DA's court victory claim misleading - ANC

2015-05-12 20:31
(File: DA)

(File: DA)

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Cape Town - The DA's claim that its win in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday regarding the right to remove or arrest parliamentary members who caused disturbances was a victory against National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete was misleading, the ANC said on Tuesday.

"The DA’s court application was neither intended to challenge the constitutionality of the Speaker’s ruling nor her conduct," ANC Chief Whip Stone Sizani said in a statement.

"The DA’s claim that this judgment represents some sort of victory against the Speaker of Parliament or the institution is grossly misleading."

Earlier on Tuesday, Judge Andre Le Grange and two others declared that Section 11 of the Powers and Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act was inconsistent with the Constitution and thus invalid.

The court found that the argument that members would disrupt Parliament’s functions with impunity, without certain legislation governing their conduct, was "unconvincing".

The DA had brought an application to the court questioning the right to remove or arrest parliamentary members who caused disturbances.

Mbete and National Council of Provinces chairperson Thandi Modise had invoked Section 11 during President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation address on February 12, calling on Parliamentary staff and security forces to forcefully remove members of the EFF from the joint sitting as a result of disturbances that were caused.

EFF members had risen on a point of privilege or point of order after being dissatisfied with the manner in which Mbete dealt with a question about when Zuma was going to pay back money he was said to owe for his Nkandla homestead.

Le Grange suspended the full bench's order for a period of 12 months to allow Parliament to remedy the defect in the legislation.

He also referred the order to the Constitutional Court for confirmation and said the respondents were to pay the costs of two counsels.

Constitutional democracy

The DA on Tuesday said the court's ruling was important for the country's constitutional democracy.

"Over the past year, however, we have seen the interests of the South African people sidelined in Parliament in order to protect a corrupt Executive from accountability," newly-elected DA leader Mmusi Maimane said in a statement.

"We now have the opportunity to spearhead the interests of South Africa and its people, without the threat of arrest and physical abuse by an agency of the executive.

"The judgment also sends a message to the Speaker of the National Assembly that the constitutional principle of separation of powers cannot be overruled to serve narrow political interests."

Sizani dismissed the DA's court challenge as an "academic exercise" to interpret Section 11.

"Indeed it has never been the intention of either the presiding officers or the Act to arrest MPs on the basis of their utterances. The Act only directs presiding officers to call for the arrest of MPs strictly for criminal offences. No MPs has ever been arrested for utterances made in Parliament as MPs’ freedom of speech is jealously guarded in the Constitution," he said.

The EFF welcomed the court’s decision.

"In essence, those who render anarchy and disorder in Parliament, who always bring it into disrepute are the ones who knowingly compromise the Constitution to protect certain individuals," national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said in a statement.

"The police were called to forcibly assault and remove EFF MPs simply to protect Jacob Zuma from being held accountable about the undue benefit he accorded himself in Nkandla."

He said the ruling showed that the EFF had a "superior understanding" of the law and that its mechanisms to hold the executive accountable were within the law.

The EFF will be taking legal action against Mbete following the outcome of Tuesday's judgment.

"The EFF will... make sure that Parliament pays for removing the entire caucus of the EFF using the police during the SONA [State of the Nation address]," he said.

Read more on:    da  |  anc  |  eff  |  baleka mbete  |  mmusi maimane  |  stone sizani  |  cape town  |  state of the nation 2015  |  parliament 2015  |  politics

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