Louw, E v d M; Louw, M H; Malan, W C; Malherbe, G J; Marais, G; Maré, P L; Maree, M D; Meyer, W D; Miller, R B; Morrison, G de V; Nothnagel, A E; Odendaal, W A; Olivier, P J S; Page, B W B; Pretorius, N J; Pretorius, P H; Rabie, J; Rencken, C R E; Rogers, P R C; Schoeman, H; Schoeman, S J; Schoeman, W J; Schutte, D P A; Scott, D B; Simkin, C H W; Snyman, W J; Steyn, D W; Streicher, D M; Swanepoel, K D; Terblanche, G P D; Thompson, A G; Ungerer, J H B; Uys, C; Van den Berg, J C; Van der Linde, G J; Van der Merwe, C J; Van der Merwe, C V; Van der Merwe, G J; Van der Merwe, J H; Van der Merwe, W L; Van Eeden, D S; Van Heerden, R F; Van Niekerk, A I; Van Rensburg, H M J (Rosettenville); Van Staden, F A H; Van Staden, J W; Van Vuuren, L M J; Van Wyk, J A; Van Zyl, J G; Van Zyl, J J B; Veldman, M H; Venter, A A; Venter, E H; Vermeulen, J A J; Vilonel, J J; Volker, V A; Watterson, D W; Weeber, A; Welgemoed, P J; Wentzel, J J G; Wessels, L; Wiley, J W E; Wilkens, B H; Wright, A P.
Tellers: J P I Blanché, W J Cuyler, A Geldenhuys, W T Kritzinger, R P Meyer and L van der Watt.
Noes—24: Andrew, K M; Bamford, B R; Boraine, A L; Burrows, R; Cronjé, P C; Dalling, D J; Eglin, C W; Gastrow, P H P; Goodall, B B; Hulley, R R; Malcomess, D J N; Moorcroft, E K; Olivier, N J J; Savage, A; Schwarz, H H; Slabbert, F v Z; Soal, P G; Suzman, H; Swart, R A F; Tarr, M A; Van der Merwe, S S; Van Rensburg, H E J.
Tellers: G B D McIntosh and A B Widman.
Question affirmed and amendment dropped.
Bill read a second time.
Certified fair copy of Bill to be transmitted to the State President for his assent unless the House decides within three sitting days after the disposal thereof in all three Houses to refer the Bill to a committee.
Introductory Speech delivered at Joint Sitting on 18 March
Mr Speaker, I move:
We are now dealing with a short Bill which is being submitted at the request of the provincial administrations and which will give them the necessary powers to make our roads safer and neater by providing inter alia that orderly development may take place along roads, and for the removal of unsightly objects next to or on our roads.
The proposed amendments are not of a contentious nature, and are mainly confined to the effecting of improvements to certain definitions in the Act. In this connection I should like to mention the following. The present way in which certain cities and towns are proclaimed, negates the powers of the respective Administrators and frustrates the objectives of the Act. I can mention that the existing definition of “urban area” deprives the Administrator of his jurisdiction over adjoining land in cases in which a building restriction road or a main road is proclaimed in an urban area, with the exception of cases in which commonage or land is subdivided or developed primarily for farming, horticultural or animal husbandry purposes.
At present towns and cities are proclaimed with large open spaces, known as “undeveloped land” or as “open spaces”. The problem which now arises is that if such undeveloped land or open space is situated next to a road, the Administrator has no jurisdiction over the future development of such undeveloped land or open spaces, with the result that development which could be contrary to the interests of the province may take place on such a road. Hon members will undoubtedly agree that this is an unsatisfactory state of affairs which ought to receive attention.
†Clause 2 of the Bill relates to section 7(2) of the Act, which places the Administrator under an obligation to display as many notices of a proclamation as he may deem necessary alongside a road after proclamation. This directive not only no longer serves any purpose but also increases costs unnecessarily as such notices have to be manufactured, transported and erected. For this reason the provinces ceased to enforce this directive as from 1 January 1983 and the relative section of the Act is therefore being withdrawn with retrospective effect from that date.
Section 8(1) of the Act prescribes that no person may deposit or leave a disused vehicle or machine or a disused part of a vehicle or machine or any rubbish or other refuse within a distance of 200 m of the centreline of a building restriction road or main road if such subject matter is visible from the road, unless the permission of the Administrator to do so has been obtained.
For the sake of completeness I wish to mention that this provision was introduced into the Act because it was established that motorists were inclined to pay too much attention to such objects and too little attention to traffic on the road itself, thus becoming involved in avoidable accidents. Unfortunately, this restriction was confined to building restriction roads and main roads. For this reason the Act is now being amended to make it applicable to all roads.
*The driver or owner of a vehicle which has broken down, or was involved in an accident, cannot at present be required in terms of Section 8(1) of the Act to remove such vehicle, or wreck, from the road in which it is situated. Nor may the abandoned vehicle or wreckage be removed by the authorities before a period of 21 days has elapsed.
This is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs, the more so because it is generally realized that abandoned vehicles, wrecks or pieces of wreckage, disrupt the flow of traffic and are in themselves the direct cause of further accidents. Provision is now being made for disused vehicles and wrecks or pieces of wreckage to be towed away or removed from the road immediately by the provincial authorities and taken to a place of safekeeping. I can understand that the owners of expensive vehicles may find the envisaged measure alarming, but I want to assure them that there is no reason for concern, since an owner can repossess his vehicle by paying the tow-away fee within the prescribed period. Unclaimed vehicles will only be sold after a reasonable period of time has elapsed, and after all efforts to trace the owner have failed. After such a sale, only the actual expenses will be recovered and the remaining amount will be placed in an account for payment to the owner, provided he lodges a claim within the period prescribed within the ordinance.
When a penal provision in an Act only prescribes a fine and not an alternative punitive measure as well, it deprives the courts of the discretion of imposing the most suitable sentence in particular cases. Aggravating circumstances may sometimes be present, which justify imprisonment, rather than a fine and, in exceptional cases, imprisonment and a fine, rather than a fine only. The proposed amendment in clause 4 is consequently being inserted to afford an acceptable solution to this problem.
These are in general outline the principles of the Bill, which I trust will meet with full support.
Second Reading resumed
Mr Chairman, we talked quite a lot during the debate on the previous Bill. A lot has been said about consensus and about non-consensus. This Bill, however, which is now being discussed is, I understand, genuinely a consensus measure. Not only did the majority parties in all three Houses agree on this but the minority parties also agreed with it.
Because of the wedding of my daughter last Saturday I was unfortunately not able to be present at the standing committee meeting when this Bill was discussed. The hon member for Bezuidenhout was there, and he was meant to be handling this measure for this party. Unfortunately he is now with the A Team in Newton Park, and cannot be here today.
As I have said, I was not at that standing committee meeting. That was, however, entirely my own fault. It has nothing to do with the House at all. I received adequate notice of the meeting, and I could possibly have made arrangements to attend that meeting. That is why I want to refer to the subject of quorums at meetings. I believe everybody has an equal opportunity of attending the standing committee meetings on Bills. They are sent a notice which they receive well ahead of the time of the scheduled meeting. I think it just makes it more difficult if, within every standing committee meeting, we have to have three quorums. I believe a quorum is a good thing. One has to have a quorum. To have to have three quorums, however, within one committee meeting, and to have those quorums based on race—there is no other reason for it; it is simply a racial provision—we do not believe is going to add anything to the running of this Parliament and to the running of standing committees.
Therefore, although I was not at this particular meeting, I do not object to the meeting being held without me. If there had not been a quorum of Whites within that meeting, that meeting, I believe, should still have continued to perform its allotted task, provided there had been an overall quorum. I do not, however, want to belabour this point any further at this stage. I therefore thank you for your indulgence, Sir.
As we said in the standing committee meeting, we have no objection whatsoever to the measure which we are discussing here now. We will therefore be supporting the second reading of this particular Bill.
Mr Chairman, it gives me pleasure to thank the hon member for Port Elizabeth Central for the support he expressed on behalf of his party for the legislation before the House. I also wish to congratulate him on his daughter’s marriage; I only hope his son-in-law will be satisfied with him!
So far, yes. [Interjections.]
That is fine, because sometimes we have a rough passage; it is really not always so easy with this hon member!
In the second instance I wish to emphasize most strongly that this Bill received the unanimous support of all in the standing committee. We were once again presented with a convincing example, as we had had in the previous case, of the experienced, considered action of the Chairman and the manner in which he guided this standing committee. I wish to thank him for that on behalf of us all because in great measure it is one of the reasons why this standing committee functions so willingly and well. I also wish to address a special word of thanks to the officialdom supporting us in these standing committees. I am referring to Parliamentary officials but in particular to those from the SATS. I wish to thank them all very heartily for their patience with us, the manner in which they provide us with answers and the necessary explanations and the way in which they answer questions because it is truly pleasant to work with these people.
I wish to move on to the next point rapidly. The purpose of this Bill is to empower provincial authorities to make our roads safer and to keep them neater. We have all seen our roads marred by unsightly littering and wrecks of vehicles abandoned along our roads as a possible danger to other motorists. The manner in which some towns and cities are at present being proclaimed results in the purpose of the legislation being circumvented and its objectives defeated. Cities and towns are currently being proclaimed in such a way that vast open spaces are left undeveloped. This undeveloped land is known as open spaces. The problem now arises in that the controlling authority, the Administrator, has no jurisdiction over future development of that land. The legislation is now being suitably amended in order, as in the case of commonage land, to place all other open spaces in a city or town area under the controlling authority.
Furthermore the old, so-called building restriction provisions are now being deleted because that procedure has fallen into total disuse. Section 8(1) of the principal Act provides, and I quote:
This applies to all roads as broken-down vehicles and wrecks not only deface our roads but also because they represent a great danger to motorists. The proposed legislation therefore empowers the controlling authority to remove those vehicles immediately to a place of safekeeping. Unclaimed vehicles may be sold on expiry of a reasonable period and after all efforts to trace the owner of the vehicle have failed. If the owner of the vehicle should claim it, the necessary towing charges will be for his account.
