Joint Sitting - 14 February 2006




Members of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces assembled in the Chamber of the National Assembly at 14:02.

The Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces took the Chair and requested members to observe a moment of silence for prayers or meditation.


                       (Debate for Discussion)

The SPEAKER: Hon Chairperson and hon members of Parliament, I am introducing the report. I see that I have been given 15 minutes. I think I need much less than that. The people who will say perhaps a little bit of what was involved in the work that was done in this process will speak after me. I will just make a few general remarks about the process and one or two general comments.

The report being debated this afternoon marks the culmination of Parliament’s process with regard to the country’s self-assessment stage of the African Peer Review Mechanism, the APRM. The report details the processes, findings and recommendations of the four joint ad hoc committees and a series of community consultations across the country.

South Africa’s peer review process is viewed as important in further developing the peer review mechanism. In other words, it is not just about the fact that we gained from the process itself - we are going to gain from the programme of action that’s going to come out at the last stage of this process – but, also, we believe we are busy contributing to the refinement of the process itself for the continent. The parliamentary perspective was therefore regarded as a critical component of South Africa’s review.

Careful consideration was given to avoid unnecessary duplication with the broader country process driven by the APRM National Governing Council. The idea was always not to have a parallel process, but rather to provide a parliamentary perspective, looking critically at how this could add value to the outcomes of the country’s self-assessment and the APRM.

The unique parliamentary processes of public engagement to solicit the views and experiences of a broad spectrum of South Africans would serve to enrich the country experience and the final report which, of course, is going to be the combination of what comes out of here and what will come out of the process that has been overseen by the governing council.

It is important for the APRM to have a critical focus on parliaments. We found that the questionnaire from the APRM itself was lacking in this respect. In fact, we found that in other countries the APRM went through before us that although parliaments participated this does not seem to have been something that was really focused upon. So the questionnaire itself still needs to be developed in that regard.

We believe that parliaments have a central role in consolidating and strengthening democracy. In acknowledging this, our Parliament intended to embark on a comprehensive self-assessment of itself – of ourselves - as Parliament. So, we believe, from the word go that part of this process must be to review ourselves as an institution.

In this regard we tried to get assistance from an independent panel. Owing to the limited time, this was not possible during this process. We have, however, committed ourselves to embarking on this important process during the course of 2006.

It is envisaged that this process will also allow us to elaborate on the APRM questionnaire, because there was communication to the effect that it would be good if South Africa also contributed towards the enhancement of the questionnaire itself that is actually the basis of the process in each country. So, we believe, when we go ahead to look at Parliament, we will also have the opportunity to enrich that part of the questionnaire.

It was encouraging that through the briefings and hearings conducted by the joint ad hoc committees and the community consultations, a general sense of optimism emerged regarding the future of South Africa. So, the President was correct – at least, this is the finding of the work that we did. There is a general sense of optimism - of acknowledging that government is doing things; this society is working. However, there are challenges. There are problems. There are issues of pace and time frames of delivery that we as South Africans we need to address.

The apparent high levels of political awareness among South Africans fostered a strong interest in being involved in governance matters as they affect their daily lives. There is also a high level of awareness, particularly among young South Africans, of their rights and freedoms, and a confidence to assert these.

Many South Africans, particularly in rural communities, called for greater access to Parliament through a more robust and meaningful interaction with members of Parliament. So that’s something we have got to pause and look at as Parliament ourselves and as parliamentarians. Parliament must devise mechanisms to ensure accessibility for all South Africans. I think our vision and mission, which is of course to become a people’s Parliament, is the perfect context within which our efforts to realise this must be located.

While most participants in Parliament’s APRM process expressed general satisfaction with the policy and legislative frameworks established by government, the challenges related to service delivery, particularly in the realm of socioeconomic development, were highlighted. This included broadening access to basic services, improved health care and employment opportunities. Parliament must be introspective regarding its role and responsibilities in addressing these challenges.

Mechanisms to monitor implementation of policies and legislation in all spheres of government require serious attention. The oversight role of Parliament is critical in this regard. The current review of Parliament’s oversight role must detail the mechanisms to enhance Parliament’s effectiveness, and must include avenues for adequate feedback to communities.

An important outcome of Parliament’s APRM process was the encouraging readiness and willingness of corporate South Africa and organised civil society to forge partnerships with government to further the development objectives. There is a general acceptance that the improvement of South African society is a shared and collective responsibility. In conclusion, an interesting observation was that the questionnaire seemed to elicit an almost automatic critique of government. In other words, from the word go we pointed out that this was not a review of government, but a review of South Africa – our society. Does it work? Of course, government has a role there, but there are other parts of society that also have to be part of making South Africa work.

But we found that perhaps the way the questionnaire was crafted seemed to elicit more answers about “government this”, “government that”, “government should do this”, “government does not do that”. It was a kind of dependency syndrome that we were detecting. Whilst this was not surprising since governments must play a central role in development, a challenge for the APRM would be to explore ways in which the mechanism would encourage an assessment of all components of society.

The APRM process has proved invaluable in highlighting areas for introspection and growth for Parliament. Various recommendations made by community organisations, the private sector and the joint ad hoc committees will be further elaborated upon and incorporated into Parliament’s future plans. Chairperson, thank you very much. [Applause.]

Mr P J NEFOLOVHODWE: Chairperson, Madam Speaker, hon members, today I have the honour of speaking for a longish time. I am not used to that, but it is nice to have a bit of time to elaborate on things.

Parliament’s involvement in the country’s peer review process is not only imperative, but also necessary in view of the fact that Parliament exercises its oversight function in terms of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. Be that as it may, my responsibility today is to present to you, hon members, a report on the Joint Ad hoc Committee on Democracy and Good Political Governance.

The report takes into consideration that the APRM is unique in that for the first time in its history the Parliament of South Africa will assess, interrogate and analyse the country’s performance, as well as progress in respect of democracy and good political governance.

The committee’s understanding of its mandate emanated from the terms of reference and section 1 of the APRM questionnaire, which defines democracy and good political governance as follows:

Good governance means creating well-functioning and accountable institutions – political, judicial and administrative – which citizens regard as legitimate, in which they participate in decisions that affect their daily lives and by which they are empowered.

Democracy and good political governance constitute an important prerequisite for successful economic governance, touching, as they do, on the fundamental rights of the citizenry, the accountability of governments to the governed and the relative stability of polity.

To this end, the committee was requested to assess the country’s progress within the scope of nine objectives, namely the prevention and reduction of intrastate and interstate conflicts – very, very elaborate - constitutional democracy, including periodic political competition and the opportunity for choice, rule of law, citizen’s rights and the supremacy of the constitution; the promotion and protection of economic, social and cultural rights; the upholding of the separation of powers, including the protection of the interdependence of the judiciary and of an effective legislature; accountable, efficient and effective public-office holders and civil servants, meaning also us; the fighting of corruption in the political sphere; the promotion and protection of the rights of women; the promotion and protection of the rights of children; and the promotion and protection of the rights of vulnerable groups, including refugees and internally displaced persons.

In order to fulfil the requirements of these terms of reference, the committee undertook a number of activities between October 2005 and January 2006 - about three months effectively. These activities enabled committee members to reach a common understanding on the tasks to be performed and the methodology to be applied. We had to come together so that we could have a methodology to apply in order to carry out the nine objectives.

Of importance to members of the committee were public hearings, the identification of focus areas, the audit of all international instruments and standards relating to democracy and good political governance that South Africa has either signed, ratified and/or acceded to, and written submissions.

Interestingly, the debates at the public hearings took the form of engagements in an open and dynamic manner in which participants from all walks of life deliberated without any hindrance and raised fundamental issues relating to democracy and good political governance. That was also an experience for committee members.

