Monday, 24 October 2016

Portfolio Committee meeting minutes - I am elected Acting Chair and face immature ANC behaviour

At the first meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Small Business Development after the election, our Committee Chairperson Hon Ruth Bhengu was off sick so the committee had to elect an acting chair. There were two nominees - me, and Hon Mabasa from the ANC. Due to the poor attendance of ANC MPs I was elected with the ACDP and EFF voting for me and the NFP abstaining.


It is very rare for a non-ANC member to be in the Chair at portfolio committee meetings. Below are the meeting minutes taken by the Parliamentary Monitoring Group staff member who attended the meeting. I'm not sure of his use of the word meme, but the minutes convey the somewhat surreal meeting which ANC members did their best to disrupt.


Committee Minutes: consideration in vernacular

Small Business Development

24 August 2016
Chairperson: Mr T Chance (DA) (Acting)

Meeting Summary

Members elected an opposition member as acting Chairperson and proceeded to discuss the minutes in their various mother tongues. The Acting Chairperson tried to stop the members from engaging in what he termed a "petty and immature political meme" but the majority of Members would not stop. The Committee secretary then acted as translator for those languages he understood. No substantive changes were made to the eight sets of minutes.

Meeting report

As Ms Ruth Bhengu, Committee Chairperson, was absent for the meeting, the members voted Mr T Chance (DA) to chair the meeting.

Mr S Bekwa (ANC), speaking in Zulu, asked for extra time to go through the minutes because he had forgotten his spectacles, so he would be slow in reading the minutes.

The Committee secretary translated what Mr Bekwa had said

Mr R Kruger (DA) then asked how does a soldier leave his rifle when he is going to war.

Some Members started being jestful in their mother tongues about the language barrier that the Chairperson was experiencing

The Acting Chairperson appealed to the Members to stop with the squabbles and stick to the business of the Committee and the agenda. He noted that it is the first time that the English language is not accepted as the language of communication in the Committee. He went on to say that perhaps it is because it is the first time that the Committee meeting is chaired by a DA member. He believed that this is an immature act by the Members.

Mr X Mabasa (ANC) said, in Xitsonga, that he does not understand why the Chairperson made that submission (that it is the first time Members feel the need to communicate in their mother tongues and that a DA Member is chairing the meeting for the first time) to the Members, and if he is going to start using big words big words [squabbles] he must be careful because there is nothing stopping them from doing the same in their own mother tongues.

The Acting Chairperson highlighted that all is he is trying to establish is for the Committee to move forward with the business of the day instead of dwelling on a petty and immature political meme.

Mr Bekwa, in Zulu, said that the Chairperson is now misusing his position, and asked him to stop doing so because, the Members were not going into political memes because this all started with the minutes. So he advised that the Chairperson withdraw from thinking that they are being immature and engaging in a political meme.

Rev K Meshoe (ACDP) asked the Chairperson to rather allow Mr Bekwa to continue reading the minutes at his own pace so that the Committee can proceed with its business.

Mr Mabasa emphasized that the Chairperson should not dictate the time in which Members should complete reading the minutes. Members should be allowed to take as much time as they need. Also you must note that we are come from a racial oppression, and the English language was the language of the oppressors

Mr Kruger advised that Mr Mabasa withdraw his statement that English is the language of the oppressors.

Mr Mabasa explained, in Xitsonga, that he meant the Chairperson should not use the language to oppress the Members, given the history of this country where before language was one of the tools used by the previous government to oppress black people.

The Acting Chairperson highlighted that he does not mean to come across as oppressing towards anyone, all that he is proposing is that the Members finish reading the minutes by half past ten.

Members went through the minutes of 20 October and 4 November 2015, 26 and 27 February and 9, 15, 16 and 22 March 2016 were adopted with minor amendments. However, there were communication constraints with regards to the language of communication as Members continued to discuss their views on the minutes in their mother tongue. The Committee Secretary, Mr King Kunene, translated the languages that he understood into English as the Acting Chairperson was unable to follow.

At the end of the meeting, Mr Kruger asked what language will minutes be written in going forward.

The Committee Secretary, Mr King Kunene, replied that the Committee would have to come up with a resolution in this regard but for now English will be the primary language in which the Committee minutes will be written.

The meeting was adjourned.

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