In conclusion, the courts now also have the discretion not only to impose a fine but also imprisonment because in many cases a fine alone is not adequate in achieving its purpose.
On behalf of this side of the House we are pleased to support the Bill and wish to thank the hon Minister for introducing it.
Mr Chairman, the hon member for Kempton Park discoursed in full on the Bill and I shall therefore not repeat what he has said.
We of the CP support the Bill. It is important for such a Bill to be accepted because inter alia it will counter the depositing of litter on and along our roads. It is essential because the roads of South Africa—I am referring to all public roads as the principal Act in future will apply to all such roads— are in a slovenly condition. A great deal of litter, old motor vehicles and so on are left along our roads and I think many overseas visitors find it no pleasure to travel along certain roads. In consequence we welcome the Bill and believe that in future local authorities will also act more strictly to combat littering in their areas as well.
Mr Chairman, the provisions contained in the Advertising on Roads and Ribbon Development Amendment Bill may be confusing to a certain degree because the amendment to be effected by clause 2 deals with notices to be attached to notice boards. It deals exclusively with the contents of a proclamation declaring a specific road a building restriction road.
I should like to reassure publicity agents and people in the industry that it in no way refers to commercial advertisements which in terms of section 3 of the Act may be displayed with the permission of the Administrator. Advertisers who at present are granted a concession in terms of section 3 need not be concerned that they will have to remove their advertisements. The amending legislation therefore has no bearing on commercial advertisements which may be placed along roads with the necessary permission.
I heard from the agents’ association this morning that, as regards commercial advertisements, at present between R24 million and R27 million per annum is being spent on advertisements on boards along our roads, on railway stations and at airports and shopping centres. Five years ago they organized themselves into a properly constituted association to place ethical values and the structures erected along roads on a sound basis.
Except for the aspects to which I have already referred, to a certain extent it is strange that the approval of the Administrator is no longer necessary for notice boards although he may still prevent injudicious development. The fact is that a notice may be placed in a provincial Gazette and this means that this paper will have to be read very thoroughly in future to ascertain exactly what is intended.
It is true that as soon as a proclamation is published in a provincial Gazette it has legal validity until it is repealed. It is not necessary for its existence to be made known by means of further notices. If someone should in future be prosecuted for erecting something along a building restriction road in contravention of the Act, the State will not be able to invoke the existence of the notice. Here the matter arises that it should first be published in the Gazette. The State can at present prove that there are authorizing provisions in the Act which become operative through proclamation in a provincial Gazette. Notice boards can therefore have only prima facie evidence value and no longer be justifiable in consequence of considerations of cost. An offender will therefore not have recourse to ignorance in the absence of a notice board.
I think the hon member for De Aar’s statement is very true. Wrecked vehicles along our roads are unsightly. Motorists are also too inclined to look at notice boards and other boards along roads and this may lead to accidents.
Wait a bit, that does not apply now. It refers to the notice boards which the Administrator had erected.
This matter is therefore of great importance to us. In consequence I support the Bill and am grateful to the officials who made it possible.
Mr Chairman, any measure that seeks to improve road safety is worthy of support. I was very interested to hear the hon the Minister in his introduction to the Second Reading talk about the tendency of people to “rubberneck”, as the Americans describe it. One finds that people will do this whenever there is a road accident. I think “rubbernecking” is a very good word for it. They contort themselves to be able to see what is going on. I do not know if they are looking for blood, damage or whatever, but they look for something and inevitably this can cause further accidents.
We only have to think of what happens each and every morning on the national road into Cape Town. A minor accident results in a major catastrophe because of the traffic hold-up that follows. There is no shadow of doubt that wrecks and motor vehicles in a state of disrepair on the side of the road definitely contribute to the situation.
I have one problem. The hon the Minister speaks of provincial authorities being called upon to remove these vehicles. He did mention the concern of an owner of an expensive vehicle which was involved in an accident and would then have to be removed. The owner may well be concerned as to the safety of his vehicle. Care must be taken at all times to ensure that the provincial authorities are not found liable for any subsequent damage. In an accident the structural damage to a vehicle may be minimal, yet sufficient to cause that vehicle to stop dead in its tracks. The towing of that vehicle by the provincial authorities may possibly cause major damage to the transmission due to the way in which it is towed. This applies particularly to the modern automatic transmission vehicle where, unless the whole vehicle is lifted up on to a cradle, these problems may occur. The possibility that the provincial authorities could be held liable worries me. I would like a comment from the hon the Minister on that point.
It is gratifying to see that notices—I think this applies in particular to the Transvaal— are no longer mandatory. I tend to concur with what the hon member for Rosettenville has said in this regard.
This is a good piece of legislation and it is our earnest desire to see many more that will help to reduce the carnage that takes place on our roads each and every year. This is becoming a tremendous problem in our country.
Mr Chairman, I should like to thank the hon member for Port Elizabeth Central. He referred to quorums. That is a matter for a standing committee and we will pay attention to that at a later stage.
The hon member for Kempton Park congratulated him on the marriage of his daughter—I want to sympathize with his son-in-law. [Interjections.] One really needs strength with such a father-in-law. Congratulations in any case.
*The hon member for Kempton Park summarized the entire matter for us and I wish to thank him for his appreciative words to the personnel and members of the committee.
The hon member for De Aar spoke on untidiness along the roads. That is the whole purpose of the legislation because it offends any South African that they should be so untidy.
The hon member for Rosettenville may rest assured that the income of R37 million of which a certain portion is derived from advertisements along roads is not something which may be ignored and advertisers need have no fear. Although clause 2 contains a prohibition against the placing of certain advertisements, in terms of clause 3 provinces and municipalities may grant permission for this, subject to certain conditions. This position remains unchanged.
†The hon member for Umhlanga referred to certain matters. I want to point out to him that at the moment provincial and local authorities have the power to tow away vehicles that are incorrectly parked. I am sure that they will have regard to what the hon member has said. However, I think he should keep in mind that this will seldom apply to an undamaged car. Sometimes people buy very dilapidated cars for next to nothing and when those cars break down, it is too expensive to have them towed away and they are then simply abandoned. This is happening more frequently these days.
*A man buys an old car or he steals one and drives it until the tank runs dry. He then merely abandons it along the road. The car may be so old that the owner does not even take the trouble to look for it. I know of such cases on the way to Groblersdal. Whose responsibility is such an old wreck? We want the power to be able to act in such cases.
I thank hon members, especially those of the PFP, that their eyes have been opened and they have supported this good legislation. I do not bring poor legislation to the House. When I propose legislation in Parliament, hon members may support it sight unseen as my things are always right.
Question agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
Certified fair copy of Bill to be transmitted to the State President for his assent unless the House decides within three sitting days after the disposal thereof in all three Houses to refer the Bill to a committee.
Mr Chairman, I move:
At present a specific amount is allocated annually to the South African Police in terms of the Secret Services Account Act for the financing of projects of a secret nature. As hon members will recall, the aforementioned Act provides that the amount needed annually by the SA Police be made available out of the Secret Services Account by mutual agreement between the hon the Minister of Law and Order and myself. The SA Police keeps, and accounts for, these funds separately in its books by way of a suspense account and any unexpended balance at the end of each financial year must be repaid to the Secret Services Account.
*The Police, however, is the only member of the security community not having a legally instituted special account at its disposal. The Bill in question is therefore aimed firstly at extending principles already applying to other members of the security community to the Police.
While the legislation does not comprise any new principles, the introduction of a special Police account will promote more effective administration of its secret funds and particularly in the following respects:
- (a) Whereas adjustments at present take place informally by way of a suspense account in the case of the SA Police, in terms of the envisaged legislation this will happen formally in a properly structured account; and
- (b) the introduction of such a formal fund, or a special account for the Police, will mean in the second place that Audit will report separately on it. At present, secret Police funds are audited as a subdivision of the Secret Services Account.
†I wish to point out to hon members that the provisions of the Bill will in no way affect the auditing of these secret funds. All secret funds are subjected to complete auditing by the Auditor-General. It is only the extent of reporting that is limited in terms of section 45(1A) of the Exchequer and Audit Act. Any decision on such limitation of the reporting is taken by the Minister of Finance only after consultation with the State President and the Auditor-General. The Minister of Law and Order has no say in this decision!
*The question of the possible accumulation of balances in such a special account is incidental. The objective is improved administrative procedures. The South African Treasury is—as treasuries are inclined to be—very niggardly. Consequently I can assure the House that the Treasury will not permit unnecessarily large balances to accumulate in the Special Account. From the nature of the case the balance in such an account at the end of a financial year is taken into consideration in calculating the allocation for the succeeding financial year.
I wish to point out the following to hon members who aver that parliamentary control will be weakened by the institution of the South African Police Special Account: All other members of the security community already have such special accounts drawing upon the Secret Services Account. Any balances in one of these accounts at the end of a financial year are carried forward to the following financial year. As the situation now stands, it is quite possible at the end of a financial year to transfer a balance arising in a Police account to one of the special accounts already created and to return it to the Police in the next financial year. Should we therefore wish to circumvent parliamentary control, there is nothing to prevent our using this method of financing or “stunt”.
I wish to assure hon members, however, that all secret funds are handled with the greatest prudence and in accordance with accounting principles throughout. To contend therefore that the institution of a further special account for the SA Police will weaken parliamentary control is a weak argument devoid of all truth.
Mr Speaker, the Bill is consequently merely an administrative measure containing no new principles and will not weaken parliamentary control.