Allow me now to turn to some of the important findings in the report. The committee found that South Africa’s democracy is not currently under threat from external forces as the country is not in conflict with any country.

In the same vein, it was found that poverty alleviation programmes impact on reducing the possibility of poverty becoming a source of conflict; that South Africa has a functioning constitutional democracy in which human rights are protected and the citizens of the country can freely dialogue, participate in parliamentary processes as well as criticise government and state structures; that the state of human rights can be rated as good to excellent at the level of policies, legislation and institutional mechanisms; that the principle of the separation of powers has resulted in a strong sense of independence in the execution of judicial functions; that there are perceptions that exaggerate the true nature of affairs with regard to corruption prevailing in the country; that the government has shown true commitment to promoting and protecting the rights of women and children and entrenching gender equality.

The National House of Traditional Leaders, however, expressed its appreciation of the Expanded Public Works Programme and believes that this programme has improved the economic wellbeing of rural traditional communities. Yes, that’s what they said. There is nothing we can do about it. You may not believe it, but that’s . . . [Applause.] I’m presenting to you their findings, not what I think.

Serious challenges remain in the area of violation of rights of farmworkers. A case of such a violation was raised with the committee relating to a farm in Ermelo, Mpumalanga. Even more disturbing are reports by farmworkers that numerous such cases have been reported to the police without any results.

I now turn to a few of recommendations found in the executive report of the committee. I’ll just refer to a few of those. Now some of the recommendations that we are making as a committee, and I will not exhaustively go through all of them, include that Parliament instruct the relevant departments to submit reports on the reasons for failing to sign and/or ratify the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers.

Another recommendation is that the Department of Social Development provide Parliament with an assessment report on the impact of its poverty alleviation mechanism. This report should be evaluated in terms of the impact of such mechanism, identify the shortcomings and introduce plans to address this.

Other recommendations are that all structures of government as well as Parliament should work to maintain public confidence in the democratic system of governance by promoting the constitutional principles of accountability, transparency and inclusivity; that political parties are central to the promotion and entrenchment of democracy and should thus take responsibility for promoting democratic rule in the country; that constitutional bodies should better inform the public of their services, including access to these services; the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development should expedite the finalisation and distribution of the guideline booklet on the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act. I can go on and on, but the report will be available for you to read.

Notwithstanding the limited period of this assessment, the committee concluded that, viewed holistically and despite the fact that service delivery expectations suggest that more still remained to be done, South Africa does have a functioning democracy and that South Africa is playing a major role in promoting democracy and good political governance within and beyond its borders. I thank you. [Applause.]

Mrs S M CAMERER: Hon Chairperson, I was delighted to be appointed by Madam Speaker to a subcommittee involved in Parliament’s engagement in the African Peer Review Mechanism, and I must say I found the exercise very interesting and productive.

As members of the Democracy and Good Political Governance Committee, we were reviewing South Africa’s performance under headings that are absolutely central and crucial to the peer review system. Without good marks for democracy and standards of governance, we don’t pass muster. That’s the bottom line. I must apologise, Chair, for my husky voice. It’s not only from too much canvassing, but also the result of a cold.

Good governance is a key theme for President Mbeki, stressed last week in his state of the nation speech and this week at the Progressive Governance Summit, which he hosted at Hammanskraal for progressive heads of state and prime ministers, such as Brazil’s Lula de Silva and Britain’s Tony Blair. The timing of his announcement of an independent inquiry into South Africa’s involvement in the oil-for-food scandal was perhaps not unrelated to this event.

Time was our enemy, and the committee has noted that the tight timeframes limited our work and compromised public participation. Nevertheless, within the three months available between last October and January this year we received some significant inputs from important stakeholders, which illustrated both strengths and weaknesses. Credit must be given to our chair, the hon Richard Baloyi, for his efforts to cram everything in. [Applause.]

Under strengths I would list as a high point an important input by Chief Justice Pius Langa himself in which he was uncompromising about the importance of the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary in our constitutional democracy. At the same time, he pointed out that progress was being made with transformation.

Under weaknesses I would highlight a horrifying input by the Department of Home Affairs in which it was revealed the department had almost completely lost track of over 120 000 persons who had applied for refugee status as well as their particulars. It is unclear whether this huge backlog can ever be reduced, let alone addressed. In our report we put it quite politely: We say: “A number of challenges remain in the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, including lack of capacity and ineffective implementation of the Refugees Act.” Something must be done urgently to improve standards of governance at the Department of Home Affairs.

Quite correctly the committee spent some time on the twin problems of crime and corruption, particularly in the political sphere. We received a useful input from the National Prosecuting Authority, which told us that corruption was the second most prevalent serious crime committed in the country and which listed the measures in place to combat it, as well as some of their successes that were quite impressive.

Accordingly, the committee has put forward a number of recommendations in this regard, including that Parliament should intensify its oversight function in relation to the fight against crime, and that there is a need to improve co-ordination between anticorruption agencies and to build a better anticorruption capacity.

In a short time, we covered a fairly large field, and there is perhaps something in our report for nearly everyone – from traditional leaders to migrant and farmworkers.

Important specific recommendations we make include – as mentioned by the hon Nefolovhodwe – that Parliament should look into the reasons for South Africa failing to sign or ratify international covenants protecting migrant workers and their economic, social and cultural rights. Also – I believe this is very important as well – Parliament should urgently pass laws outlawing trafficking in women and children.

Among our most interesting hearings were the public-participation sessions in which several hundred South Africans came to give their views and often to air their grievances. While taking the pulse of the nation in this way, we got the impression that there were a lot of dissatisfied people out there. For them democracy should mean better delivery.

Whatever the topic we were discussing, they chiefly raised issues around the lack of jobs, housing, access to clean water, sanitation and health care. These issues were not strictly within our terms of reference, but they raised the issues that concerned them most. Thank you, Chair. [Time expired.] [Applause.]

Ms S C VOS: Chairperson, This report, as you well know, was initiated by the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Chairperson of the NCOP. I believe it represents one of the most important and positive initiatives ever undertaken by this Parliament.

It started off with one intention: this Parliament’s own independent response to the African Peer Review Mechanism self-assessment questionnaire. The substantive area of democracy and good political governance, in particular, involves Parliament directly.

Since starting our work last year, we have all been on a very steep learning curve and our focus has indeed developed dramatically. There can be no doubt that if it is followed through with the honesty and integrity in evidence to date, this self-assessment process in all its complexity – because it is enormously complex – will have major implications, I believe, for this Parliament.

We are a young Parliament in a new democracy, and it is right that we hold up a mirror to ourselves in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. In multiparty dialogue we asked tough questions, and this report should be seen as a start and certainly not a final product. Many questions have yet to be answered, and the process for us here in Parliament is far from complete. We asked, for instance: Why does Parliament’s ad hoc committee on oversight and accountability appear to be moribund? What is it doing?

Section 55 of the Constitution is quite clear, and I quote: “The National Assembly must provide for mechanisms to ensure that all executive organs of state in the national sphere of government are accountable to it”. Another question is: Why has Parliament not done what is constitutionally required to enable it to directly intervene in budget allocations? We talk; we have done nothing.

Another questions is: Does this Parliament really exercise effective oversight over the executive; if not, why not? Is this Parliament a branch or an arm of government? We need to explore how accountable this Parliament is to the people of South Africa and how it can improve its lines of accountability. We pass laws, but what is their impact? How effectively are these laws implemented?

The recommendations set out in the executive summary in the various substantive areas studied by the working groups, although not exhaustive, are illuminating and should form core focal points of reference for most of the committees in this Parliament.

