Parliament to appeal decision over removal of unruly MPs

2015-05-12 21:08
(Rodger Bosch, AP, Pool)

(Rodger Bosch, AP, Pool)

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Johannesburg - Parliament will appeal the Western Cape High Court's decision regarding the right to remove or arrest parliamentary members who cause disturbances.

The court on Tuesday 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.

Section 11 dealt with "persons creating a disturbance", Parliament said in a statement.

"The court concluded that what Section 11 applies to is, what the judgment termed, "robust debate and controversial speech” and “the privilege to free speech", Parliament said.

"Parliament’s stance was and is explicitly that this is not what Section 11 provides. The section relates to conduct which goes beyond this and puts in jeopardy Parliament’s very ability to function."

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.

Judge Andre 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.

Parliament said in its submissions given to the court, it stated that it accepted that Section 11 did not contain speech or actions falling within the ambit of constitutionally protected conduct.

The court, in its judgment raised the possibility of arrests of members who were exercising freedom of speech.

"This has never been a concern for the democratic Parliament and its presiding officers," Parliament said.

"The presiding officers have stood firm in protecting the rights and freedoms of all members in accordance with the Constitution. Of concern, however, has been the degeneration of debates into ugly and chaotic scenes."

Read more on:    cape town  |  state of the nation 2015  |  parliament 2015

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