Mr Chairman, the hon the Minister of Finance has repeated many of the things that he said in the debate on the report of the committee. It is not surprising, seeing that we are dealing with the same Bill. We covered many of our points of view during the course of that debate, and I do not plan to repeat them all in full. I wish rather to highlight the main aspects of our points of view on this Bill, as well as to reply to some of the hon the Minister’s comments made both during his reply to that debate and this afternoon. I am pleased to see that he has the correct information on some matters this afternoon and has made his comments more accurate than they were in certain respects last time.
The hon the Minister has in general tended to argue against things that we did not say rather than against things that we did say. The first and most important objection we have, relates to clause 4 which provides that:
This is unacceptable to us. Parliament has a right and a duty to control and supervise expenditure of State funds. That is the very reason why we have a budget each year. Balances in general cannot be carried forward to the next financial year without the approval of Parliament. We are aware that this already happens in certain instances. I made reference to that in the debate on the report of the committee and the hon the Minister has mentioned that again today. However, in our view that is a bad practice, and we do not want to extend that bad practice any further.
The problem in this debate has frequently been the inability of members on the Government side to distinguish between the legislature, namely Parliament, and the Executive, namely the Cabinet. This confusion has prevailed throughout the previous discussions, and very often when the Cabinet or a Cabinet Minister has certain control or access to information, hon members on that side of the House argue that Parliament still has control. I should also like to remind hon members that in debating a Bill such as this we are not talking about the merits or demerits of existing individuals holding Cabinet or other positions. We are talking about legislation and about making good laws which should last into the future. In that regard references, for example, as to whether the Auditor-General has had any problems in the past few years or not, or whether the Minister of Finance in the past few years has excluded items from being reported or has limited audits in any way, are not relevant. The question is whether the law we are making is good or not.
The second point we raised is our concern at the discretion provided for in clause 2 which, in the opening lines, says:
The hon the Minister of Finance in the previous debate conceded that “national interest” is a very wide concept. I would say that actions that have come to light recently confirm our worst suspicions that the Security Police of this country frequently act contrary to the national interest and not in fact in the national interest.
Give an example.
Yes, I am about to give hon members a few examples. I will not go into them in great detail, but I will give enough detail to refresh their memories. There was the arresting of students at half-past two in the morning for the alleged crime of holding a placard demonstration some four or five months ago. That kind of action is exactly the kind of action which aids and abets the disinvestment campaign overseas and gives opponents of this country ammunition in their efforts to cause problems for us.
Let me give a second example. This very weekend in the Eastern Cape people witnessed a man, handcuffed to a table, being beaten with a whip or a stick of some sort in a police station. That is a second example, a current one. [Interjections.]
What has that to do with the secret fund?
I am glad that the hon members on that side still retain a certain sensitivity towards torture, beating of people in police detention and things of that sort. At least one does get some reaction, which in itself is a measure of encouragement that perhaps civilized standards have not disappeared completely when it comes to police behaviour in this country.
Hon members on that side challenged me to give examples and I was giving examples of where the Security Police in my view have not acted in the national interest. It is in that context that I was giving these examples. If the hon member cannot follow that, he can speak to me afterwards and I shall then explain it to him more slowly.
I want to raise a third point in this connection. This afternoon at question time in this very House the hon the Deputy Minister of Law and Order gave completely unsatisfactory answers to questions about telephone tapping and other police activities. In fact, it became quite clear that, in respect of what the Police were actually doing and what the law provided for, he was all at sea and did not know all the facts that he should have had at his disposal.
But he asked you to table those questions.
Yes, but there are certain questions the replies to which Ministers and Deputy Ministers should know out of their heads. They should not have to require that such questions be tabled to enable them to answer them. If they can administer their responsibilities properly, there are certain things they should know about, things of considerable importance.
Secret funds and secret activities are in my view more likely to encourage unacceptable activities, such as those I have referred to, than to discourage them.
Then there is the question of auditing. I previously expressed concern that the auditing could differ from that of ordinary activities of ordinary Government departments. The hon the Minister took exception to that and said in reply (Hansard, 25 February 1985, col 1400):
He went on to say:
These are strong words. What are the facts?
First of all, what did I actually say? I said there were provisions of the Exchequer and Audit Act that provided for certain exclusions and for limitations that could be applied in respect of reports by the Auditor-General. Let me quote the relevant extracts from those provisions. Section 42(7) reads as follows:
Before hon members on that side go off at a complete tangent as they usually do, let me state that I am aware that this provision does not apply only to special accounts but can also be applied to other accounts as well.
I am also aware that this was a provision drawn to the attention of the Standing Committee on Finance by one of the officials who obviously felt, considering the nature of the discussion we were having, that it was of some relevance. I therefore think it necessary to draw this to the attention of the hon the Minister.
I also want to draw his attention to the fact—so that he does not get it wrong as he did in the previous debate—that section 42(7) provides:
In other words, it is the Minister who decides. He does have to consult, but it is nonetheless he who decides. The statute therefore certainly does provide for some exclusions if the Minister so decides, and I do not think the hon the Minister can deny that.
The other provision relevant to the argument I was putting forward, is section 45, the heading of which is:
Section 45(1A) reads:
It then lists the various special accounts, and goes on to say:
I am pleased that the hon the Minister corrected himself today. In any case, subsection (1A) goes on to state:
Again, it is the Minister of Finance who can impose that limitation, although he is required to consult with the State President and the Auditor-General. In the extract I quoted from his speech the hon the Minister said the decision would be taken by the State President, the Minister of Finance and the Auditor-General, whereas the decision is in fact taken by him alone.
In terms of those limitations, the Act does not describe the way in which the report should be limited. It is not defined in any way in the Act. For example, it does not specifically preclude the hon the Minister from limiting a report that mentions malpractice by taking that out of the report.
I would like to remind the hon the Minister—and we are talking about laws here, not about the personalities of the people involved—that it did not help South Africa or Parliament at the time of the Information scandal when the previous Minister of Finance had similar powers to decide to what extent reports and audits were to be limited, and what aspects were going to be excluded in terms of the Special Defence Account. I remind him further that his party retained that Minister of Finance as Minister of Finance long after much of the Information scandal became public knowledge.
We will not be fobbed off with lame excuses or with explanations that miss the point entirely. We want parliamentary control to be increased, not watered down. We will therefore be opposing this Bill.
Mr Speaker, I listened with interest to what the hon member for Cape Town Gardens has had to say. He listed as one of his first objections clause 4 which concerns the unexpended balance that at present has to be returned to the Secret Services Special Account. He said that he believed the role of Parliament in this instance was such that it should have control over these particular funds.
I should like to say at the outset that after listening to all the evidence in the standing committee, it was clear to me, at any rate, that when it comes to these unexpended balances, the main purpose of this Bill is to bring the SA Police into line with the Department of Defence, the Department of Foreign Affairs and also the Department of Internal Security; in other words, the purpose of this Bill was to have the SA Police conform with what is already in existence in regard to the other three secret funds that we have.
We were told by officials from the Treasury that the implementation of these provisions would make their work easier and would enable them to operate more efficiently. As far as they were concerned, they felt that these were worthwhile provisions and an advantage. The question that we have to ask is whether this is valid or not. After listening to the evidence, I believe that it is a valid argument in favour of these provisions.
However, one expects the Official Opposition to react in the way they have. I should like to quote from Hansard of 16 March 1978, where an hon member said this (Hansard, Vol 72, col 3149):
This was in the debate on the Secret Services Account Bill. That speaker was the then official spokesman for the NRP but he now sits in the PFP. I am referring to the hon member for Port Elizabeth Central. At that time he was in favour of setting up these secret accounts because of the circumstances in which South Africa found itself.
I think that if the hon members of the Official Opposition examine their consciences, the majority of them will agree that these accounts are required. In fact, many democratic countries throughout the world today do have these secret funds for their law enforcement organizations or for their intelligence organizations and so on. Funds of this nature are required, and I think that the majority of members in this House accept that this is necessary, not only for South Africa but for many, many other countries around the world.
Therefore, I say to the hon member for Cape Town Gardens that I am not really convinced that he believes that one can do away with all these secret funds. The point is that we already have separate accounts for the other three departments. This now provides for the setting up of a fourth account for the SA Police who at the present time are receiving funds from the Secret Services Account as are the other three departments. The fact is that the South African Police at the present time are excluded from a special account, which certainly increases accounting problem for the Treasury. Therefore, we cannot quite accept the arguments of the hon member in this regard.
Then he raised the point that the Security Police may act contrary to the national interest and quoted a number of activities such as the arrest of students. I submit, however, that this incident concerns a particular manner in which the South African Police carried out their duties and has nothing whatsoever to do with the secret funds which will be at the disposal of the SA Police.
The hon member then spoke about the man who was handcuffed to a table in a police station in the Eastern Cape and beaten by the SA Police. We all abhor actions by our law enforcement agencies which go against the grain and against our feelings as individuals. The fact is that this was seen; it was not a secret act. The hon member may say that the Police, by having secret funds, will be acting in a manner contrary to the national interest. Certainly there are abuses in most activities in life. One finds that among ordinary individuals there are people who abuse their authority. We find employers who sometimes abuse their employees. Nobody admires and respects these things. It is certainly the role of this Parliament and of Parliamentarians to stand up and express their abhorrence of such actions, but to say that, because of that, this particular Bill should not be passed, is ludicrous for the simple reason that as the hon member himself says, there must be secret funds for certain circumstances.
The hon member then went on to talk about the limitations which may be placed on the Auditor-General by the Minister of Finance after consultation with the State President and with any other Minister who may be involved in any particular action. I would like to read again from this debate of 1978, and I am afraid this quote is going to be a bit lengthy. An hon member said on 16 March 1978, (Hansard, col 3164):
He then goes on to give the reasons, and then he says in the same column:
That was a quote from the speech made by the hon member for Durban Point when he spoke in that debate. The hon member for Cape Town Gardens says that limitations may be placed on the Auditor-General when it comes to the auditing of this account and that there will be no reporting. I put it to the hon member: It is not just a single Minister who is involved here. There is the Minister of Finance, the State President and the Auditor-General who discuss these things. I am quite sure that if the Auditor-General felt that there was anything fishy here—let us put it that way—he would do and act as he has in the past in this Parliament. I refer now to the Information Scandal that developed in 1978. For that reason I say to the hon member that to make the suggestions which he has, is going a bit too far. I think that he has used this clause as an opportunity to put forward the usual sort of ideas that we get from that hon member, when in reality this is a very simple measure. It is a measure to bring the South African Police into line with what already exists as far as the other three departments are concerned. There is nothing different to that. If it was all right for the other three departments, why should it not be all right for the South African Police?