The quality of the information received was scrutinised and evinced more crucial questions. As members of Parliament required to effect executive oversight, how do we view, for instance, the reliability and integrity of Statistics SA – a department of government?

Statistics SA produces information the executive requires for its policy- making, and it only stands to reason that this information can be manipulated to suit the policy choices of the executive. Should Statistics SA be independent of government? That was another question we asked. What is the situation in this regard internationally? We need to look at these things.

As you have heard, the envisaged independent assessment of the oversight capacity, efficiency and effectiveness of Parliament has not been completed to date. It is for this reason that the IFP sees this report as a work in progress and applauds the decision to make the independent assessment of Parliament and its work a priority project of Parliament throughout the coming year.

We would obviously have liked to see Parliament’s report stand alone alongside the country APRM report as a sign of our independence from the executive which was, I believe, the original intention. Professor Adedeji, a member of the Panel of Eminent Persons currently assessing South Africa’s APRM process, has decided otherwise, and we have respectfully, obviously, bowed to his wishes.

It is important to note that the drafters of the APRM – as mentioned by Madam Speaker – sidelined the role of the parliaments of signatories to the voluntary self-assessment process. This Parliament is the first to date which has attempted to exert the power and the authority of its institution as a vital component of the APRM process. The report will now be forwarded and the work of members continues. Every party in this Parliament would be well advised to not only study the executive summary made available in the ATC, but to also investigate the more than 600 pages of work available on the parliamentary website, because I believe this is the stuff of which new public policy can indeed be formulated. Thank you. [Applause.]

Mr L W GREYLING: At the outset, I would like to state that it was an honour and a privilege to have been asked to serve on this joint ad hoc committee by the Speaker. On a personal level, I felt that it gave me a rare insight into the challenges and some successes of South Africa’s macroeconomic policies.

Although the committee acted in a nonpolitical manner, and attempted to allow stakeholders to simply outline the issues, there were times when healthy debate took place between the members of the committee. This debate proved helpful in clarifying many of the issues, and revealed the different perspectives that can be taken in analysing South Africa’s economic challenges.

The committee heard from a range of stakeholders, including business, various government departments, labour, civil society and academics. The committee felt, however, that there were severe constraints in facilitating true public participation over these issues. These constraints related to inadequate time and the nonavailability of many key stakeholders due to short notice periods, and the time of the year in which we had to conduct these hearings.

The committee can therefore not claim to present a comprehensive analysis of South Africa’s macroeconomic governance, as the voices of many key South African stakeholders were not thoroughly heard. We would therefore urge that, in the next round of the African Peer Review Mechanism, proper notice be given to the public, and more time allocated for Parliament to conduct its work in this regard. The committee further feels that this process is an extremely important one, and that it is important for all South Africans to be involved in assessing South Africa’s performance.

The macroeconomic governance committee was asked to assess South Africa’s performance on the following key objectives: Promoting macroeconomic policies that support sustainable development; implementing transparent, predictable and credible government economic policies; promoting sound public finance management; fighting corruption and money-laundering, and accelerating regional integration by participating in the harmonisation of monetary trade and investment policies among the participating states.

In the 10 minutes allocated to me, I can only outline the conclusions and key recommendations reached by the committee regarding South Africa’s performance. I would, however, urge all members and the public to read the document in full, as it does offer interesting insights into a range of South Africa’s macroeconomic challenges.

Before I proceed, I would also lastly like to thank the chairperson of our committee, Vincent Smith, and the parliamentary staff who put in many long hours of work to assist this committee in its work.

Regarding international codes and standards, the committee resolved that South Africa is internationally compliant, as it has both signed and ratified most of the relevant international instruments. Furthermore, South Africa has created a good legislative and policy environment. However, capacity problems, among other challenges, hinder the implementation of these policies.

The South African economy undergoes several independent assessments by the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, the Economic Commission for Africa, and the SA Reserve Bank to keep track of economic developments and to provide crucial statistical information to investors. This ensures predictability in the economy, and thus boosts investor confidence.

On the topic of macroeconomic policies that support sustainable development, the committee resolved that South Africa’s macroeconomic policy is sound and supportive of sustainable development. However, key challenges remain to be addressed, including poverty, inequality and unemployment. Furthermore, government should investigate the feasibility of increasing the deficit to address some of the service delivery backlogs. For several years, the fiscal deficit has been projected lower than originally intended by government due to unanticipated overflows of revenue.

Government should therefore improve its methods for projecting revenue flows so that the projected deficit is attained. This should be backed by a comprehensive strategy to ensure that there is substantial capacity to spend the allocated funds. This is a particularly important consideration, given the implementation challenges of the financial management framework, particularly the Public Finance Management Act and the Local Government: Municipal Finance Management Act.

Our conclusions and recommendations on this topic are that the South African economy is greatly affected by the international economy, as South Africa is an active participant of the global economy. However, South Africa is also striving to develop macroeconomic policies that promote sustainable development by creating an enabling environment to encourage economic growth and job creation.

During the committee’s hearings, different organisations indicated that fiscal policy was too strict. South Africa has achieved macroeconomic stability and has been able to reduce the deficit from a very high level to a very low level, but some commentators felt that there was room to increase the deficit to address some of the social backlogs.

South Africa still has extremely high levels of unemployment that need to be addressed. Certain policies such as tariff liberalisation may have also led to an increase in unemployment.

Directing resources to the right channels is important in reducing poverty and inequality. While the low fiscal deficit is a concern, it is also important to consider whether there is enough capacity to spend available funds if it is increased.

A further concern noted by some of the speakers is the fact that South Africa does not as yet have a clear industrial policy, and we wait for that.

On the topic of transparency in macroeconomic policy formulation, the committee resolved that South Africa’s policy-making process is fairly transparent. However, the budget process needs to be further decentralised to ensure the involvement of critical stakeholders such as Parliament and civil society.

Government should also facilitate greater public involvement and understanding of the complex characteristics of South Africa’s fiscal policy so as not to compromise on budget transparency.

The Budget is currently presented without much room for changes from Parliament and other stakeholders. In addition, Parliament should effect the constitutional requirement that allows for an Act of Parliament to enable Parliament to amend money Bills.

The credibility and reliability of statistics used for policy development and planning should also be improved. Furthermore, the feasibility of Statistics SA being independent of government should also be considered. That was brought up by one of the stakeholders.

The South African Constitution makes clear provision for transparency, good governance and financial management. The Constitution, therefore, lays a good foundation for the policies that have been established in this regard.

On the issue of sound public finance management, the committee resolved that South Africa has a potentially effective public finance management framework, particularly regarding the PFMA and the MFMA. However, challenges regarding implementation hinder progress and socio-economic development. In this regard, the implementation of policy and legislation should be monitored regularly to ensure effective service delivery. Government should also address the capacity challenges and constraints evident at all levels of government, but in particular, local government.

In addition, the accountability cycle needs to be further strengthened through improved co-ordination and communication between all arms of government. There are still many challenges in service delivery and resource allocation within government. Local government has a series of problems including capacity constraints, dependency on consultants, unfunded mandates, undercollection of revenue, and lack of a revenue base for rural municipalities.

The National Treasury has, however, managed tax revenue collection very well, as well as implemented and strengthened the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework and the PFMA. The Treasury has also run several programmes to capacitate provinces and municipalities to enable them to comply with this policy.

In addition, a growing percentage of provincial municipal transfers have been made as conditional grants, which have stricter controls and facilitate more accountability. This is aimed at addressing the problems of expenditure in strategic areas such as infrastructure, HIV/Aids and education.

