Bid to start process to repeal apartheid-era laws fails in Parliament

2016-11-22 18:33
The National Assembly (File, City Press)

The National Assembly (File, City Press)

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Cape Town - A motion to set up a parliamentary ad hoc committee to look into repealing apartheid-era legislation failed in the National Assembly on Tuesday.

The motion received 86 votes in favour; 179 votes against and 8 abstentions.

EFF MP Fana Mokoena smiled as the results were read. He rose and said, "Can we just have it on record that the ANC voted against the repealing of apartheid laws?"

EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu brought the motion before the House on Tuesday. 

Shivambu said an ad hoc committee was needed to complete the transition from "violent" apartheid-era laws to new, democratic ones.

"The most important one is the Riotous Assemblies Act of 1956, a law that aims to protect Europeans against non-Europeans," he said.

"That is the law being used to prosecute the president and commander-in-chief of the Economic Freedom Fighters."

He was referring to EFF leader Julius Malema's case currently being heard in the Newcastle Magistrate's Court for comments he had made at the party's elective conference in 2014 calling for supporters to occupy land.

Shivambu cited another law that prohibited the watching of movies on Sundays and public holidays from 1977. He also said there were existing laws regarding trespassing and the prohibition of disguises that were outdated.

"Parliament must be responsible for the repeal of this legislation," he told ANC MPs.

"We appreciate that you [the ANC] are failing in everything you are doing, but we can't fail in the task of repealing all the legislation of the past."

Masutha defends use of laws

Justice Minister Michael Masutha offered up defences for some of the remaining apartheid laws, particularly the Riotous Assemblies Act.

He said many of the laws had been amended by post-democratic legislation and the principles still applied to prevent violence in public areas.

He said the Riotous Assemblies Act only had three sections remaining in law: to handle public safety, the use of explosives and conspiracy to commit an offence.

The Act remained necessary while no other legislation could take its place immediately, he said to applause from a few ANC MPs.

The Constitution trumped other laws in any regard, he said.

He also said he would "exercise restraint" in his submission as the Riotous Assemblies Act is currently being used in Malema's court processes and it was, therefore, inappropriate for Parliament to address it now.

"It is, therefore, mischievous of the EFF to bring this up for debate when they too have had this adjudicated on by the courts.

"It is merely a ploy to get this House to be seized with a matter that is best resolved by the courts."

Other forums to look into laws?

DA MP Michael Cardo said the ANC appeared to be using remaining apartheid-era laws in a similar vein to the previous government: to harass and persecute its elected opponents.

IFP chief whip Narend Singh said the party agreed that all unconstitutional apartheid legislation should be repealed but that laws as a collective should not be repealed all at once.

He said Parliament's programming committee was already mandated to identify problematic laws and said the committee can do the job in the same time frame as an ad hoc committee.

ANC MP Jerome Maake said there was a high-level presidential panel chaired by former president Kgalema Motlanthe that should address old legislation.

He said the EFF, by approaching Parliament, was "grandstanding".

EFF MPs responded by saying Maake was misleading the House about the role of the panel and questioned his "sobriety".

House chairperson Cedric Frolick said suggestions Maake was drunk were out of order.

'Keeping apartheid alive'

DA MP Zakhele Mbhele corrected Maake and said the high-level panel was only looking at post-1994 legislation and was set up by the Speaker's forum, not the president.

Mbhele said there were definite laws that needed to be repealed, such as the National Key Points Act.

He said that the continued existence of these laws was "at best laughable incompetence" and at worst, "keeping apartheid alive".

ANC MP Bongani Bongo said the party has not neglected the repealing of apartheid legislation.

Shivambu had the last word and said Masutha only addressed the Riotous Assembly Act in his speech and none of the other laws.

He said the Act flew in the face of the Freedom Charter. He said the Freedom Charter called on people of South Africa to "occupy the land", which got a standing ovation from the EFF delegation.

Read more on:    national assembly  |  parliament  |  politics  |  apartheid

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