I think that the Official Opposition has made a mountain out of a molehill in this particular regard. We discussed this at great length in the standing committee. As I said, Treasury feel that this will enable them to operate more efficiently. It will cut out a lot of extra work. For these reasons I take pleasure in supporting this measure, and I sincerely hope that the hon member will reconsider his position and the attitude that he takes towards these sorts of measures which come up from time to time.
Mr Chairman, the hon member for Amanzimtoti gave a full exposition of the Bill; I shall therefore not follow him in this respect. The CP supports this Bill because we are in favour of improved administrative procedures and are convinced that parliamentary control will not be weakened if this Bill is passed.
Mr Chairman, the hon CP member who has just resumed his seat adopted a liberal stand. The hon member supports change and we thank him for his support of this amendment. [Interjections.]
If the hon member for Cape Town Gardens were not so bigoted, we could long since have disposed of this scrap of legislation. The hon member for Cape Town Gardens is opposed to every form of change which will make it more difficult for enemies of this country to do what they wish. [Interjections.] The hon member for Cape Town Gardens received an exceptionally good reply from the hon member for Amanzimtoti to which I can add little. I wish to mention today, however, that the hon member for Cape Town Gardens’ opposition to this change in this piece of legislation before us relates directly to the viewpoint adopted here last Tuesday by his political godmother. The hon member for Cape Town Gardens and a few other hon members of that party are attempting to cast suspicion on our security legislation in this country. I should like to know from the hon member for Cape Town Gardens—and I see the hon Leader of the Official Opposition is also present—why the hon member for Yeoville is not here today. The hon member for Yeoville is the PFP’s chief mouthpiece on finance. In the standing committee he was on the point of accepting this small change in this little piece of legislation.
That is a lie!
Do you withdraw that, or do I have to ask you to do so?
The hon member must withdraw that.
I withdraw it, Mr Chairman. It is quite untrue, and he knows it.
The hon member may proceed.
Thank you, Mr Chairman.
Order! Will the hon member for False Bay please resume his seat for a moment.
†I think the hon member for Cape Town Gardens is really trying to circumvent the Rules of this House. He cannot accuse an hon member of knowingly telling an untruth. The hon member must withdraw that allegation unreservedly.
Mr Chairman, I withdraw it. On a point of order, however: Is the hon member for False Bay allowed to make reference to proceedings in a standing committee upon which nothing has been reported?
Order! That is not a point of order at this stage. Many hon members have already referred to the proceedings. I find it very difficult to gather what is part of the record of the proceedings of a standing committee meeting and what is not, as I do not have same in front of me.
The hon member for False Bay may proceed.
Thank you very much, Mr Chairman. As I have said, I found the hon member for Yeoville’s reaction very interesting. I am in no way referring to the points of view he adopted nor to his pronouncements in the meeting of the standing committee concerned. I am merely referring to the unhappy expression on his face at what the hon member for Cape Town Gardens, who is sitting next to him, said. [Interjections.]
When we discussed these same matters in the House on 25 February this year, the hon member for Yeoville was not present either. Neither did he vote against the motion with the PFP. That is what I find so strange and why I say there is a split within the ranks of the PFP caucus on this amendment before us.
That is for certain!
The hon member for Cape Town Gardens cast suspicion on a number of matters, namely the honesty, integrity and the sincere intent of the hon Ministers involved in this as well as that of our security police, the Auditor-General and some other people and institutions. What are the hon member’s objectives in this respect? Why is he acting like this here today? I find the reasons for this obscure. Nevertheless I state here today that the hon member’s objectives have nothing whatsoever to do with the arguments he put forward as regards the amendment in question.
The principle of secret funds was established in this House in 1978. It has also been illustrated clearly today. Now, however, the hon member refers to certain examples of police action. He implies that that police action was financed by secret funds. A weaker example in this respect could hardly have been held up to us in this House today by anyone else. I also wish to add that the few fellows who were locked up at 03h00 on the night involved were certainly looking for trouble. If I were the Minister of Law and Order, I would have locked them up long before. I would not have left them at large till 03h00 the other morning. [Interjections.]
There are persons and organizations in this country attempting to assail the bulwarks of our security legislation by main force. One could almost say they were attacking those bulwarks with a sledgehammer. Then the hon member for Cape Town Gardens rises in this House and hacks at South Africa’s security legislation with gusto. We are all aware that the undermining of law and order in South Africa is being thoroughly orchestrated. The support we are requesting for the scrap of legislation under discussion is not support for the sake of protecting the NP Government. It is support for the sake of protecting the prosperity and safety of all who inhabit this country. Naturally we are aware who the great conductor of this orchestrated effort against South Africa is. He has his trumpeters in the UN, his drummers in the ANC and in addition it really appears that the hon member for Cape Town Gardens is unaware of the fact that his perpetual opposition to effective countermeasures is interpreted as his providing the necessary sound effects within this House for that orchestra. [Interjections.]
Mr Chairman, the hon member for False Bay seems to feel that anybody who can oppose this Bill must be one of the more liberal elements. I can assure the hon member that we are going to oppose this Bill and that nobody can ever accuse me of being one of the more liberal elements. [Interjections.]
Yes, well, there we are! I do not have that sin of liberalism on my soul! How is that, Mr Soal? This aspect of liberalism may apply to the hon member for Cape Town Gardens but it surely does not apply to me. I want hon members to realize that there can be other reasons than liberalistic ones for opposing this Bill.
Mention was also made of State security and the defence of law and order. When one talks about State security and the defence of law and order, so far as I can see apparently anything goes. I am sorry to say so, but although we in this party are very hot on the subject of State security and that of law and order, we do not believe that anything can be excused in this regard. The hon member for Amanzimtoti said the main reasons why this Bill was necessary was to ease the accounting procedure and to conform to the other secret service funds. He also said that he was convinced by the argument in the standing committee. Well, I wonder if he would have been convinced by the same arguments in a standing committee a year ago. I have my doubts, but perhaps one is convinced by proximity to the party one is serving. He also quoted the hon member for Port Elizabeth Central in respect of a speech he made in 1978 in the debate on the Secret Services Account Bill of 1978. The hon member for Port Elizabeth Central was at that stage speaking on behalf of the NRP and he supported the Bill at the time while his party is not supporting it now, and so forth. In 1978 that hon member was not supporting what is before us now, and that is that the Police should have their own, undisputed fund. He was supporting the proposal in respect of other departments. As far as we are concerned—if we are going to be told that in 1978 the NRP supported the Bill—we are now not supporting what we supported in 1978. This is a matter which is quite different. I think, therefore, in fairness to the hon member for Amanzimtoti, he must appreciate the fact that this is a different matter.
Our main objections to this Bill are very largely the same as those of the hon member for Cape Town Gardens. Primarily, we object to the question of carrying forward unexpended funds. We do not find it necessary and neither do we consider it to be desirable. I realize that in the Department of Defence and, to a lesser degree, in the Department of Foreign Affairs and in the Secret Service, it is necessary to build up secret funds so that when one has major expenditure it will not be obvious where one gets the money from or what one is doing with that money. I accept that that is necessary and I can give a simple example. If the Defence Force wants to buy an aircraft-carrier and they do not want anybody to know about it, they can build up a fund over a few years and suddenly the world will then be faced with the fact that South Africa has an aircraft-carrier. I regard this as a reasonable reason for building up massive secret funds. Moreover, those people who have read the James Bond stories will know perfectly well that secret services find it necessary to pay out very large amounts of money occasionally to take over information from various sources. A secret fund build-up may well be necessary in that regard.
However, as has already been mentioned, there have been abuses as in the case of the Information scandal. Here again it was felt that a specific organization needed these funds but frankly they abused this provision. This was not to the credit of South Africa and it certainly did us a great deal of harm in many directions. It also did many NP members of that time a great deal of harm.
We in this party strongly support the actions of the Police in most of what they do. We realize that there are some people who feel that more than half of their activities are involved with riots and so forth, but we feel that the Police generally do a very difficult job in almost impossible circumstances very fairly and in a very humane way. At the same time, however, we still cannot see the Police needing this sort of money.
Overseas there are bodies of police where this sort of money may well be used and may well be necessary for them, but we are jealous of our Police Force being just that—a police force. I know it is to an extent a paramilitary force, but it is primarily a police force, and if we start giving it the appurtenances of a KGB or something like that, then I believe we shall denigrate the status of the SA Police.
We do not believe that this is at all necessary and we do not believe that the question of it being easier for the Department of Finance to audit the books and look after the accounts and so forth is a valid reason to allow the Police to build up secret funds and to remove the ultimate control of those funds from Parliament.
Mr Chairman, I do not intend prolonging this debate unduly because this is, as hon members have already pointed out, basically a very simple and straightforward matter. From Treasury’s point of view we regard this matter as being purely administrative and therefore, except for a very brief and superficial reference to some of the remarks of hon members, I do not intend arguing the merits of whether or not the Police should have this kind of fund.
First of all I should like to refer to some of the remarks made by the hon member for Cape Town Gardens. My reply to him also applies to what the hon member for Umbilo said a few minutes ago. It is quite clearly printed in the memorandum that the fund will only be supplemented on a net basis. We keep a very close watch on the balances in these various funds and we are in close liaison with these departments. Should they have an inordinately high balance at the end of a particular financial year—I am referring to the departments which have special accounts—then there is no way in which we shall give them their original requirement. We shall reduce their requirement for the following financial year by the balance which they have on their books.