Lastly, on fighting corruption and money-laundering, the committee resolved that corruption should be the focus of both the public and private sectors. The protection of whistleblowers has not been as effective as intended by legislation, as in many instances they feel that they are not protected, and therefore feel discouraged. Furthermore, disciplinary procedures against perpetrators are not satisfactory. The committee therefore recommends that Statistics SA should start collecting statistics on economic crime, including corruption. Currently, there is no clear picture regarding the level or cost of corruption in either the public or private sectors. The protection of whistleblowers, under the Protected Disclosures Act, should also be improved, and corrupt officials should receive appropriate sanctions. In addition, the concept of whistleblowers needs to be defined and further clarified in the Act.

Corruption should be distinguished from financial mismanagement such as irregular expenditure. This is particularly important in quantifying the incidents of corruption in the public sector.

Finally, just on regional integration, the committee resolved that while South Africa promotes trade between African countries, trade balances are skewed towards South Africa. Thus, there is a need to assess the negative impact of such trade balances in order to develop and implement possible corrective measures to advance sustainable economic development in the region.

South African companies should be encouraged to invest within the region and continent. It is important, though, for the government to keep track of the behaviour of South African companies and to ensure that they abide by good business ethics.

South Africa has implemented legislation governing the bribery of officials in other countries. Therefore, it is important to consider the behaviour of companies, including South African companies.

The Pan-African Parliament should be dealing with these issues, and they must be incorporated into the regional and continental integration programme. Furthermore, government, labour, business, civil society and other relevant stakeholders should develop protocols governing business behaviour in foreign countries. Thank you. [Applause.]

Ms D ROBINSON: Hon Chairperson and members, the African Peer Review Mechanism is a voluntary indigenous process which aims to empower governments with knowledge of their own countries in order to identify gaps in policy, particularly in relation to democracy, public accountability, political stability and the economic growth which is needed for the development of the African continent.

Its purpose is to encourage member states to ensure that their policies and practices conform to agreed-to political, economic and governance values, standards and good business ethics. The APRM is a work in progress. It is a candid review of how the various departments assess themselves. It is clear that administrations were aware of where they performed well and where there were shortcomings, mainly in the implementation of sound policies.

The APRM maps out much of what has to be done for the upliftment of our country and the African continent to compete effectively in the global economy. Benchmarks and indicators, reference points for measuring performance, need to be established. The overarching objective is to move all participating countries toward the best practice with respect to each benchmark.

The economics cluster has much to be proud of with regard to our macroeconomic policy, our international standards and codes and the protocols that we are party to. However, the gap between the first and second economies continues. Key challenges such as poverty, inequality and unemployment remain. This is an inherited legacy that will stay with us until education, training and vigorous economic growth, free of burdensome restrictions, can close the gap.

A shortcoming that was identified was the lack of a clear industrial policy. The Auditor-General, in particular, cites the poor performance of local government as a contributor to South Africa’s low ranking on the capacity model, and states that South Africa faces challenges moving beyond the implementation. Therefore, resources must be decentralised to allow freedom of implementation.

The FFC highlighted the dilemma regarding equitable share of revenue for provinces and our inability to conduct a rigorous assessment of community needs. Metropolitan Asset Management says we can, as others have done, simultaneously achieve the twin goals of reducing inequalities and stimulating growth, which accords with Treasury’s view that a 3% deficit could be quite sustainable.

Although the committee resolved that South Africa’s policy-making process was fairly transparent, there was some concern about the credibility and reliability of statistics. The lack of independence of Statistics SA was a matter of concern. Having reliable statistics is vital for policy development, planning and proper implementation.

Combating corruption and money-laundering, both in the public and private sector, was an important focus. Corruption needs a co-ordinated strategy. At local government level there should be a deepened focus on service delivery and mechanisms to speedily intervene where corruption has become endemic. The protection of whistleblowers should be improved and corrupt officials should be severely dealt with. Statistics SA should collect statistics on corruption and crime in South Africa since they are not available to us.

In a fledgling democracy like ours, it is commendable that Parliament is seen to be playing an independent and active role in holding government to account. It was also heartening to see that within our committee, the APRM review was conducted in an atmosphere of honest introspection and that contrary views were reflected.

I trust that the next cycle of the APRM will allow for a more thorough analysis of how we address the challenges that face us, that there will be more realistic timeframes and that there will be wider participation by all aspects of society.

This review is the first but an important step on the road to becoming a mature democracy. Thank you. [Applause.]

Mr N D HENDRICKSE: Hon Chair, Madam Speaker, hon members, the notion of peer review assumes that a noncoercive, gradualist convergence of policy and practice in participating countries seems preferable to attempts to impose desirable policies on countries. However, the same question must be asked in that given it is a voluntary mechanism, does it have enough clout to make effective governance improvements?

Interestingly enough, a recent survey by Idasa indicated that amongst those African countries surveyed, government performance in attaining internal macroeconomic objectives had been disappointing, and that in no country did the citizenry believe that government had done enough in decreasing the gap between the rich and the poor.

States must recognise that in order for Africa to face the 21st century with confidence, it is required that the continent be rebuilt, change its image and accelerate performance via improved democratic rule and governance. At the same time, we must address the scepticism as to how far African leaders are prepared to venture to apply pressure on their peers. The case of Zimbabwe rings a bell.

Whilst the National Assembly must be congratulated on its outreach in terms of engaging a broader range of stakeholders from business, civil society and labour, we must stress that the subservient role played by civil society needs to be looked at.

Firstly, civil society participation gives impetus to the overall credibility of the review process as it assists in ensuring that the review report represents a consensus of views on a country’s quality of governance. Where there is a largely government-controlled process, we could end up with a review which is neither credible nor independent. In fact, participative governance is viewed in many countries with suspicion and hostility.

Why do we participate? Just like foreign investment has been tied to investors’ perceptions of governance quality, aid is increasingly going the same way. Hence, should initial reviews be seen as technically competent, the APRM could become an important way for investors and donors to differentiate between attractive and dubious destinations. Indeed, there appears to be many reservations about the APRM as many African states are unlikely to meet Nepad standards of democracy and political governance as measured through the United Nations Charter of 1945, the Constitutive Act of the African Union of 2000 and the Declaration on the Framework for an OAU Response to Unconstitutional Changes of Government of 2000.

Regarding sector-specific issues of which corporate governance is a part, whilst corporate governance has improved in general we need more shareholder activism and vigilance in terms of remuneration, company governance systems and reporting mechanisms. We must applaud the JSE in leading the way in corporate governance in that, as part of its listing requirements, companies must report on compliance in relation to the King II report which is the foundation of the triple bottom line espoused at the World Summit for Sustainable Development of 2002.

The Socially Responsible Investment Index, though not compulsory, is an exemplary initiative in saluting good corporate citizenship where it exists. In South Africa we have the prestigious King II report on corporate governance, which is the leading code on governance as many countries have used it for developing their own codes.

Studies conducted amongst top institutional investors globally reveal that these investors pay up to a 22% premium on their investment for a South African company that they are satisfied with and have applied good corporate governance. Hence, institutional investors must put pressure on boards to add value to their organisations, raising the bar of performance at director level.

However, we must start addressing small and medium enterprises and NGOs. One must understand that one can’t legislate for behaviour. It is disconcerting that governments want to legislate many of the corporate government principles. The recent amendments to the Companies Act raised much concern in this regard.

The grey area relates to corporate governance applicable to state-owned enterprises, and this needs to be reviewed by the Department of Trade and Industry and associated role-players. Governance structures and shareholders of state-owned enterprises need a critical look-in. Thank you. [Time expired.] [Applause.]

Ms B A HOGAN: Chair, our committee looked at corporate governance in this country, how well our corporates are governing themselves and how good they are as corporate citizens.

We found that South Africa has set in place a very, very good system of corporate governance, institutions, regulations, procedures and codes. The King report was a pioneer in its time. The recently launched Johannesburg Stock Exchange’s Socially Responsible Investment Index, which is an index that lists companies that invest in a socially responsible way, is a landmark and the first of its kind in a developing country.

