APPENDIX C : (Item 4 on the Agenda )

Letter from Chief Whip: Official Opposition, Mr. Douglas Gibson MP

Date 13 May 2004

Re: Role of the Official Opposition and representation in various Bodies

1. At the meeting held by the Speaker on 4 May 2004 and attended by representatives of all of the Parties I was requested to make submission concerning the role of the Opposition and the representation of the opposition in various bodies.

2. The background to this matter this is that the former speaker, Dr F Ginwala stated towards the end of the previous Parliament that one of the unfinished matters still requiring attention was the role of the Leader of Opposition, the role of the Official- Opposition and flowing from that the question of me representation of Parliament through the opposition or number of bodies such as the Judicial Service Commission, the Magistrates Commission, the SADEC Parliamentary Forum, the Pan African Parliament and on delegations to foreign countries

3. The role of the Leader of the Official Opposition has received no consideration at all since Mr FW de Klerk stepped down from the Deputy Presidency and became Leader of the Opposition. Some hurried arrangements were made at that time but there has been no dialogue between the parties on this subject since then. I propose that it would be appropriate for the Secretariat to do a comparative study of the arrangements Commonwealth Parliaments make for the Leader of the Opposition. In addition to some of the older democracies such as the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, they should look particularly at countries such as Trinidad and Tobago, Ghana and Botswana. Upon receipt of the study it is suggested that proposals be formulated for discussion between the parties.

4. The role of the Official Opposition is also in embryonic form only. Because an election has just taken place it is appropriate to consider the role of the Opposition.

5. Apart from the fact that the Leader and the Chief Whip are recognised as office bearers of Parliament the only other special provisions relate to some financial contribution by the State to the office of the Leader of the Opposition and salary provisions for the Leader and the Chief Whip. Apart from this there has been an acceptance, confirmed recently, that the political parties participate in debates, in question time. In members statements and in motions in order of size, thus giving the Official Opposition the first place after the Government.

6. There has also been an acceptance that in any debate where a Minister leads off the Official Opposition should have the next response.

7. When the South African Parliament is to be represented on foreign tours there has been a formula which generally accepts that the Official Opposition should be represented on all such tours if the composition includes more than two persons.

8. The situation has become more difficult and problematic when it comes to representation on outside bodies such as the Pan African Parliament and the Judicial Service Commission. . In respect of the latter, for example, section 178(1){h) of the Constitution provides that "six persons designated by the National Assembly from among its members, at least three of whom must be members of opposition parties represented in the Assembly." What has been happening over the recent past is that unless there is absolute unanimity on the part of all of the many opposition parties and even If only one party disagrees, the ANC effectively decides who the opposition representatives shall be. It is submitted that this is inappropriate and in fact unconstitutional

9. I submit further that ft more Than one opposition member to be elected, the Official Opposition should receive one of the seats and that the parties should negotiate about which of them would provide the other candidate or candidates. I suggest that the opposition members of Parliament should then meet and elect the representatives of the opposition.

10. The matter is simplified. In any event. If an election takes place among opposition members. If the Official Opposition acted unreasonably It would soon find that the other political parties would find ways to assert themselves.

1I. These thoughts are of a preliminary nature and need to be discussed and properly considered. An early opportunity for such a discussion would be appreciated.