There is no way in which there will be an opportunity for any of these funds to accumulate large sums of money. Why would we allow money to lie sterile in any of these funds? There is no purpose in it, except in the case upon which the hon member also touched, and that is for instance the Defence Force, where it is necessary to accumulate a large amount of money in order to meet a certain commitment. Funds may be accumulated for, say, the acquisition of a particular piece of military equipment or whatever. In the case of the Police that certainly is not necessary.
The argument that there will be insufficient control over the accumulation of funds should therefore not have been raised at all because the memorandum clearly states what the intention is.
I want to deal with the hon member’s argument that Parliament has the right of approval. The fundamental fact is that we have secret funds and that we have had such funds under previous governments as well. The manner in which such funds are used was certainly changed dramatically at the time of the Information problem. The whole control of them was sharply increased following that unfortunate incident. I have personal experience of this kind of procedure and I can give hon members the assurance that the procedures are very strict and quite adequate. The Minister of Finance will certainly not exclude an inordinately large amount from any of these secret funds from auditing. This will only be done in absolutely extreme circumstances. It does not depend on the integrity or the merits of particular individuals; it is simply a matter of sound government.
Did it not happen in the past?
I cannot say what happened in the past.
Mr Chairman, may I ask the hon the Minister if it is not correct that at the time of the Information Scandal, the then Ministers of Defence and of Finance were required to provide the Auditor-General with a certificate stating that the funds in the Defence Secret Fund that had been voted for special purposes were being used for the purposes for which they had been voted, and that such a certificate was provided. Is this not correct? It has a direct analogy to what we are now discussing.
Obviously, if the Minister of Finance excludes a certain amount from auditing, he must have very good reasons for it, and it will be reported by the Auditor-General that he was unable to audit that particular amount of money on account of the fact that the Minister of Finance excluded it from auditing. In this case the Minister of Finance will have to accept responsibility for it in public. When it comes to secret funds somebody has to believe somebody somewhere along the line. Any Minister of Finance involved in this kind of sensitive matter will certainly limit that sum of money to an absolute minimum.
The hon member accused us of what he called our inability to distinguish between the functions of the executive and the functions of the legislature. Details of the application of secret funds simply cannot be discussed in a House such as this. They cannot even be discussed in bodies such as the standing committees.
We live in a very difficult and dangerous world. If we do not counter the subversion and other activities against South Africa by the appropriate means such as the application of secret funds, we will most certainly soon see our State go down the drain.
This is simply a fact of government. We must evaluate the whole principle of the application of secret funds against the perspective of whether it is necessary or not. If it is necessary, we must decide to what extent we will allocate funds. Surely the funds that have been allocated for this purpose in the past have certainly not been inordinately high.
As the situation stands now, the SA Police have been using secret funds for years. The hon member for Umbilo can argue as much as he likes. There is no difference between the arguments he should have advanced today and the arguments that his hon leader at that time advanced during the debate of 1978.
We must accept the fact that the SA Police need secret funds. They have them right now and they keep them in a suspense account. As far as the Treasury is concerned, giving them a special account and asking them to run their affairs accordingly is a neater way of doing things.
I believe—and I say this with great respect—that if the hon member accuses us of an inability to understand the difference between the legislature and the executive, I am afraid there is no way in which I will be able to convince that hon member to change his apparent unwillingness—I will not say inability—to understand the basic argument of the necessity for secret funds, and that if one accepts the principle of secret funds, one must administer them in a very circumspect way.
I can appreciate the hon member’s desire to create sound laws. At the time, when the original Act was debated in Parliament, the purpose was certainly also to create a sound law. The best law one can make under these circumstances is one in which the amount is voted by the Parliament for the secret fund and that it has then to be allocated by the Minister of Finance to another department. The law then considers such funds as having been voted by Parliament. If the hon member is unwilling to understand that, I cannot help him.
There is a necessity for not even disclosing the amounts of allocations. Even making the sums or amounts allocated to various projects in any department, whether it is the Police or any other department, known publicly involves certain risks. In other words, when it comes to secret funds, we deal with a very special set of circumstances. It seems to me that the power of Parliament is then delegated to the Minister of Finance in accordance with the administrative procedures provided for. If he can propose better law without jeopardizing South Africa’s interests in terms of what has to be done in respect of secret operations, one can certainly listen to what he has to say. However, he did not advance any suggestion in that regard.
Other than the Defence Special Account, which we accept in this context, why is it necessary for secret services accounts to carry forward unexpended balances? I can understand it in the case of the Defence Special Account because of the expensive capital equipment involved, but why, in the case of the others, is there a need to carry forward unexpended balances when other departments do not have to do so?
Because we find it convenient to do it that way. This is one of the big problems we face at this time of the fiscal year. Right now I hear reports and I receive letters from all over the country telling me about departments that now all of a sudden are hurrying to spend the last few cents in their piggy-banks before the end of the financial year. I daresay that the fact that departments have to return all unexpended funds to the Treasury certainly gives rise to unnecessary expenditure, although perhaps not in great volume. However, in the financial circumstances in which we find ourselves at present, we certainly could have done with a few million rand coming back to us from funds that it was not really necessary to spend in great haste in the last few days of the financial year. As far as secret funds are concerned, they are so well controlled that anybody in my position would understand immediately, once he came into contact with this kind of procedure, that it is easier and better if these balances are carried forward. Because the funds are so closely controlled, we are aware of all balances. If they ask for R10 million and end the year with a balance of two million, there is just no way the Treasury is going to give them R10 million again; they will only get R8 million. My colleagues and I exercise very strict control over these funds. They are much easier to control than to control 20 odd departments. For this simple reason I say, on behalf of the Treasury and on behalf of the Auditor-General, that this is a neater accounting principle or method which we are proposing here today.
It is a bad principle.
The hon member says it is a bad principle, but I cannot blame him for that. Hon members opposite have not had the opportunity of governing, and I doubt whether they ever will. Let me tell him—and this also applies to the hon member for Cape Town Gardens—that in coming up against the harsh realities of these unique compartments of government, one understands these things much better.
†As far as the hon member for Amanzimtoti is concerned, I just want to express my sincere appreciation for the sound arguments he advanced. He argued the case so well that at one stage I was tempted to get up and say that the hon member had already replied sufficiently to the debate.
I want to thank him for making a good point regarding the fact that the SA Police receive these funds in any case. Whether they receive them under the strict control of the central secret fund, if I may call it that, or through their own special account, the same principle and the same control and auditing will apply.
*I should like to thank the hon member for De Aar for his support of the Bill. He supports it for the right reasons and I am grateful to him for that.
The hon member for False Bay, very tongue in cheek, said a few things that were very humorous and also very true. I thank him for his contribution and for his support.
†In conclusion I want to reiterate that I cannot, for the life of me, see the difference between the fundamental reason for the arguments advanced by his hon leader at the time and those the hon member for Umbilo advanced today.
What about the reputation of the Police Force?
That is a very important question the hon member has just put. As regards the reputation of the Police Force, I do not want to argue the case for the Police. I have an able colleague who will do that for them. I just want to say that the public of South Africa—and we here as representatives of that public—should more often express their appreciation to the SA Police for the sacrifices they make. [Interjections.] I wonder how many of us …
We jealously guard the reputation of the Police Force and do not want them to get a bad name.
There is no ground for that kind of argument either. How can a special account to improve the quality of bookkeeping and auditing give the Police Force a bad name? How can that harm their reputation? [Interjections.] With great respect, I cannot agree.
The hon member also said that he was against funds being carried forward. Would he not concede that if one supplements funds on a net basis that argument of his must fall away? What is the difference?
If you deal with it on that basis, why not do it with all funds of the various departments?
If the hon member says that we should do that with all the other funds, then the whole thing was unnecessary from the beginning. This would be contrary to his leader’s argument.
The Police need secret funds, as do the others who have been using them for some time now. What we propose today is to control the application of those funds properly, in a much better and administratively sounder way. That, Sir, is everything one can say about this very simple and straightforward Bill.
Upon which the House divided:
Ayes—98: Alant, T G; Aronson, T; Ballot, G C; Bartlett, G S; Botha, J C G; Botma, M C; Breytenbach, W N; Coetzer, H S; Cronjé, P; Cunningham, J H; De Beer, S J; De Jager, A M v A; De Klerk, F W; Du Plessis, B J; Du Plessis, G C; Du Toit, J P; Fick, L H; Fouché, A F; Fourie, A; Geldenhuys, B L; Golden, S G A; Grobler, J P; Hartzenberg, F; Hefer, W J; Heine, W J; Hugo, P B B; Jordaan, A L; Kleynhans, J W; Kriel, H J; Landman, W J; Le Roux, D E T; Ligthelm, N W; Lloyd, J J; Louw, E v d M; Louw, M H; Malan, W C; Malherbe, G J; Marais, G; Maré, P L; Maree, M D; Meyer, W D; Miller, R B; Morrison, G de V; Munnik, L A P A; Nothnagel, A E; Odendaal, W A; Olivier, P J S; Pretorius, N J; Pretorius, P H; Rabie, J; Rencken, C R E; Schoeman, S J; Schoeman, W J; Schutte, D P A; Scott, D B; Simkin, C H W; Snyman, W J; Steyn, D W; Streicher, D M; Swanepoel, K D; Terblanche, G P D; Thompson, A G; Ungerer, J H B; Uys, C; Van Breda, A; Van den Berg, J C; Van der Linde, G J; Van der Merwe, C J; Van der Merwe, C V; Van der Merwe, G J; Van der Merwe, J H; Van der Merwe, W L; Van Eeden, D S; Van Heerden, R F; Van Niekerk, A I; Van Rensburg, H M J (Rosettenville); Van Staden, F A H; Van Staden, J W; Van Vuuren, L M J; Van Wyk, J A; Van Zyl, J G; Van Zyl J J B; Veldman, M H; Venter, A A; Venter, E H; Vermeulen, J A J; Vilonel, J J; Weeber, A; Welgemoed, P J; Wentzel, J J G; Wessels, L; Wright, A P.
