The DA will today write to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, to have the closing date for written submissions on the “Feasibility of the Establishment of a Single Human Rights Body” extended.
The call for written submissions was first advertised on 14 May, yet the closing date for submissions is 25 May.
Parliament appointed an ad hoc committee, chaired by the late Kader Asmal, in 2006 to undertake a Review of Chapter Nine and Associated Institutions and was presented with a report a year later.
Astonishingly, the Office on Institutions Supporting Democracy (OISD), a unit located in the Office of the Speaker, has now given the public less than two weeks to provide submissions on the process to examine the feasibility of the proposed “single body”.
The institutions affected by this proposal, created by Chapter 9 of the Constitution, include the South African Human Rights Commission, the Commission for Gender Equality, the Pan South African Language Board, and others.
In 2009, Kader Asmal called the failure of Parliament to debate the committee’s report “an appalling scandal”. Now the OISD is engineering another appalling scandal by allowing the public a mere nine working days to weigh in on the process.
As recently as 2 March 2017, I repeated the DA’s call for the establishment of a parliamentary committee to receive and process reports completed by Chapter 9 institutions. Weeks earlier, I had enquired about reports by Chapter 9 institutions which had not been tabled. The Speaker assured me, in writing, that all reports had been tabled, yet no fewer than three SAHRC reports were tabled a week later, one of which dated back to 2014.
The DA welcomes the long-overdue consideration of the findings and the recommendations of the Kader Asmal Report. However, we object to the seeming haste with which the OISD wants to complete public participation. Indeed, we feel that the establishment of a parliamentary committee to receive and process reports completed by Chapter 9 institutions should be prioritised while this process is allowed to run its course.
John Steenhuisen MP
Chief Whip of the Democratic Alliance