African National Congress chief whip Mathole Motshekga addresses the National Assembly debate on Monday on the recent deaths of initiates in Mpumalanga.  Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Mathole Motshekga. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

THE official opposition in Parliament resisted attempts to hold interviews for candidates to fill vacancies at the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in one day, despite limited time for the process to run its course.

The committee agreed that public comment would be allowed between Thursday and September 30. A list of 80 applicants was released for public comment on Thursday so that all interested members of the public can access it.

The committee must select seven people to fill as many vacancies for outgoing SAHRC commissioners by October 25. Only one of the eight commissioners is guaranteed to stay on after the process is concluded, Commissioner Adv Mohamed Ameermia, whose seven-year term started in 2014.

The process leaves members of the public just one week to submit comment and objections before the committee begins the pre-screening and short listing process.

Committee chairman Mathole Motshekga told the committee that it would work under a very tight schedule to fulfil its mandate, and that the committee could not sacrifice public participation in the process.

"We only received the mandate from the house to deal with this matter now, in August, because the house was in recess because of the local government elections. That means that the time available to process this issue is limited," said Motshekga.

The committee eventually agreed to shorten the list of 80 candidates to between 15 and 21. Committee members agreed that the interviews would take place over the course of two days with 45 minutes allowed for each candidate’s interview.

However, when committee member for the ANC Madipoane Mothapo recommended that all 15 to 21 candidates be interviewed on the same day to avoid disadvantaging those who are interviewed earlier, member for the DA Glynnis Breytenbach swiftly shot the suggestion down.

"The idea of holding one day interviews from the Public Protector ad hoc committee process was farcical. They were locked in a room for hours. But they had access to laptops and cellphones and could have streamed the interviews if they so desired," said Breytenbach.

The ad hoc committee tasked with picking a candidate to succeed Thuli Madonsela as public protector sat for over 20 hours last month to interview 14 short-listed candidates.

Committee member for the African Christian Democratic Party Steve Swart suggested a questionnaire be given to short-listed candidates. He also suggested that outgoing commissioners should be given an opportunity to apply to run for new terms if they wish, as they are entitled to.

"We need to keep in mind that commissioners can be reappointed if they apply. This is important because we need a degree of continuity so that you do not have just one already fielded commissioner and seven new ones," said Swart.

The 80 candidates include former speaker of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature Professor Firoz Cachalia, former strategist at the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Elroy Paulus and former Disaster Relief Fund board member Adv Ignatius Mokotjo.