The Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) supports the Alliance for Rural Democracy in its call for Parliament to review the status of Mr Tjetha Mofokeng as the Chairperson of the Select Committee on Security and Constitutional Development, following his actions on 24 October 2012 in the committee meeting. While FEDUSA and other civil society organisations expected the committee to provide their report of the public hearings that took place in September 2012, many were shocked that it was the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ) that delivered the report, and more controversial was the fact that only 2 of the 22 public submissions were included in the report.
FEDUSA was one of a number of organisations and community groups that submitted written opposition to the controversial Bill. Due to an overwhelming response from the public, only 22 groups were giving the opportunity to present their oral submissions in the public hearings held by the National Council of Provinces Select Committee chaired by Mofokeng. During the hearings, public representatives which expressed their opposition to the Bill and called for the Bill to be scrapped were told in the hearings that this was not a valid request, due to the Bill already being within the Parliamentary process. In the Committee meeting held on 24 October 2012, Mofokeng explained that twenty of the twenty-two submissions that were heard by the Committee were “irrelevant”, and thus he himself instructed the DOJ to “disregard” them in the report.
Martle Keyter, FEDUSA Vice-President for Gender states: “This is a gross manipulation of the Parliamentary legislative process. Not only has the Chairperson’s actions shown a great disregard and disrespect for the concerns and voice of the public, but he has also skewed the process in asking the Department for Justice and Constitutional Development to present a report, on behalf of the Committee, on the very Bill that they have proposed”. “What purpose does a public consultation process serve, if views that present opposition are considered to be irrelevant?” Keyter said.
FEDUSA is furthermore gravely concerned with the fact that Mofokeng appears to have taken such a decision himself, rather than through a joint committee decision. Opposition MPs who sit on the committee expressed outrage in the meeting, and one member rightly pointed out that an account of the public submissions that fails to reflect the overwhelming call for the Bill to be scrapped would be grossly inaccurate. Keyter continued: “FEDUSA is strongly opposed to the Bill due to its disregard for human rights enshrined in our Constitution. It seems that the voice of the public is being ignored in order to push through a Bill that will benefit and enforce the power of a certain few, and this brings Mofokeng’s role as chairperson of the Committee into question”.
FEDUSA General Secretary Dennis George states: “Such conduct by leaders in Parliament should not be tolerated as the concern and opinion of the public is clearly being disregarded. FEDUSA will address a letter to Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to urge him to investigate the conduct of the committee regarding this occurence”.
FEDUSA is of the opinion that in light of this, Mr Mofokeng’s status should be reviewed and a revised accurate account of the public consultation process should be delivered to Parliament. Not only should such a report include the concerns of the 22 submissions made in Parliament, but should also report on the greater number of written submissions that the Committee received that vehemently opposed the adoption of the Bill.