In the public sector we have the PFMA, the MFMA, and generally we have a barrage of these protocols, these codes, that guide our companies in the way that they should perform, and we have seen a good response from corporate South Africa.

The experience of listing abroad on other exchanges has taught them that unless they can demonstrate good corporate governance, they are not going to be acceptable. I think that has been an added incentive.

However, that is not the end of the story. We have seen incidents of serious failure: Masterbond, LeisureNet. We hear uncomfortable stories of dubious procurement practices. We have a number of scandals that are yet unfolding in our newspapers - CEOs raiding their own companies, for instance. So, whilst we might say that we have progressed some way, our committee found that there is still some way to go. But we do applaud the route that has already been taken.

There are a couple of issues that our committee focused on. We didn’t look at the standard corporate governance features as related to economic reporting, that is financial reporting. We focused instead on the triple bottom-line reporting - that is, how companies report on their economic, environmental and social activities; how these investments impact on their stakeholders, whether it be consumers, workers, community dwellers; how it impacts on the environment; and how long term and sustainable their investment practices are. We focused on sustainable reporting – socially responsible investment reporting - because up to date, understandably, black economic empowerment has dominated the debate. But there are other critical parts of socially responsible investment that have been overlooked.

The first, of course, is the impact on the environment, which is very underplayed in South Africa. And when the NGOs came before us, it was very, very interesting to see just the gap, with some corporates still using national key point legislation to stop communities from being able to investigate what is happening to them, and for reporters to report on what is happening to communities that live alongside the very factories that are polluting them.

We have seen companies gagging employees from talking about what has been happening in their companies as regards environmental things. This certainly is not a desirable practice, and in South Africa we need to focus more on the environmental impact of companies and the role that NGOs can play.

Similarly, when we get to the question of disabled people, they are often invisible to companies, whether disabled people come in the form of procurers, suppliers or employers. There is a whole gap that needs to be met in terms of companies and the way that they perform in that regard. Similarly with HIV/Aids, evidence was given to our committee about certain sectors being very far advanced in terms of their work-based treatment programmes. We find, for instance, in the financial, transport and mining sectors that there is a fair amount of very good advancement. But if you look at other sectors as regards retail, there is virtually no development on that score.

We are finding that though the larger corporates are beginning to engage in very comprehensive ARV programmes, smaller companies do not have the ability to do that. We’ve seen partnerships between larger companies and smaller companies to assist these smaller companies to implement work-based programmes, and we encourage that. But, certainly, I think we still have a long way to go with the Aids issue.

The central issue that I think is probably the most important issue when it comes to socially responsible investment in terms of tracking how well corporates are behaving, is around the question of what the role is of the shareholder at the moment. The shareholder is, in fact, the owner of the company. If the owner of the company is not going to hold the company to account, who can?

In terms of our legislation, the owner of the company has more powers than anybody else to hold a company to account. If we look at who that owner is, that owner isn’t you and me or the individual share owner. Who is the majority share owner of shares in corporate South Africa? Forty percent of those are your institutional investors. Forty percent of shareholder ownership lies with institutional investors! That means that those companies that are managing your assets, that are investing your pension funds, are the people who own the companies. They own the majority equity.

If these companies come to the table and start exercising their shareholder responsibilities, then we will see effective corporate governance, effective holding of companies to account.

It is well known that in South Africa shareholder activism is extraordinarily weak. In other countries hard questions are posed at annual general meetings. We came across but a handful of asset management companies that actually had special units tracking what their companies were doing. One might well say: Well, how does this impact on the bottom line? How does the impact on the environment impact on the bottom line? How does the impact of good, fair labour practice impact on the bottom line?

The issue is: If you are going to be a company and in here for the long haul, if you are going to produce results – for you and I who are investing our pension funds in that company, you want a company that is going to be there for the long haul, because you are only going to be collecting your pension funds in 20 or 30 years’ time depending on how old you are - good corporate governance means that you want to be sustainable. If you’re going to ravage the environment, if you’re going to exploit your workers and create social unrest, if you’re going to have complete disregard for the communities in which you work, you are not going to survive as a company and it is not in our interest. It’s going to affect your bottom line. Finally, you are going to be driven out of business.

So we are looking at the shareholder activists. We are not just talking about the individual in an NGO who comes along and raises the important questions. We are also looking at these institutional investors who wield enormous power. Some of them, to their credit, have set up specialised units in their companies that monitor and track, in a very, very astute way, the impact that these companies are having in social, economic and environmental ways. We need to see more of that in South Africa, and we need to see champions of that.

Specifically, we have the Public Investment Corporation – it has just been semicommercialised - which holds the largest amount of investment funds in South Africa; in excess of R450 billion. The Public Investment Corporation gave us evidence in our committee that when they tried to oppose a R58- million bonus for a CEO of a particular company in which they had invested

  • in which they were shareholders - they could not get the other shareholders to come to the table on this issue.

If a R58 million bonus - a bonus of R58 million - for one year is not an issue for corporate South Africa and is not an issue for stakeholders, then there is no issue that can be called a corporate governance issue in South Africa. A country with such manifest income disparities to be paying that amount of money - a bonus to a CEO - is simply unsustainable, unethical and undesirable. And that is where we are looking at the institutional investors, the people who wield the real power, to start coming to the table and start influencing what is happening in our corporates.

I also want to congratulate the JSE on setting up the Socially Responsible Investment Index. That index allows companies to participate on a yearly basis to volunteer information in terms of socially responsible investment that they are doing. It allows you and me, who might be pension fund trustees, to say to our asset managers: We want a third, 50% or whatever, of our assets in SRI companies, in companies that are listed on the Socially Responsible Investment Index.

Only when you see that shift of public consciousness to an understanding that companies have their responsibilities in terms of the societies in which they operate, and of the responsibilities to themselves will we see the emergence of good, strong, well-entrenched corporate governance.

Finally, I would like to thank my committee members for the hard work that they did and also thank the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, which responded in a very detailed fashion to every question on the APRM questionnaire to the extent of farming it out to legal firms. That probably constitutes one of the most comprehensive responses to the APRM mechanism.

I want to thank them for championing corporate governance, for setting up the SRI Index, and for leading the way in getting companies to act as good corporate citizens. Let us hope that institutional investors now take up the baton and act accordingly as well as the JSE. Thank you. [Applause.]

Mr I S MFUNDISI: Chairperson and hon members, may I just, at the beginning, express my gratitude that I served on the committee chaired and led by this workaholic, Barbara Hogan.

Coming back to the report, openness is the key to democracy, and openness in the activities of the country gives people insight into the weak and strong points of the situation in the country. The founding fathers of the African Union in their wisdom were spot-on through the African Peer Review Mechanism so that countries on the continent may learn from one another which policies are the best.

The democratic South Africa has put behind itself the secretive, inward- looking and sanctions-busting apartheid era in its quest for good corporate governance. Good pieces of legislation are in place and, because of the dynamic nature of society, they continue to be refined to suit the present day.

South Africa has come forward as a champion for the triple bottom line by adopting the code of good corporate governance. Notwithstanding the success registered by the Johannesburg Securities Exchange by launching the Socially Responsible Investment Index, there have been failures and scandals, as noted in the LeisureNet and Masterbond debacles. Being a young democracy and with all the checks and balances in place, there are still gaps in our legislation as well as in the enforcement arena.

A closer look at such failures to comply with good governance shows that a good number of state-owned enterprises are culprits. The media continue to have a field day regarding the dubious relationships between political parties or politicians and businesses that are hard put to declare the sources of their funding. In the case of the latter, they prefer not to be open on who they fund and why.

