Parliament: 11 Nov 2009

I am sitting in Room V454 in the Old Assembly Building in Parliament, Cape Town. Today the room is full of high ranking officials and the Portfolio Committee for Police (PCP), as scheduled, started at 9am on the dot. There is a lot to get through today, and the focus remains on Phase 1 of the Bill which deals with the integration of the 3 fingerprint databases in South Africa. There have however been a great deal of references made to the DNA Section of the Bill, particularly the definition of intimate and non intimate samples, which is going to be dealt with in Phase 2 of the Bill. I am encouraged by this, because it ensures that the DNA Section of the Bill, that is Phase 2, remains on the agenda, albeit it will be a tough round in Phase 2, judging from the issues raised with the taking and definition of samples! The public submissions were also looked at briefly today, and having personally read through all of them, it surprises me as to how many submissions are based on a basic misunderstanding of how DNA profiling is used in a Criminal context, as well as a lack of understanding of how a National DNA Database is used for criminal intelligence purposes. Have a look at the Parliamentary Monitoring Group Website if you feel moved to read through some of the submissions made. These will in any event all be dealt with in detail in Phase 2 of the Bill.

Presentation by Willie Scholtz of the OCJSR, Parliament

Presentation by Willie Scholtz of the OCJSR, Parliament

The good news is that the OCJSR is here today, represented by Willie Scholtz. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this acronym, OCJSR stands for The Office for Criminal Justice System Reform. This is the vehicle through which the package of seven fundamental and far reaching transformative changes to the Criminal Justice Systems (CJS), as approved by Cabinet in 2008, are being effected. The briefing by the OCJSR today is in line with a request that an Interdepartmental Task Team deal with the implementation aspects relating to the Bill in an integrated and holistic manner.

The OCJSR were primarily responsible for pushing this Bill forward in the first place, and then it fell off the radar following the recent elections. It is encouraging that they have resumed their role in this Bill, as a huge amount of time and money has been invested by the OCJSR to date, in overseeing the implementation plan which goes hand in hand with this Bill. As such, their presentation today will reveal how they envisage the successful roll out of this Bill – i.e. through the co-ordinated efforts of a Task Team made up of SAPS, Home Affairs (DHA), Transport (DT), IJS, Correctional Services (DCS) and SITA and the Integrated Justice System (IJS).


Presentation Paper by the OCJSR

The OCJSR are of the opinion that the major provisions of the Bill CAN be implemented on promulgation with the exception of some clauses that are dependent upon modifications and infrastructure upgrades to existing IT systems.

The OCJSR believes that there is nothing that should hold up PHASE 1 (ie Fingerprint section) of the Bill because:

1. there has been consultation inter-departmentally before the Bill was approved by Cabinet as to how this Bill would be implemented going forward;

2. there was extensive consultation during the pre-drafting and drafting stage of the Bill to ensure that the Bill was in fact implementable;

3. it can be categorically stated that all implementation aspects are on track and that there is a clear understanding of what is required by individual role players as well as by the CJS overall;

4. the PCP must give consideration to the Bill with the knowledge that the inevitable risk associated with the implementation of a project of this magnitude are manageable;

5. By approving the Bill, Parliament will provide the CJS with an excellent platform for an effective and efficient CJS.

The PCP seemed generally to accept the Implementation  Plan that was presented today, that is in respect of Phase 1 of the Bill. They however want continuous feedback in respect of the progress of the Bill, problems encountered and challenges overcome. A firm proposal was made that this feedback requirement is made official.

The OCJSR agrees that there needs to be closer communication between the Integrated Justice System (the IJS) and the OCJSR will facilitate the implementation process by the IJS and report back to the PCP with respect to this process.

The Chairperson closed the meeting indicating that she believes that they have a come a long way with regards to the implementation plan and she thanked the members of the Task Team for the presentation today.

Let’s hope that Phase 2 of the Bill is as acceptable…..


One Response to “Parliament: 11 Nov 2009”

  1. Joanne Riley says:

    Thanks for the update, Vanessa. I read with great interest.