A Brief History of Hansard
Hansard is the official report of all proceedings which take place inside the parliamentary or legislative Chamber. Its origins date back to the 18th century when transcripts of debates in the British parliament began to appear in print.
At first the publication of any transcripts of parliamentary proceedings was deemed to be illegal, and it was only in 1771, after a long and protracted court battle, that it became legal for parliamentary debates to be transcribed and made public. Until then all parliamentary sittings were strictly held in private, and members of the public were not even allowed to enter the so-called “public gallery” while sittings were in progress.
The name “Hansard” was derived from the family name of Luke Hansard and his son Thomas Curson Hansard who were the government printers in the service of the British parliament. During the 60 years of the Hansard family’s publication of parliamentary debates, the name “Hansard” became synonymous with the printed debates. Some Commonwealth parliaments have deviated from this tradition, and simply call transcripts of parliamentary debates the “Official Report.”
The history of Hansard in South Africa dates back to 1910 when parliamentary debates of the then Union of South Africa were published in leather-bound volumes. In 2010 the South African Hansard celebrated its 100th anniversary.
The HLS Unit in the KZN Legislature was established in October 2005 and consists of 14 staff members, excluding vacancies which are in the process of being filled. Prior to the establishment of an in-house Hansard and Language Services Unit, the transcription of debates was outsourced to a private company. When the HLS Unit was established, the Legislature discontinued its analogue system and replaced it with a digital recording system called For the Record.
How does Hansard work?
The HLS Unit’s primary function is to report the proceedings of the House. Every sitting of the House is recorded and Members’ speeches, interjections, points of order, as well as announcements and/or rulings by the Presiding Officer are transcribed, edited and made available in printed form.
During sittings of the House, Members will be approached by service officers who will request them to make available copies of their speech notes. These notes greatly assist transcribers who must ensure that speeches are correctly transcribed. Members are encouraged to send electronic copies of their speeches or reports to the Hansard Control Editors (see details below), and any embargo on such material will be respected.
Mr Buyani Mdluli
Control Editor (isiZulu)
Office: 033 3557545
Fax: 033 355 7588 or 086 573 2361
Mr Allan Parrott
Control Editor (English)
Office: 033 3557571
Fax: 033 355 7588 or 086 573 1664
Electronic copies of Hansard debates will be made available to Members on compact discs (CDs) as soon as they are available. Members are requested to ensure that their correct mailing details are provided to Mrs Nomusa Gina (Tel 033 3557667).
The HLS Unit records all off-site sittings of the KZN Legislature, as well as the proceedings of the Youth Parliament, Workers’ Parliament, Women’s Parliament, Parliament for People with Disabilities, Senior Citizens’ Parliament, Learners’ Parliament, People’s Assembly, Inter-faith Symposia, et cetera. The unit also records proceedings of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa); the Portfolio Committee on Finance and all public hearings on Bills.
Hansard has no editorial policy, except the pursuit of excellence and accuracy. The unit is not hampered by conceptions of news value, and has no bias towards either person or political party. Its objective is to provide an impartial, accurate and a largely verbatim report of the proceedings of the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature.
The three official languages of the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature are isiZulu, English and Afrikaans and Members may deliver speeches in any of these three languages.
Apart from recording, editing, proofreading and publishing the debates of the House, the unit also renders translation and interpreting services to the Legislature. The unit also edits and proofreads the KZN Legislature’s Annual Report, Annual Operational Plans, Annual Performance Plans, as well as any official publication that may be referred to it.
Bills, explanatory memoranda, schedules and other official documents such as petitions are regularly translated by the Hansard and Language Services Unit.
Interpreting is provided during sittings of the House, off-site sittings of the KZN Legislature, sector parliaments, committee meetings (on request), pre-hearings on Bills, public hearings on Bills and any educational workshops pertaining to legislation.
It should be noted that the HLS Unit provides simultaneous interpreting mainly in two languages (isiZulu and English) during sittings of the House, as well as consecutive interpreting during committee meetings and public hearings. Members are urged to use the language of their choice during sittings. Members are issued with headphones to enable them to follow interpreting during proceedings of the House.
The HLS Unit of the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature forms part of the Commonwealth Hansard Editors’ Association (Africa Region), as well as the international Commonwealth Hansard Editors’ Association (Chea). To date the unit has represented the KZN Legislature at various meetings and conferences held in South Africa, as well as Tanzania, Uganda, the United Kingdom, India, Trinidad and Tobago.
Hansard editors are also involved in national and provincial structures of the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB), the Department of Arts and Culture and tertiary institutions offering language training.
Conclusion Without the HLS Unit, there would be no record of our history as a people, as a province or as a nation. Thanks to the work done by the dedicated staff of this unit, Members’ speeches and comments, their perspectives and perceptions, their thoughts and their ideals are captured for posterity and will be read by scholars, intellectuals, sociologists, historians and other learned men and women in years and decades to come.
Hansard and Language Services Unit
1st floor: Administration Building
244 Langalibalele Street
Manager: Ms Jacqueline Stone
Hansard & Language Services (English)
Office: 033 3557557
Fax: 033 3557588 or 086 573 2973
Manager: Mr Mqondisi Ngcobo
Hansard & Language Services Manager (isiZulu)
Office: 033 3557552
Fax: 033 3557588 or 086 573 4462