South Africa has an enabling and appropriate regulatory framework, which encourages and supports good corporate governance. The most outstanding are the following: the King report, which has been alluded to earlier on, and which was revised in 2002 and has come to be known as King II. It emphasises voluntary compliance upon which the entity is listed. It requires that companies should report on their financial results as well as their social responsibility and impact. The Public Finance Management Act and the Local Government: Municipal Finance Management Act are applicable to all tiers of government and the state-owned enterprises.

These pieces of legislation ensure that good corporate governance in the Public Service is the order of the day. What is good about them is that they include criminal sanctions, the checks and balances we referred to earlier.

The Companies Act, as amended in 1973, is being reviewed to make it compliant with the modern-day needs of corporate governance. We know, however, that Rome was not built in a day.

The gaps and contradictions that exist in the Public Finance Management Act and the Companies Act, in respect of state-owned enterprises, have been noted and the necessary alignment is being attended to. In common lingo, we may say it is in the pipeline, but don’t ask how long the pipeline is. The all-important matter is that the shortcomings have been observed by us, South Africans, and are being rectified.

The need for socially responsible investment cannot be overemphasised. While companies are doing their utmost in protecting their brands and reputation through reporting on socially responsible investment, it has become clear that there is a great measure of docility on shareholder activism and pension fund trusteeship. There have been instances of funds from such bodies being used without the knowledge of the shareholders.

Recommendations tabled on socially responsible investment include, amongst other things, the following: the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Department of the Public Service and Administration and the SA Human Rights Commission should address the gaps in legislation that focus on access to information.

The protection of whistleblowers has to be encouraged. There are so many honest people that have been summarily dismissed after blowing the whistle. The actual practice negates the intention, as the junior is supposed to report to the very senior he may have problems with.

The gaps in the procurement system make it easy for unscrupulous people to exploit the situation. It is unfortunate that of all the trade union federations, only Cosatu made a presentation. Thanks to their frankness, the Ad hoc Committee on Corporate Governance learnt that the union is at ease with the post-1994 labour framework, the reduction of the labour market inequalities and sustainable employment.

The committee gleaned from the presentation that there is a great need for dialogue between the unions, the government and the private sector on questions of labour and market flexibility.

While Cosatu welcomes the ratification of major international labour conventions that, among other things, seek to abolish forced labour, promote equality, eliminate child labour and improve occupational health and safety in the workplace, especially on the mines, they lament the delay in the ratification of other conventions, such as Convention 183 on maternity protection and international instruments on the rights of migrant workers.

The ad hoc committee recommends that outstanding international conventions should be ratified by Parliament as a matter of urgency, because, just like justice, a right delayed is a right denied. I thank you. [Time expired.] [Applause.]

Mr M R MOHLALOGA: Hon Chairperson, hon members, the inclusion of a section on the assessment of socioeconomic development in the African Peer Review Mechanism demonstrates the strong view and commitment that has been taken by the leaders of the African continent to continually seek means to improve the wellbeing and standard of living of our people. The socioeconomic development aspect of the review seeks to ensure that states accelerate measures to address poverty and underdevelopment. Areas of concern which we dealt with include education, health, HIV and Aids, shelter, electricity, water and sanitation, information and communication technology, CT, gender equality and the protection of vulnerable groups.

The mandate of the Joint Ad Hoc Committee on Socioeconomic Development was to assess South Africa’s progress in addressing socioeconomic development challenges and the manner in which we honour the commitments that we make to the international community and to our people.

The committee was thus tasked to create an avenue for the people of South Africa to participate in the country’s review process. Consequently, we requested the people of South Africa to make submissions. We held public hearings, which were attended by various stakeholders, including civil society organisations, community leaders and research organisations representing a wide spectrum of South Africans. As a result, we received more than 60 submissions from the public with regard to our areas of focus.

The public hearings provided a platform for both members of the committee and the public to reflect on and assess the programmes, mechanisms and measures that have been put in place to redress the legacy of apartheid and to ensure a better life for all our people. On the whole, the country is on course with regard to all of these areas. There are still challenges in moving forward. There are various interventions that are necessary in order to open up more frontiers for opportunities for all.

Various recommendations were made, particularly aimed at ensuring that the policy and legislative framework that has been established since the demise of apartheid regime in 1994 indeed translates into appropriate and effective intervention measures that will redress the legacy of inequality.

The committee has compiled a comprehensive report outlining its findings and recommendations in terms of South Africa’s progress in the areas indicated above. I will just paraphrase some of the findings and recommendations.

South Africa has signed and ratified most of the relevant international instruments highlighted in the APRM questionnaire, and is generally compliant with their reporting requirements. The country has also promulgated a number of national pieces of legislation and created programmes and initiatives to give effect to the obligations arising from these international commitments.

However, the country still has to submit its report to the United Nations on the state of the child, as required by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. This instrument obligates the state to ensure that every child has access to benefits from social security.

Some of the key recommendations we made arising from our public hearings include that the government should investigate the socioeconomic implications of the extension of the child support grant to cover all poor children under the age of 18 years, as well as the extension of the school feeding scheme to secondary schools.

Since the country’s first democratic election in 1994, the South African government has adopted the sustainable human development approach to transform and redress the legacy of apartheid underdevelopment. These programmes are informed by the commitments that are made nationally and to various international forums, such as the Millennium Summit and the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

The major challenge that we face with regard to sustainable development in South Africa is the role of vulnerable groups such as women, the youth, people living with disabilities and rural communities in terms of development structures and the desired benefits therefrom. Vulnerable groups such as women, the youth and people with disabilities still have a larger share of the poverty burden, which can also be explained by their disadvantaged position in the labour market in terms of their jobs and income.

We therefore recommend the removal of all institutional and social constraints to the participation of these communities in development structures and institutions, particularly at the level of local government.

The country has put in place various mechanisms that are aimed at meeting the basic needs of our people. It has also put in place programmes and initiatives aimed at ensuring that every South African has a decent living standard and economic security.

While considerable effort has been made to improve the standard of living of the poor, the major challenge still facing the country is the spatial distribution of poverty that remains highly concentrated in the poorer provinces of our country. If South Africa does not put in place effective poverty intervention measures, meeting the Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty by 2015, things could be a bit slippery.

We recommend that municipalities play a more aggressive role in eradicating poverty in our communities and that government, in partnership with the private sector, explore innovative employment measures to ensure that we eliminate unemployment.

With regard to the transformation of the country’s health care system, the government has promulgated a number of pieces of legislation to ensure that the broader South African society has equal access to health care, health services and facilities. The major challenge facing health care in South Africa is that many new clinics and district health care centres are not yet adequately functional, because of a lack of personnel and expanding demands.

This is exacerbated by the fact that, in many instances, rural health care is compromised by a lack of infrastructure, including basic services such as roads, water and electricity, in the implementation of the primary health care approach. One of the key recommendations is that we need to develop a sustainable skills development strategy for this sector. Again, medical aid schemes should devise mechanisms to ensure that even those who earn less have access to medical aid schemes as well.

South Africa has initiated a comprehensive response to communicable and noncommunicable diseases. The country has also developed a comprehensive response to the adverse challenges of the HIV/Aids pandemic. This includes access to medication, nutrition and information. However, the pandemic continues to have a ravaging impact on the labour market, including health care.

The pandemic has also resulted in a sharp increase in the incidence of tuberculosis. We have achieved high levels of awareness with regard to HIV/Aids and, moving forward, we should devise strategies to occasion behavioural change that is in sync with levels of awareness. Again, we also need to ensure that the roll-out of ARVs is accompanied by a comprehensive nutrition programme for those infected by the disease.

