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The Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation has resolved to invite both the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, and the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Mr Michael Masutha, to answer questions regarding the court ruling on South Africa’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Officials from the Department of Justice came to brief the Committee on the Constitutional Court ruling and what is being done to comply with the ruling. Acting Chief State Law Advisor, Ms Ayesha Johaar, outlined the process of withdrawal Cabinet followed and said a notice of withdrawal was signed and sent to the office of the United Nations Secretary-General.

“Identical letters were sent to the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces advising them of the Cabinet decision. The letters indicated the reasons and the intention to formulate a Bill to this effect,” Ms Johaar said.

Subsequently, applications were lodged with the Constitutional Court (direct access was denied on the matter). Another application was launched with the Gauteng High Court. The court had to decide whether the withdrawal was constitutional and valid.

Ms Johaar said the implementation of the decision without Parliament was judged to be unconstitutional and invalid, and as such government was ordered to withdraw the notice.

Members voiced dissatisfaction with the absence of political heads, as officials could not deal with questions as they were not decision-makers, only advisors. Committee Member Mr Mosiuoa Lekota said he was concerned that political heads were not at the meeting.

“We are making a mistake to have officials answer on political decisions. Policy of government is not made by employees; they only assist politicians to make decisions. It is embarrassing and we placing ourselves in a difficult situation,” Mr Lekota said.

Committee Member Mr Mangaqa Mncwango concurred that the Ministers had to come and brief the Committee. “We would be barking at a wrong tree if we asked political questions to legal technocrats. If South Africa wants to be a champion for human rights it should be seen to be doing so. We could not seek to be champions of human right and on the other hand we support people who violate human rights in their countries,” Mr Mncwango said.

The Chair clarified that the Committee did not invite Minister Nkoana-Mashabane to address the Committee. Minister Masutha was invited instead, but was sick, and the Acting Minister of Justice, Ms Faith Muthambi, had sent her apologies.

Mr Masango said over and above the invite to the Ministers, he will in the meantime interact with the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Justice on how Parliament will be address with the ICC withdrawal matter.

Members voiced satisfaction with the court ruling as it returned Parliament’s power and role when it came to international treaties. They sought clarity on progress on the technical task team that will develop a compliance road map with the court ruling. It was also revealed that a notice withdrawing the withdrawal notice was sent to the ICC this morning.

The Committee also received a briefing on the Department of Defence’s input into the Foreign Service Bill.

Sibongile Maputi
8 March 2017