Winnie to sue parliament

2002-11-22 11:59

Cape Town - African National Congress MP Winnie Madikizela-Mandela will seek redress in the Cape High Court after the National Assembly found her guilty of violating parliament's code of conduct, her lawyer said on Friday.

MPs last week unanimously endorsed a recommendation by parliament's ethics committee that she be severely reprimanded by Speaker Dr Frene Ginwala and fined R12 500, for failing to disclose information in the register of members' interests.

Madikizela-Mandela's lawyer wrote a letter on Friday to Registrar of Members' Interests Fazela Mohamed, in which he notified her of the impending action.

"The action will be instituted in the High Court of South Africa, Cape Provincial Division to be precise.

"This is an opportunity for our client to present her side of the story in accordance with the audi alteram partem (hear the other side) principle," the letter states.

Ethics committee chairperson Luwellyn Landers declined to comment on Friday.

Madikizela-Mandela's lawyer said he was drafting the papers, and summons would be served next week. His client's constitutional rights had been violated by the committee.

It would therefore only be "fair and just" to withhold imposing the penalty against Madikizela-Mandela pending the finalisation of the court action, he said.

The letter also placed on record that Mohamed had advised him by phone that the only possible internal remedy for Madikizela-Mandela would be to address Parliament when it reconvened next year.

"This is unfortunately not good enough for our client, as the request may be rejected, but even if it is not rejected, it is not clear whether the decision of the ethics committee may be overturned at this stage," the letter says.

Rules furnished to Madikizela-Mandela were also silent on an appeals procedure, it says.

The committee found Madikizela-Mandela guilty of contravening the code, in that she failed to disclose donations of R50 000 a month to supplement her monthly income, as well as her financial interests, in the Winnie Mandela Family Museum.

She is the first MP to be found guilty under the code.

The code states that members must disclose all gifts. hospitality, sponsorships and benefits valued at more than R350, as well as shares and financial interests in companies and other corporate entities.

Madikizela-Mandela failed to turn up at any of the committee's hearings, which were held behind closed doors by a multi-party investigating panel.

In a letter dated August 16, other lawyers acting on her behalf, noted that the panel had elected to proceed "in the absence of our clients to make certain findings".

"We should point out that we have recorded specific legal problems to which the panel did not respond. Please consider that the ruling may not accord with probity."

In the letter the lawyers said that Madikizela-Mandela was ill and "physically unable to consult with us since mid-July 2002".

Madikizela-Mandela was unable to attend any hearings in person until further notice.

Attached to the letter was a medical certificate by a Dr Lumanda Mbuyamba, who said he had examined her on July 19 and August 12 and that she was unfit to work for the period July 19 to August 31 due to illness.

"Since the panel has declined legal representation and does not respond to the correspondence, we are left with an unacceptable situation which compromises our client's rights."

ANC Chief Whip Nathi Nhleko said last week that Madikizela-Mandela, who was rarely present in the Assembly this year, had been granted extended sick leave.