Courts should not meddle in functions of Parliament, says Mbete’s legal team

2015-08-05 16:31
Baleka Mbete. Picture: Leanne Stander/Foto24

Baleka Mbete. Picture: Leanne Stander/Foto24

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There will be neverending consequences if the courts start messing with the way Parliament operates. It will be like when a single thread of a spider’s web is tampered with and unravels the entire web. 

This was said by advocate Andrew Breitenbach, SC, on behalf of Parliament in the Cape High Court today, when opposition parties tried to have Baleka Mbete, speaker of the National Assembly, declared unfit to hold office. 
Breitenbach said the applicants’ demand that the court should decide Mbete’s fate was contrary to the Constitution and the principle of separation of powers. 

He added that the power to remove the speaker or president was vested solely in the legislature (Parliament) and that asking the court to declare her unfit for the position wasn’t something that the court could do. 

Opposition parties claimed that Mbete, who is also chairperson of the ANC, was biased when carrying out her duties in the National Assembly, that she was protecting President Jacob Zuma and the ANC, and that this had caused a “constitutional crisis” in Parliament. 

They believed her dual roles as speaker and ANC chair were incompatible and wanted the court to rule that she may not hold both positions concurrently. 

The applicants wanted the court to rule that MPs may vote in secret on a motion of no confidence in the president and that Mbete should be prohibited from acting as presiding officer during such a motion. 

Breitenbach said that United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa and Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota alleged in court papers that ANC MPs told them they would vote in favour of a motion of no confidence if it was done by secret ballot. 

But Breitenbach said it was merely hearsay and requested the court to scrap this as evidence. 

Parliament should manage its own proceedings and programmes without interference from the courts, as the Constitution prescribed, said Breitenbach. 

There were mechanisms in Parliament that could be used to remove the speaker or president. 

Parties who were unhappy with the speaker should follow the process, which is prescribed by the Constitution, and submit a vote of no confidence against her. 

A motion of no confidence in Mbete was heard in September last year, but it failed. 

The case continues this afternoon.

Read more on:    baleka mbete  |  parliament

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