Chaired by former President Kgalema Motlanthe and including academics and experts in various fields, the Panel has been visiting provinces, gathering inputs from different stakeholders and The High Level Panel appointed by the Speakers’ Forum to assess the impact of all laws passed by the democratic Parliament since 1994, today began its two-day public consultation meeting with the people of North West Province, to hear whether these laws have been effective in improving their lives or not.communities on the impact of legislation passed since the dawn of democracy, and is expected to report back to the Speakers’ Forum by August this year.

The Speakers’ Forum is an organisation comprising the Speakers and Deputy Speakers of all nine provincial legislatures and the National Assembly, as well as the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

In her welcoming remarks at the Rustenburg Civic Centre, the Speaker of the North West Provincial Legislature Ms Rebecca Dantjie, said the Panel should also include, in the list of laws to be amended or repealed, laws that ware enacted by the former Bophuthatswana Bantustan, which were affecting mainly communities in the province.

“In our province we still have the former Bantustan laws that were not repealed in 1994, such as the 1978 Land Trust Act and our rural people are still governed by these laws,” she said.

The Panel’s Chairperson, Mr Motlanthe, told the more than 500 people from non-governmental organisations, civil society organisations and ordinary community members, that the Panel was established as a result of an undertaking by the Fourth Democratic Parliament to review all laws passed since the dawn of democracy.

“The Speakers’ Forum established this Panel and tasked it with the responsibility to assess the impact of this legislation. We have been mandated to look into the impact of legislation in four broad areas of focus – poverty, unemployment, creating equitable distribution of wealth, land question and social cohesion.  

“Since we started with the work of the Panel, we have interacted with different stakeholders who made written and oral submissions and in addition we saw it important to embark on an outreach programme to get more views from the public, which is why we are here today. Are these laws helping to improve the quality of your lives or only serve to complicate your lives as citizens? We are here to hear you out,” said the former president.

The first organisation to make an input on the day was the Disabled People South Africa (DPSA), which called for legislation to penalise employers who did not meet the agreed 2% employment quota of people living with disabilities.

A representative from the North West office of the DPSA, Mr Karel Legohloho, complained that people with disabilities were still overlooked for skilled employment and only offered jobs as receptionists.

“We wish agreements entered into by government and other parties should be implemented. The 2% employment quota is still not met. Disabled people are only employed as receptionists and not considered for other positions,” he told the Panel.

He also made a proposal for a law to penalise organisations that do not comply with the agreements and suggested that teachers and university lecturers must be trained in sign language and how to handle disabled people.

“Public representatives such as mayors and councillors must be able to communicate in sign language. We call for the teaching of the South African sign language and the availability of Braille in school and all post-school education,” he said.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions’ (Cosatu’s) North West Provincial Educator/Organiser, Mr Kopano Konopi, said the trade union federation welcomed and supported the appointment of the High Level Panel.

“South Africa has achieved a great deal in terms of passing many progressive laws and policies in our 23 years of democracy. However, all too often these progressive laws and policies are not implemented with the full energy and resources that they require by both government and society at large,” said Mr Konopi.

The Cosatu representative called for tertiary education to be made free for students from middle- and working-class families and for housing development not to be far from economic activities.

He also made the following proposals in his submission to the Panel: “Scrap district municipalities, consolidate unsustainable municipalities, merge the two communications departments, and reduce the number of ministers and deputy ministers by 50%, reduce the number of Members of Parliament, Members of Provincial Legislatures and councillors.”

Mr Konopi also proposed that SETAs (Sector Education and Training Authorities) be consolidated and linked to TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) colleges and called for the cancellation of plans to extend nuclear energy in the country.

Like in the other seven provinces that the Panel has visited, the land issue continued to dominate the submissions – with community members making several complaints and proposals.

Mr Kholisile Dingiswayo complained about what he called the “failed land restitution”, which he said his experience of the programme made him and his community poorer than before they got the land

“When the ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ policy failed, there was the Expropriation Bill and little did we know that it will be used against us, we thought it would benefit us,” he said.

The High Level Panel was also asked to advise Parliament not to pass the Traditional Courts Bill, which one community member said “will cause disunity in rural communities” and urged the Panel to “please help us reverse these draconian laws”.

Some of the issues raised by society during the public hearings and did not necessarily speak to the quality of legislation, will be referred to the relevant government structures.

“Such issues do not have to wait for our report, they can be attended to by government. We are going to make sure they reach the relevant departments or ministers. We don’t have to wait for the completion of the report, some of the issues can be resolved immediately,” said former President Kgalema Motlanthe.

By Sakhile Mokoena

1 March 2017