EFF’s early Christmas gift

2014-12-24 08:35

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The Economic Freedom Fighters scored an important psychological and perhaps a political victory when the Western Cape High Court granted the interim relief it sought against Parliament.

The court ordered Parliament to lift the suspension of 20 EFF MPs from the legislature and pay their salaries with immediate effect.

Judge Dennis Davis yesterday said the EFF had made a case for an interim relief to be granted. The party approached the court seeking an interdict to stop the Speaker of National Assembly Baleka Mbete from enforcing the sanctions imposed on EFF MPs by Parliament last month.

Six members of the EFF were suspended for 30 days with no pay, another six were suspended for 14 days without pay and eight were each fined an amount equivalent to 14 days’ salary and allowances and required to apologise to the National Assembly.

The 30-day suspensions would have expired on December 28 and the 14 days’ suspensions expired on December 12.

Davis said the high court would not concern itself with the conduct of EFF MPs on August 21 nor would it rule on whether President Jacob Zuma’s response to a question by EFF leader Julius Malema was satisfactory.

He said those issues fell under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court.

The EFF MPs were found guilty of contempt of Parliament by a parliamentary powers and privileges committee, which deals with MP disciplinary issues and the house adopted the sanctions proposed by the committee, which called for the suspension without pay of 12 MPs, and Parliament imposed a fine equivalent to 14 days work on another eight MPs.

Parliament charged EFF MPs in September after they chanted “pay back the money” to Zuma who had failed to answer EFF leader Julius Malema’s question on when he would pay back the money spent on nonsecurity upgrades at his home in Nkandla.


EFF lawyers, Dumisa Ntsebeza and Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, argued last week that Zuma’s response to Malema was “unintelligible”.

Davis repeated a warning he gave in 2012 when opposition parties approached the high court seeking that it force Parliament to hold a debate on the motion of no confidence on Zuma.

Yesterday, Davis reiterated that politicians were constantly relying on the courts to resolve political matters. He said: “This places a lot of pressure on judges, who find themselves on the frontline. A lot of the political warfare is now turning into ‘lawfare’.”

Delivering his judgment, Davis was scathing of the process the powers and privileges committee followed during its inquiry into the behaviour of EFF MPs.

“A starting point for an inquiry is Section 1 of the Constitution … it’s a majestic proclamation of that which we hold to the best of our society,” he said.

The section proclaims among other things the supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law, a multiparty system of democratic government to ensure accountability and responsiveness and openness.

“These are not values that we should give up lightly. Generations of South Africans fought and died for these values, they are our autobiography and must be taken with utmost seriousness by all South Africans no matter what their political persuasion,” said Davis, getting emotional.

He went to criticise the committee’s failure to consider a submission read out by Malema on behalf of EFF MPs.

Davis also questioned the committee’s decision to impose the strongest sanctions on the EFF MPs instead of examining the alternatives, considering that this was the first time any of the EFF MPs had been brought up on such charges. He said this had been a “very significant” section of Malema’s representation to the committee.

On October 7, Malema said: “We want to remind you that in terms of section 13 (5) (g) of Powers and Privileges Act, the harshest sentence you can impose on us is suspension for 30 days without pay and, further, section 13 (9) provides that such can only be considered after all other sentences have been considered.

“The other sentences include a formal warning, a reprimand, an order to apologise to Parliament or the house or any other person in a manner determined by the house and the withholding, for a specified period, of the members’ right to use or enjoyment of any specified facility provided to members of Parliament.”

Davis questioned the ease with which Parliament suspended EFF MPs, saying the legislature ought to have applied careful analysis of the impact the suspensions would have on the people who voted EFF MPs to represent them in Parliament.

He said the political rights of those citizens who voted for the EFF had to be considered so that that constituency was not disenfranchised.

“Political parties elected to serve in the National Assembly cannot be subservient to the whims of any party,” he said, emphasising the right of EFF MPs to represent its voters in Parliament.

Davis relied on the EFF’s version of what happened on August 21, saying that Parliament had failed to provide him with a video of the proceedings of that day.

He seemed to agree with Malema’s assertion that Mbete had failed to call any of the EFF MPs by name while instructing them to leave the National Assembly chamber. She referred to “members who are not serious about the business of the house”.

Davis said Mbete had named only three MPs, and this was also reflected in her affidavit to the court.

He added that he was “somewhat bemused” by the nature of Mbete’s affidavit to the court.

He criticised the withholding of MPs salaries as not only bringing personal hardships to the EFF MPs but inhibited their ability to do the work expected of them as representatives of the voters who had elected them.

“The applicants should be allowed to carry out their functions with all provisions as elected members of the National Assembly,” he said.

The EFF welcomed the ruling, saying that it signified that the ruling ANC should not abuse its majority by “using Parliament to settle political scores”.

Parliament spokesperson Luzuko Jacobs said the institution would implement the court order as delivered by Davis.

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