Since 1994 the education system in South Africa has undergone significant and extensive restructuring aimed at redressing the many years of unjust policies in education. This is reflected in the new policy and legislative framework that has been established to give effect to the goals and values that seek to achieve greater access and equity in education, particularly by poor communities. In addition, the enrolment of girls is more than 90%, indicating a high overall participation rate. This is a higher enrolment rate than in most developing countries.

The greatest challenge in redressing the legacy of apartheid lies in farm schools and the poorer provinces like the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. These provinces are still faced with a large concentration of schools with poor infrastructure and lack key facilities such as laboratories. We recommend that we need to set targets for eliminating illiteracy and that school fees should be abolished in all farm schools, as a standard policy.

With regard to water and sanitation, since the demise of the apartheid regime in 1994 the South African government has strongly located basic services for citizens within a rights-based approach. Access to potable water, sanitation and electricity is enshrined in the Constitution as a human right, as is the right to live in a healthy environment.

South Africa’s legislative and policy framework reflects the urgent need to implement integrated cross-sector approaches to water, sanitation and electricity services. The major challenge that we face in effectively implementing the free basic service policy is, amongst other things, related to poor infrastructure or the lack of it.

In winter we, as a country, have drought problems, while in summer we have flooding problems, except here in the Western Cape where it happens the other way round. As part of responding to this challenge, we recommend that our people should be encouraged to use water-harvesting tanks and explore the possibility of building more dams.

Since 1994 South Africa has focused on the managed liberalisation of telecommunications through a new regulatory framework that has been aimed at ensuring affordable access to information communication technology, ICT, for the poor. However, despite the legislative reform since 1994, the telecommunications sector in South Africa continues to be characterised by relatively inaccessible prices on the part of the poor people, licensing delays and deadlocks.

Internet access, particularly in poorer communities, is also of great concern. We recommend that those telephone lines that were cut off and which were rolled out as part of the obligations imposed on the incumbent fixed-line operator be reactivated, in line with our universal service and access objectives.

Access to housing and land in South Africa is at the forefront of the national agenda for settlement and social transformation. It is also an integral part of government’s commitment to reducing poverty and improving the quality of lives of our people.

Although the new government inherited a critical housing shortage, with the 1996 census reflecting a housing backlog of 2,2 million houses, since 1994 the state has built more than 1,8 million housing units – providing more than 5 million people with secure homes. And we think that there is a need to aggressively roll out the building of houses. We should also engage the private sector, particularly banks, in eliminating barriers to housing finance, particularly for people who do not qualify for the government housing subsidy.

South Africa stands out in Africa and indeed in the world for successfully putting a large number of women into formal political institutions since

  1. South Africa has one of the most comprehensive national gender machineries in the world and it is generally acknowledged for being a model of best practice. The country’s commitment to gender equality clearly demonstrates that it is imperative that more women are elected to public office, in line with giving substance to a culture of human rights.

We recommend that all government departments and entities should provide detailed progress reports on their employment equity plans and targets when reporting to Parliament. We further recommend shareholder activism with regard to gender equity in the workplace.

In conclusion, it is indeed a great honour for the members of my committee and the staff to have been part of this landmark process. The experiences that we gained in this process continue to enrich the work of other committees, particularly in response to the challenges that have been identified.

The committee is also grateful for the commitment, dedication and zeal that have been displayed by all members in undertaking the task of engaging with the APRM questionnaire and the process. Despite their varied political backgrounds, members worked together to ensure the successful review of our country. It is indeed such a commitment that makes the work of Parliament truly effective and responsive to the needs of our people. Thank you. [Applause.]

Mrs S V KALYAN: Thank you, Chairperson. Madam Speaker, when you were asked what criteria were used to select hon members to sit on the joint ad hoc committees, your reply was that you chose people who had energy. On reflection, I must say it was a joke not lightly made, as this complex process of the African Peer Review Mechanism meant hard work and long hours. Be that as it is may, I would like to say that it was an honour and a privilege to be part of the process and that it was a most rewarding experience.

The tenet that informed the socioeconomic development focus group was to highlight appropriate policies, legislative frameworks and delivery mechanisms in key social development areas which advanced the conditions of the people in South Africa.

To this end, public consultations and hearings were held, and we heard a total of 27 presentations. Regrettably, there were no sporting clubs or cultural bodies that came to give their views. We also did a review of international instruments and standards, as well as an audit of national statutes and policies.

While South Africa has signed or ratified most of them, we face two main challenges, namely that this country has still not submitted its report on the state of the children to the UN, and that, secondly, we have signed but not ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. No reason could be advocated for this oversight and ratifying it will not impose any greater obligation than our Constitution currently does.

A major challenge facing sustainable development in South Africa is the vulnerable groups of women, youth and people with disabilities. They carry a large share of the burden of poverty, and we strongly recommend that these vulnerable groups be placed at the forefront of development projects to ensure that the millennium goal of halving poverty by 2015 is reached.

We found in our focus group that there is a major challenge facing health care in South Africa, in that many clinics and the district health system are not yet adequately functional owing to a lack of personnel, finances and poor administration. We hope that this will be addressed as a matter of urgency. Also, our report recommends that a situational analysis on the extent of the impact of HIV/Aids on pensioners and an accurate recording of causes of death be done to create appropriate responses to the pandemic.

I will not go on further to state what the recommendations are, as the chairperson of our committee did that adequately. In conclusion, I would like to say that the timing of the APRM could not have been more appropriate given that we celebrate the tenth anniversary of our Constitution this year on 8 May.

The APRM is still in its infancy, with only 4 out of 23 countries having produced final reports. It was a worthwhile exercise despite the extremely tight time constraints. I would like to place on record sincere thanks to the chairperson, the hon Mohlaloga, for his guidance and leadership and to the entire committee. Special words of praise and appreciation go to Zama Mvelase and Namhla Manjezi, who were excellent support staff. What remains now for us is to put the recommendations into action. Thank you.

Mrs C DUDLEY: Hon Chair, Madam Speaker, it has been a pleasure and a privilege for me to participate in the parliamentary process on the African Peer Review Mechanism, through my work in the Ad Hoc Committee on Socioeconomic Development. It has been a pleasure working with colleagues and support staff in this committee.

The report on socioeconomic development states that it reflects the views and lived experiences of a cross-section of South Africans, and that it would be important for Parliament, government and civil society organisations to further investigate some of the issues raised.

From the report it would appear that South Africa has a sound legal framework for the consolidation of democracy, the progressive realisation of socioeconomic rights and the acceleration of development. However, the unintended consequences of policy and legislation, service delivery and the capacity of local government may require more focused attention.

Parliament’s participation in this process is important, but effective only to the degree to which the public participate or indeed have participated in the democratic process throughout the preceding years. With the tight time-frames necessary to meet the deadline set by the APRM, Parliament’s efforts to reach society as a whole and evaluate their input are severely limited.

Members of Parliament, however, play a critical role in ensuring that the views of the public, as they have been expressed through submissions, hearings, demonstrations and petitions throughout the preceding years, are not overlooked when research is taking place.

Parliament’s involvement in the APRM has opened a door to increased civil society participation, and offers the potential for an increasingly meaningful process to develop which will positively impact South Africans at all levels of society.

One of the most insightful recommendations in the report is the emphasis on local government as the primary vehicle for increased civil society participation. The observation is that local government is in the best position to maximise the impact of civil society poverty alleviation initiatives.

The suggestion that funding, sponsorships and facilitation of services should come from local government will, of course, require that adequate funding for this purpose is acknowledged at national and provincial levels, and that capacity to co-ordinate effectively and efficiently is put in place. This report views poverty alleviation as being, to a large extent, dependent on the enhancement of municipal institutional capacity and the mobilisation of additional resources, and calls on local government to “assume their legally enshrined implementation powers to effectively implement poverty intervention measures”

During the public hearings, many important issues were brought to the attention of the committee. Some of these issues clearly represented challenges for government, others for legislatures and local government, and others for civil society.