Tellers: J P I Blanché, W J Cuyler, A Geldenhuys, W T Kritzinger, C J Ligthelm and R P Meyer.
Noes—28: Andrew, K M; Bamford, B R; Boraine, A L; Burrows, R; Cronjé, P C; Dalling, D J; Eglin, C W; Gastrow, P H P; Goodall, B B; Hardingham, R W; Hulley, R R; Malcomess, D J N; Moorcroft, E K; Olivier, N J J; Page, B W B; Rogers, P R C; Savage, A; Schwarz, H H; Slabbert, F v Z; Soal, P G; Suzman, H; Swart, R A F; Tarr, M A; Van der Merwe, S S; Van Rensburg, H E J; Watterson, D W.
Tellers: G B D McIntosh and A B Widman.
Question agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
Certified fair copy of Bill to be transmitted to the State President for his assent unless the House decides within three sitting days after the disposal thereof in all three Houses to refer the Bill to a committee.
Introductory Speech delivered at Joint Sitting on 11 March
Mr Speaker, I move:
The most important objective of this Bill is to create a better co-ordinated control structure by means of which State involvement in the procurement of crude oil and related financial matters can be evaluated.
Hon members will remember the many debates and questions of the past concerning these matters. They will also remember the suspicion-mongering and the climate that was created, which led to an enquiry by the Advocate-General last year into possible improper enrichment of persons in crude oil dealings and financial malpractices in the crude oil purchase strategies of the Republic.
You will consequently permit me, for the sake of perspective and background, to quote a few paragraphs from the Advocate-General’s report—and I quote paragraph 15.1:
This positive finding of the Advocate-General, however, does not eradicate the potential breeding-ground for continuing suspicion, and therefore the Advocate-General very wisely recommended that South Africa’s crude oil purchase structure, and particularly the financial control thereof, should be re-examined. I quote from paragraph 16.2:
Paragraph 16.3 states:
†Mr Speaker, the Government accepted these recommendations of the Advocate-General and decided to adapt and restructure the existing institutions, namely, the State Oil Fund, the SFF Association and the Equalization Fund in such a manner that the objectives which the Advocate-General had in mind could be met in the most effective way. Hence the amending Bill provides—
- (a) for the changing of the name of the existing State Oil Fund and of the company controlling it, namely, SOF (Proprietary) Limited, to the Central Energy Fund and CEF (Proprietary) Limited, respectively;
- (b) for the creation of a statutory control structure in the form of a board of directors for CEF (Proprietary) Limited;
- (c) for the entrustment to the board of directors of CEF (Proprietary) Limited and a formally appointed accounting officer, of control of and accountability in respect of the Central Energy Fund, the Equalization Fund (which is presently controlled by the SFF Association), and the SFF Association, and all other transactions of CEF (Proprietary) Limited and the SFF Association;
- (d) that shareholding in CEF (Proprietary) Limited be vested in the State and shareholding in the SFF Association be vested in CEF (Proprietary) Limited; and
- (e) for the auditing by the Auditor-General of the accounts, books and statements kept and prepared in relation to the transactions of CEF (Proprietary) Limited and the SFF Association, and for the submission by the Auditor-General, with due regard to the national interest, of a report to Parliament on the transactions of CEF (Proprietary) Limited and the SFF Association.
Certain minor adjustments to existing provisions of the principal Act had also to be effected due to changed circumstances. I do not, however, wish to elaborate at this stage except for a final remark on the new title of the principal Act, namely, the Central Energy Fund Act, which is being substituted for the title: State Oil Fund Act. Hon members will, no doubt, agree that this title describes the objects of the measure more accurately and that it ushers in a new concept in the Republic’s energy procurement strategy.
Second Reading resumed
Mr Chairman, this Bill is a particularly interesting one as it follows on the discussion that has just taken place with regard to the auditing of secret funds, the discussion on the South African Police Special Account Bill.
Hon members will recall that it has for some time been a bone of contention between this side of the House and that side whether or not the moneys controlled by the State Oil Fund and the SFF are in fact State moneys. When the hon member for Port Elizabeth Central raised this point during the Salem debate, the then Minister of Finance in fact argued that the moneys were not State moneys. I would like to just go back to the records on this. I think it important that we do so because in par 1.7 of the Advocate-General’s report it was made very clear that levies paid into the State Oil Fund were, in his opinion, State moneys as defined in section 1 of the Exchequer and Audit Act, 1975. [Interjections.]
It has always been this party’s viewpoint that these funds were State moneys and that they should be audited by the Auditor-General. For years this contention was rejected by the Government. However, I think it was perhaps under this particular hon Minister that we have had a change in attitude towards this issue. We are glad to see that the Government has not only accepted this viewpoint, but has also taken action to implement it. Therefore, we will support it in these steps it is taking.
I think there is no doubt that funds paid into the State Oil Fund in the past were not subject to the degree of scrutiny they should have been subject to. In fact, the Advocate-General pointed out in par 9.6 of his report that the application of money under the control of the purchasing committee was in their exclusive discretion, and that the authorization and expenditure of those State moneys was never explicitly accounted for either directly to Parliament, as controller of expenditure of State moneys, or to the Auditor-General whose usual task it is to control such expenditure and its authorization. Nor was a report made to Parliament on the expenditure of these funds.
Indeed, the Advocate-General pointed out in par 9.7 of his report that, when it came to the actual controlling of these funds, it appeared to him from the reports of the auditors that they accepted the authority for the expenditure on crude oil purchases as a given fact and that it was never part of their function to verify the contracts and the prices. If one goes into the history of this, one finds that the Auditor-General had had a problem from 1969 with the auditing of funds under the National Supplies Procurement Fund because at that time he did not have access to the books and records. They were not open to his inspection. In fact, from 1971 the situation was reached where the Auditor-General was placed in the position that he had to rely on a certificate given by a firm of auditors who had not been able to verify the contracts and the prices. I think this is clearly an unsatisfactory way in which to control State moneys. In fact, the Advocate-General pointed this out. He said that he could not accept “that the only answer is to exclude control by Parliament and the Auditor-General”.
I believe that with this Bill we are in fact bringing those funds back to the control of Parliament, and I think that such control is in fact vital. If one looks at the international oil trade it is obvious that it is a very cutthroat business. I am sure the hon the Minister will agree with me when I say that it is a business that is often run by people of very dubious integrity and character.
As long as you do not support them.
There is one gentleman, Mark Rich, whom we have spoken about previously, and I think it would be wrong not to update the record. He recently pleaded guilty to earning at least $50 million of illegal oil profits in 1980-81 and then evading taxes by sending the money to Switzerland. Back taxes plus interest, penalties and fines paid by him amount to approximately $200 million. That is a substantial sum of money. It is, in fact, the biggest amount ever recovered in a criminal tax evasion case.
I therefore believe it is essential that the financial affairs of an organization like the State Oil Fund should be subject to the detailed and penetrating audit of the Auditor-General. Clause 4 of this Bill provides for this, and in many ways I think it should be used as a model when it comes to looking at this provision for other funds. Unlike the other secret funds, we have something here that is somewhat different. I think it is a big improvement and that this should actually have been pointed out. The hon the Minister who sits next to the Minister of Finance should bring this to the Minister of Finance’s notice.
In terms of this Bill the discretion does not he with the hon the Minister or with the Minister of Finance or with the State President as to what is going to be published. It actually lies with the Auditor-General. That is a very important point. He can of course consult with the Minister of Mineral and Energy Affairs, with the Minister of Finance or the State President, but ultimately it is at his discretion. We believe that that is a very good provision because the Auditor-General is in fact the watchdog of Parliament when it comes to State funds.
I am being serious when I say I think this is an improvement on the existing system and that this should actually be brought to the attention of the other departments. If at all possible, we would like a system where the Auditor-General’s report is eventually referred to the Standing Committee on Mineral and Energy Affairs so that the committee can then decide what should or should not be released.
In supporting this Bill I think I should give the hon the Minister warning that he should not construe our support of this Bill as support for the present structure of oil purchasing in South Africa. One can understand that in the 1970s it was necessary to take the steps that were taken because there was a critical shortage of crude oil and there was an excess demand.
That has nothing to do with it.
With this Bill?
The situation in 1979 has nothing to do with this Bill.
No, I am talking of the general oil position in the early 1970s. I submit that in 1973-74 the demand for oil exceeded the supply. There was a shortage of supply in that Opec was in fact trying to increase the price of oil by rationing. The point that I want to make is that the world oil situation—I am not talking of South Africa’s oil situation—has, in fact, changed dramatically and that there is now a surplus of oil. In South Africa’s case I think the situation has changed. To a large extent the strategic need for oil in South Africa has been satisfied by extensive stockpiles and by the expansion of the Sasol operation. In fact, we have been able to release supplies of stockpiled oil from time to time.
In the light of these changing circumstances I would like the hon the Minister to embark on an investigation of whether it is still necessary for the State to play a role in the procurement of oil. Has the time not come when we can leave it to the oil companies to procure South Africa’s oil supplies in the normal way? We believe that the Minister should be consulting with the private sector now to see if they cannot take over this function from the State. We in this party believe that, the sooner a start is made to remove the tentacles of the Government on the economy, the better it will be for the economic development of South Africa.
Mr Chairman, the hon member for Edenvale intimated that the Official Opposition supports this legislation and we are very grateful for that. It would have been remarkable had they not supported the legislation, because they probably feel like a cat with seven tails since they have been asking for this for so long. We do not begrudge them their pleasure today.
