Kader Asmal
Cape Town - An outcry over the short time given to the public to make written submissions on whether they would support a single human rights body has forced Parliament to extend the deadline.

This happened as Parliament finally acted on a long-standing recommendation of an ad hoc committee that had recommended the establishment of a single human rights body.

The committee, led by the late Kader Asmal, was appointed in 2006 to review Chapter 9 institutions and associated bodies, and to provide Parliament with a report in 2007.

It recommended, among others, that a South African Commission on Human Rights and Equality be established. It had envisaged that the then National Youth Commission, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities and the Commission for Gender Equality would be incorporated into the Human Rights Commission.

This was after it had found that the multiplicity of institutions responsible for protecting and promoting the rights of specific constituencies, resulted in an uneven spread of available resources and capacities. However, the recommendations were never acted upon for more than a decade. But now, the Knowledge Information Services Division (KISD), a unit attached to the office of the Speaker of Parliament, Baleka Mbete, is undertaking an in-depth research study on the committee’s recommendations.

It has called for public submissions, which were initially advertised in newspapers on Sunday.

The deadline for submissions should have been next week - Thursday.

But this has been extended to May 31 following a public outcry.

The move has irked the official opposition, which raised concerns about the time provided for submissions - and then wrote to Mbete asking for another extension.

Parliament’s spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said the date for submissions was extended due to “requests from civil society, among others, that the time was too short to make submissions”.

Mothapo said Parliament had in the previous term recommended that the current national legislature deal with the ad hoc committee’s recommendations.

“This process was started in September 2015 by the current presiding officers,” he said.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said his party welcomed the long-overdue consideration of the findings and the recommendations of the Kader Asmal Report.

“However, we object to the seeming haste with which the OISD wants to complete public participation,” Steenhuisen said.

He also said it was astonishing that the Office on Institutions Supporting Democracy gave the public less than two weeks to provide submissions.

Political Bureau