One of the presentations that stood out for me focused on the overindebtedness of our society, stating that 5 million people are economically disempowered annually owing to money lenders having unfettered access to borrowers through garnishee orders.

Another excellent presentation highlighted the critical need for an accurate needs analysis to be done in all departments, with housing and welfare being two examples of the currently inadequate attention to this detail, which is hampering service delivery.

Contentious issues such as the impact of gambling legislation on poverty levels, the impact of legislation protecting adult pornography on rape and abuse of women and children, and the impact on society of the legalisation of abortion on demand were not considered in this process. But as this process matures the people of South Africa will no doubt find ways of ensuring that issues close to their hearts will be highlighted in future.

This ambitious project was daunting, and I personally feel that our Parliament has succeeded in at least not being overwhelmed by the enormity of the task, and not procrastinating. There has been, in my view, a diligent and sincere attempt at taking an honest look at ourselves and our country despite the obvious limitations.

This process establishing the African Peer Review Mechanism in South Africa is a pioneering work. It is only a beginning, and its ultimate success will depend on the degree to which the public choose to aggressively own and have an impact on the process in future. The public, of course, hold the ultimate key as they exercise their vote at election time and hold all office bearers accountable.

The ACDP applauds the decision to continue this process with an independent review of Parliament, with Parliament’s oversight role being an area of particular concern. I thank you. [Applause.]

The CHAIRPERSON OF COMMITTEES: Hon Chairperson of the National Council Of Provinces, distinguished special delegates, hon Ministers and Deputy Ministers, hon members, fellow colleagues and comrades, for too long the role of parliaments in Africa has been relegated to the periphery of the international body politic, thus denying the electorate the opportunity to influence and shape public discourse on strategic issues of international development.

The birth of the African Union has heralded a new era that enjoins African states to act in partnership and solidarity in addressing the challenges of underdevelopment and backwardness. It is an era that represents a critical watershed in the changing international body politic in which parliaments, as elected institutions of the people, should occupy central stage in the facilitation and stimulation of public discourse on issues of development. This has become particularly imperative against the background of the strengthening of global civil society advocacy in having a say in the shaping of public discourse on issues of development.

The African Peer Review Mechanism country self-assessment process provides the country with a noble opportunity to determine the extent to which it has moved forward in undoing the legacy of colonialism by specifically looking at how its policies have impacted on the lives of the people since the 1994, April 27 democratic breakthrough.

Contrary to some pessimists who view the parliamentary process as a wasteful duplication of the process driven by the governing council, it is our view that the two processes complement and reinforce each other in a meaningful way. This is not only because of the constitutional imperative that Parliament exercises oversight over the executive, but more importantly that African parliaments are inspired to begin to assert their independence and oversight over the executive.

Whilst noting the sterling work of the co-ordinating council in the public participation processes, we are pleased to report to this august House that the parliamentary process has targeted areas that ordinarily could not have been covered by the governing council.

Regarding the community outreach programmes, Parliament, through its joint ad hoc committees, has successfully held 16 public meetings in eight of the nine provinces, targeting rural, semiurban and urban communities. The public meetings were able to solicit almost 1 035 written submissions, over and above dozens of oral submissions covering a wide range of areas outlined in the self-assessment questionnaire.

Whilst the overriding message arising from our people through this outreach programme is a message of hope about the future, it is equally worth noting that the ideal of a people-centred and driven approach to development and reconstruction has not been pursued with the maximum vigour and impact it was supposed to have been. This came across through some submissions, which clearly reflected a lack of understanding and awareness of certain governance programmes to respond to the developmental challenges of our communities. In part, this programme also relates to the inadequacies of the broad government communication strategy at a local level. We are quite certain that this is a challenge facing government in all spheres, and that it is not an exclusive local-government capacity challenge as some amongst us may hasten to conclude.

Ten years after the dawn of our democracy, access to the courts and health facilities in the rural communities, owing to distances, remains a critical challenge that requires urgent and integrated attention. Our people also feel marginalised in our courts of law owing to problems related to language, when Afrikaans and English are being used as the medium of communication irrespective of the linguistic affiliation of the communities they are intended to service.

You go to a community that is by and large a Sotho-speaking community, but right from the clerk at the entrance of the court, everybody is either speaking Afrikaans or English. That is a barrier in itself. So we are calling upon government to make a decisive intervention in that respect, because in no way can we justifiably talk of access to justice when the majority of our people, who have been the victims of the legacy of apartheid and colonialism, are still faced with these kinds of barriers. We hope that our government will heed this challenge and intervene appropriately.

Our people have spoken and in their own voices have declared unflinchingly that South Africa has become a better country to live in than it was before

  1. Allow me to quote directly from some of the instructive submissions presented during our community outreach programmes. I quote:

We request that our government should consider middle-income earners when talking about housing. The majority is blacklisted by credit bureaus and the past system is partly to blame, because finance was not easily accessible. We do not have sites. They are in the hands of private developers who inflate prices. The present system seems to be overlooking us as well. Please assist us.

This is the submission by Mr John Sisane from Bila Bila in Limpopo. The submission addresses not just an individual problem, but a problem that confronts our country as a whole. If all of us had been watching developments in our country in the recent past, we would have seen the Minister of Housing making announcements which, amongst other things, acknowledged the challenges that have been facing government in relation to housing delivery, particularly as they relate to middle-income earners. I think the hon Mohlaloga alluded to this point.

So we hope that the recent initiatives that have been announced by the Minister of Housing will be proper interventions in response to this particular crisis.

It therefore becomes imperative to call upon the private sector, the banking sector in particular, to adopt a humane developmental stance in its profiteering by contributing to this national developmental imperative.

There can certainly be no sustainable and positive economic development when the majority of the people, the workers in particular, who are the bedrock of economic growth, are marginalised from the proceeds of their country’s wealth. In this regard, the call of the Freedom Charter that “The people shall share in the country’s wealth” should be our road map in addressing this particular problem.

The problem of getting people with disabilities into our integrated development programmes remains a challenge within our communities. Much as we have a comprehensive national disability strategy and attendant disability machinery within our government, there continues to be a major challenge in our planning to integrate issues of disability. It seems that only the organised voices of disabled people in South Africa are aware of the kinds of programmes South African people have that are aimed at addressing their specific needs. But when you go to the rural areas, where people are not organised, where people do not have access to the Internet or websites, you are really faced with a serious challenge.

We are therefore calling on government to have an integrated programme for rolling out programmes and information campaigns that target this particular important sector within our society. Statistics SA can play a critical role in providing statistics at all levels of our government in this regard.

In conclusion, we are confident that as part of tackling some pertinent issues arising out of these outreach programmes, Parliament will develop integrated oversight priority plans on the basis of which these issues can be followed up by the relevant committees. The exercise was bound not to be perfect as it was a new experience for all of us, but many exciting lessons were drawn which will enrich our future engagement with this process. More importantly, the information acquired through this exercise will serve as a useful instrument for government departments and our parliamentary committees in forging ahead with the people’s contract in our ongoing fight against poverty and joblessness.

We are confident that the recently adopted Accelerated Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa will go a long way towards responding to some of the pertinent challenges identified in all the reports that have been presented to this august House.

I must report that after the adoption of this report by the two Houses, it will then be submitted to the focal point, which is led by the Minister for the Public Service and Administration, the hon Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, who will take the process of country self-assessment forward. I thank you. [Applause.]

Debate concluded.

The Joint Sitting rose at 15:50.