The simplistic remark made by the hon member to the effect that the position with regard to the availability of crude oil is now totally different and that there is now a surplus of crude oil is true, but the situation in which the RSA find itself as regards acquisition of that oil is still a real problem and we shall still have to debate that a great deal. Moreover we shall not be able today to debate the point concerning security and the withholding of information from the media. We shall, however, have the opportunity to discuss that after the Easter recess once we have dealt with the Petroleum Products Amendment Bill in the standing committee. I know that the hon the Minister has certain standpoints in this regard and that they will undoubtedly be spelt out far more clearly on that occasion.
In his second reading speech the other day the hon the Minister outlined very clearly the reasons for and the objectives of this statutory amendment and quoted certain important and appropriate extracts from the report of the Advocate-General. The explanatory memorandum attached to this amending Bill requires no further elucidation and I shall therefore leave it at that.
The debates and the innumerable questions asked about the so-called disclosures by the hon Leader of the Official Opposition at the time in regard to misspending of funds related to the purchase of crude oil, and the instruction of the then Prime Minister to the Advocate-General, are also history by now, but in consequence of that the Government is now coming forward with this statutory amendment.
All the hon members in this House, and every hon member in the other Houses, are in agreement that the availability of fuel is of national importance. It is not only for the big entrepeneurs that this is important but also for the small industrialist who has to convey the product from his backyard to the point at which he wants to sell it. It is important not only for the young man who aches to be on the road on his motorcycle but also for the pensioner who wants to take his car to fetch his pension at the post office. It does not only apply to the fat cats of Houghton, but is also important to the man who lives at Loeriesfontein or Koekenaap, far from a petrol pump, and that is not even to mention the importance of this issue to the farming sector. The wheels must turn; there is no doubt about that and it is the Government’s responsibility to make it possible for the suppliers to make fuel readily available at all times throughout the country at a reasonable price to the man who wants to use it. Now, it is true that the RSA is largely reliant on external energy reserves, and that includes crude oil. This means that we are not only a major buyer of crude oil but also that we are engaged in a diligent search for oil deposits on our own soil. What is still more important is that the dependence on external energy reserves and the problems that this clearly gives rise to, in times of crisis in particular, and which we are still experiencing, has made us a pacesetter in the manufacture of fuel from coal. When we speak about the purchases of crude oil and add to that the activities of an undertaking like Soekor—and then we also call to mind the utilization of our own energy reserves with regard to the manufacture of petrol from coal—and we are talking in terms of enormous funds required for such projects. We are speaking about a lot of money.
It goes without saying that the Government of the day would like to see more effective control exercised with regard to the management and expenditure of those funds. Because those funds will come directly or indirectly from the taxpayer’s pocket he has the right to know whether there is an effective watchdog that is carefully monitoring those purchases of crude oil. The board of directors for which provision is made in this amending Bill will be an executive body which will have to manage a formidable company, viz the CEF (Proprietory) Limited, with an expert eye and an expert hand. Clause 1 provides inter alia what monies will be paid into the Central Energy Fund and the management will have to use discretion in the utilization of these funds and other monies that will accrue to the fund, with one aim in view, viz to obtain fuel and have it available for South Africa as a whole. Moreover the utilization of this money of the CEF is clearly defined in clause 1. In other words, this board and its chairman will have to monitor every barrel of oil purchased and will have to account to Parliament for it. Eventually the Central Energy Fund will probably possess enormous funds which will increase inter alia due to the payment into that fund of the levy of 4 cents per litre on petrol, diesel and residual fuel oil. Apart from that source there is also the interest on Sasol II and Sasol III loans as well as capital repayments. It is often asked what the State received for the sale of Sasol. The reply is that Sasol has already given the State a cash sum of R887,6 million with regard to Sasol II and shares to the value of R240 million, whereas it still owes R1,5 billion to the State. Most of these funds will be reserved in this energy bank for energy projects which will make the country less dependant on imported energy sources. I foresee that other sources of financing for the Central Energy Fund may also have to be sought in future. I mention this because the energy requirements of the country will have to be determined more rationally in future and will of course increase.
Let us take Soekor as an example. At present Soekor is regarded as a national priority and as such is assessed and placed on a priority list. Accordingly Soekor falls fairly low on that list of priorities. Now, however, the picture is going to change because Soekor is going to be placed on that list as an energy priority and will be assessed as such. This will certainly result in the picture changing.
Therefore it is clear why we ask for a strong energy fund. It will enable us to tackle exciting projects like the Mossel Bay gas project without approaching the taxpayer for money.
I also wish to say something about secrecy. It is true that this will come up for discussion at a later stage, as I said at the outset. It is not easy for us to obtain crude oil and in the auditing of the accounts and the statements of the CEF by the Auditor-General, and the normal proceedings that that entails, certain information must be made public. As the hon member for Edenvale also said, a new principle has now been incorporated and the Auditor-General will have to use his judgement in deciding, in consultation with the State President, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Mineral and Energy Affairs, what can be made known. Taking everything into account, this is a neat piece of legislation.
Although I have little time left I cannot neglect to convey my cordial thanks to the officials for their co-operation and for their having allowed this standing committee’s programme to progress smoothly. I want to thank them, not only for their co-operation but also for the spirit they display of seeking to provide only the best legislation. We are very grateful to them. The Director-General of this department is not present today but we want to congratulate him, too, on the honorary doctorate awarded him the other day. I should like to place this congratulation on record.
On behalf of this side of the House I take pleasure in supporting this legislation.
Mr Chairman, the hon member for Rustenburg will excuse me for not following up on his arguments. I just want to say that the Conservative Party supports this Bill, which now makes provision for the recommendations of the Advocate-General to be embodied therein. We also support the creation of the Central Energy Fund. We trust that this will dispel the clouds that have hung over this matter in the past. We also welcome the fact that as far as auditors are concerned, the Auditor-General has now also been involved. We take pleasure in supporting the legislation.
Mr Chairman, it is gratifying that the hon members of the CP also support this legislation. When I recall aspects discussed in the past in regard to this legislation I remember that there was a lot of hot air, and a great fuss was made, about the activities relating to oil purchases and the control of energy funds available in the country. In spite of all those storms and in spite of the investigations that have taken place, nothing has come up which has cast the Government in a poor light. All that is happening today is that finishing touches are being applied to an arrangement aimed at preventing irregularities. In this way it will be possible to exercise the necessary control as has been requested in the past; control by Parliament, and direct accountability to Parliament, by an official in the person of the Auditor-General. The Auditor-General may issue an impartial finding with regard to malpractices or not. This is well stated and well construed in this Bill. There is also a specification with regard to the methods whereby energy material may be purchased in this country. This also provides how the financing and the control of financing will be effected.
I agree with previous speakers that this is a neat piece of legislation which will prevent many problems in future. I hope that it will also take the wind out of the sails of many of the hon members who in fact are only looking for trouble, and who in the process are broadcasting incorrect propaganda to the rest of the world. I too, support this legislation.
Mr Chairman, I wish to state at the outset that we too will be supporting this Bill. It is ironic in a way that this Bill should have found its way onto the Table in this House as a result of alleged irregularities that were investigated by the Advocate-General. We very much appreciate the appearance of this Bill and the new structures that it contains.
We subscribe to the sentiments expressed by other hon members in regard to the Auditor-General becoming involved in the accounting procedures that are referred to in this Bill.
This brings the actions of the CEF and the SFF under the scrutiny of Parliament. In the past it has been a cause of concern that there has been no accountability to Parliament in respect of the funds of the SFF, although one does appreciate the fact that considerable sensitivity was involved in relation to oil purchases in general.
It is not my intention to reflect in any way on the problems that occurred in the past, but the fact that the Auditor-General will now have right of access to all records and that he has a responsibility to Parliament will remove many of the doubts that existed in the past.
One accepts that there will be cases where confidential information must be retained as confidential. We are quite satisfied that the Auditor-General, in consultation with the hon Ministers of Finance and of Mineral and Energy Affairs, will decide what information should be released. One also notes that the Auditor-General will have the final say with regard to any information that may be made available to Parliament. This is at his absolute discretion.
It is important for us to realize and remember that there is, at the present time, a surplus of oil in the world. Supplies are relatively easy to obtain. This could equally, in a year or two, give way to oil shortages which will only add to the problems this country has in acquiring sufficient oil for its needs. It is therefore important that the sources of supply be kept open at all times. We must ensure that oil continues to flow with a view to meeting the needs of the country on a long-term basis. We must not become complacent because of the present adequate supply position. We support the Bill.
Mr Chairman, one may well ask why, if we all agree on this Bill, we continue to speak about it. I think this is a very reasonable question. Nevertheless I do think that since it is such a good Bill and since we are all agreed on it it is as well to have it passed through this House in a balanced fashion. I use the word “balanced” because last year, during the no-confidence debate, the discussion of the Prime Minister’s Vote, the debate on Mineral and Energy Affairs and the discussion of the previous alteration we had effected to this legislation, hon members of the official Opposition, and specifically the hon members for Yeoville, Constantia and Port Elizabeth Central, made a tremendous fuss, saying that we were doing terrible things in secret and suggesting that terrible and oily things were happening.
The late Sunday Express reported: “Oil row burst into the open.” Another newspaper reported:
The hon members carried on in that vein, but what was our consistent standpoint? We stated consistently that we were unaware of any fraud taking place, that we were open-minded and that we would welcome an investigation. Indeed, the then Prime Minister called for a investigation, and this legislation is now being tabled largely as a result of the investigation by the Advocate-General and the recommendations as pointed out by the hon the Minister in his Second Reading Speech. However, there is another reason why this legislation has been introduced. I do not wish to quote myself now, but the hon member for Yeoville asked me during the debate what we thought about auditing by the Auditor-General, etc. We said that we had no objection; indeed, it was essential. However, the hon the Minister himself explained why this was not done in this way in the past. I quote from Hansard: Assembly, column 7557 (28 May 1984) where he states:
He went on to say:
He then said that the Bill we were dealing with then should be regarded as merely an “interim measure”.
The point I want to make is that it has always been our standpoint that we would have to table this Bill, that the Auditor-General would have to be involved in the matter and there would have to be submission to Parliament. This was before he had the Advocate-General’s report. Therefore this Bill was not tabled merely because the Advocate-General recommended it. His recommendation carried a great deal of weight, but we have always said that this was our standpoint too. The hon members must not make out now—and I say this just to put the matter in perspective—that we are introducing this legislation as a result of everything they said and did.
Finally I want to make one remark. We appreciate the support of the Opposition but we have consistently stated that when one is dealing with oil sales and buying on the open sea, one really has to have one’s wits about one. I think that it was the hon member for Edendale who spoke a moment ago about “a cut-throat business”. He spoke about “dubious people”. That is very true. In other words, we are creating a balance. We have said that there must be greater inspection of the books. They must be submitted to Parliament and to the Auditor-General but— and this is a very important but—one cannot do away totally with the secrecy.
In the Sunday Times of 10 June 1984 there is an article on Mossel Bay in which the Sunday Times said the following:
Please note, “in the teeth of international hostility”. The Sunday Times goes on to say:
That is why it is necessary that we make provision in this legislation for the Auditor-General to be able to keep certain aspects a secret.
I conclude with one final extract from the Advocate-General’s report. It concerns this so-called very ready availability of oil. The Advocate-General states as follows:
Therefore it is a great pleasure for me to support this essential but balanced legislation.
Mr Chairman, I am pleased that the hon member Dr Vilonel said that we must not put this Bill through without first achieving some balance because I am going to take him up on that. I think it is important to take account of the whole background to this Bill. He will forgive us if we are pleased by the fact that this Bill has finally come before the House. We have been fighting for this principle since 1977. The hon member tried to suggest that the Government anticipated the recommendation of the Advocate-General. However, it anticipated the recommendation by perhaps only a few weeks while we anticipated the Advocate-General by some seven years. How is that for forward thinking?
It is also significant that this Bill envisages the strongest form of Parliamentary control that can be achieved in that CEF accounts will in future be referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, and the Auditor-General will have unilateral discretion as to what is going to be released. It is significant that this Bill has gone this far when, as recently as last year, the hon the Minister of Mineral and Energy Affairs said in response to a question from me that we would not be allowed to see the accounts of the SOF. He said that these accounts were not available because the SOF was a private company. This Bill thus represents a dramatic change.
Is that correct?
Of course it is correct that SOF is a private company! However, it was the attitude the Government had adopted that we challenged. After all, the Government could quite easily have made a plan to produce those accounts at that time but it suited them not to do so. [Interjections.] It is only now that they have introduced a Bill in this respect which we are pleased about and which we will support.
We should like to say that this is evidence of an effective Opposition on this side of the House. [Interjections.] It vindicates our argument that the previous situation, that is, the pumping of hundreds of millions of rand of taxpayers’ money into a private company that never came under the scrutiny of Parliament or of a State audit, made nonsense of democracy. We repeatedly pointed out that this situation, hidden as it was behind a veil of secrecy, was bound to generate public disquiet. It did too! Under the previous structure a blank cheque was given to the SOF and SFFA outside of Parliamentary control.
In supporting this Bill now, though, we feel it is important that we make the further point that the restructuring envisaged here should be—must be—accompanied by steps to lift the general veil of secrecy over these matters. We are not asking for a total lifting of that veil of secrecy …
Will you be supporting the legislation?
Well, we are going to have discussions on the standing committee. We will see just how effective the proposed measure promises to be.
As I was saying, the lifting of the veil of secrecy to a greater extent than is presently the case, is absolutely imperative. There is room for a great deal of improvement.
This brings me to the final part of what I want to say. We must warn the Government that, although we are supporting this Bill now, the changes are not in themselves sufficient to allay our grave concern about the management of these funds in the past, that is, from the time of inception to the time that we had our debate during the investigation last year.
It is intriguing to speculate whether this new Bill amounts to a tacit acknowledgement by the Government that the former system did indeed give rise to problems such as, for instance, the misapplication of funds or, at least, the inefficient application of funds. While the investigations conducted by the Advocate-General last year no doubt answered some of the questions raised, there are still a number of unanswered questions which I would like to place on record in the hope that this new control structure under the control of the Auditor-General will create the possibility of a full investigation into the history of these funds. He should not only have the power to audit them from now onwards but also the power to dig into the background of the SOF and SFFA from the time of their inception so that he may satisfy himself that everything is as it should have been.
What are the unanswered questions? I will not attempt now to deal with every single unanswered question. However, here are some of the more important ones: Did we pay too much for oil during the period? If so, did it occur on an irregular basis? If we paid too much, who benefited?
We come back to the example of a particular contract which stood out in the records that came to our attention, viz contract 220.127.116.11. The allegation here was that we paid $40,20 per barrel instead of $34,50, thereby paying $10,23 million too much for that cargo. In view of the fact that we paid that amount too much, I say …
We answered that long ago.
Having studied the Advocate-General’s report—and I advise that hon member to study the particular section of the report—it is not crystal clear to me why we paid as much as $41,117 per barrel for this specific shipment less than six months after Mr Wiggett had written a note saying that we would never pay more than $2,50 above the market price. The market price at the time of that contract was considerably lower than $2,50 less than the amount we paid. We still want to know why we paid that much and who received the benefit of the extra amount.
Another unanswered question arising from the Advocate-General’s report is that of rake-offs. In section 18.104.22.168 Mr Deuss is quoted in a Wiggett memo concerning a discussion on 21 July 1980 and he said the following:
This is an unsavoury-sounding comment. What was its full meaning? Was it followed up? Who were the persons being referred to in this case? That is the sort of question which the Auditor-General should inquire into.
A third unanswered question is: Was there a ministerial directive from the then Minister in charge, Minister De Klerk, to the SFF Association to do business with specific dealers? This has never been clarified. We should establish whether that was the case and, if so, why and on what basis, because it may have led to our paying too much for the oil that we bought at that time.
My hon colleague has referred to the question of inadequate auditing. It is quite clear that the procedure used was a case of “die een ou ouditeer die ander se niks”. The fact that that happened for a period of years during which the previous system operated does not absolve the Auditor-General under the new system from having to go back to the records to see exactly what happened during that period. One cannot just accept at face value, a certificate which gives no background and no details, as evidence that a proper transaction took place.
A fifth unanswered question remains the role of Dr Marino Chiavelli. It has not been established whether we ever did business with him and whether he was operating as part of a daisy chain of supply to this country. The day will come when the truth must come out. If he did, we need to know about it. If he did supply us with oil, then, I regret to say, it will also be a reflection on the whole report of the Advocate-General.
A final set of unanswered questions relates to Salem. Section 13.1 of the Advocate-General’s report says:
If so, what persons? Why are we still waiting for people to be prosecuted in this country even though cases on this matter are proceeding overseas? These are burning questions to which the Government has consistently failed to provide adequate answers. The Auditor-General, when he receives the powers which he is to be given under this Bill, should make it his business to inquire into the whole Salem affair.
Having said that, I reiterate that we are delighted that this Bill has come to the House. It is what we have been asking for all these years and if the principle of full parliamentary control had been adopted when we first proposed it, we would not have had the problems which finally came to light last year.
Mr Chairman, the hon member for Constantia astonishes me. Indeed, words fail me when I have to react to the hon member’s speech. These hon members, of which he is one, came forward with documents obtained in an illegal fashion—to put it bluntly, they were stolen. They came into their hands anonymously and they, in turn, submitted them to the State President, the former Prime Minister, on the basis of an anonymous accusation. They were referred to the Advocate-General. The State President and the Advocate-General repeatedly—not once, but several times—invited these people please to submit to the Advocate General any information they might have to indicate that any malpractices had occurred in the past with regard to the purchase of oil. [Interjections.] They lacked the courage of their convictions to do so, but now the hon member for Constantia comes along with a long list of questions containing veiled insinuations. I think that that is reprehensible. I cannot express strongly enough what I feel about that because their accusations, the only ones there were, were investigated by the Advocate-General and turned out to be a lot of lies. The Advocate General found that they were a lot of lies. Now, believe it or not, the hon member for Constantia comes up once again with these same old stories that we have heard before, and makes insinuations which I regard as a disgrace for a member of this Parliament. [Interjections.]
What are we doing in this Parliament? We are discussing an amending Bill which I as the Minister said that I wanted placed on the Statute Book. The evidence of Mr S J P du Plessis, the former Director-General of my department, before the Advocate-General is available. In it he recommends that the Advocate-General should consider and make these recommendations. Those hon members still owe us answers. We still want to know from them why they removed their part of the documentation that was submitted to them before they submitted it to the State President. They must still give us that answer. [Interjections.] It was the hon member for Edenvale who drew the attention of the Auditor-General to the removal of those documents. The Advocate-General had to ask for those documents. I again ask why they removed those documents. I shall tell you why they did so. I make the accusation that they are protecting someone, because they know who wrote that document. They also know who gave it to them. They are protecting someone and they still owe this Parliament an answer. [Interjections.]
I shall deal tomorrow with the speech by the hon member for Edenvale, which I regard as a very responsible speech. I shall react to him in detail. However there is another very important issue. There is an anonymous document, obtained illegally, in which top secret information about the State’s activities has been recorded, but they are not in the slightest concerned about where that document comes from. They do not ask that the Advocate General should also investigate where this document comes from or what its origin is. They still owe us an answer.
I now come to my final point. The question we must ask is whether that party, with its hon members, has not abused the privilege of this House for ulterior motives. [Interjections.]
Mr Chairman, on a point of order: That is a very clear insinuation that there are hon members on this side of the House who abuse Parliamentary privilege for ulterior motives.
I did not understand that to be the import of the statement made by the hon the Minister. I think this is a convenient moment for the House to adjourn.
In accordance with Standing Order No 19, the House adjourned at