ANC makes U-turn on use of majority power

2018-02-04 06:00

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The ANC has done an about-turn on the composition of the proposed parliamentary panel to determine grounds for a president to be impeached.

The majority party wants the structure to reflect the proportional representation of the National Assembly, a 180-degree turnaround from a concession it made a week earlier on its composition. This would mean the ANC would have a majority in the structure.

The matter will be referred to a constitutional law expert to advise the committee.

Last week opposition parties approached ANC MPs sitting on a technical committee that is drafting a new rule regarding the removal of a president. They convinced committee members that the parliamentary panel which would decide whether grounds exist to initiate an impeachment could be made up of one MP from each political party represented in the National Assembly and not based on proportional representation.

It would have been an unprecedented step and a big test for the country’s democracy. But this week, as the National Assembly rules committee sat to hear about the subcommittee’s proposal, ANC MPs rejected the proposal that each ­political party would be represented by one MP.

The proposal was for a hybrid panel made up of MPs, retired judges and an evidence leader, but opposition MPs registered fear of “majoritarianism” whereby the majority party might use its majority to stifle the processes leading up to a possible impeachment.

This week ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu, who was not part of last week’s meeting, argued that proportional representation was a tenet of democracy and indicated it was not something the ANC would give away. He applauded the work done by the subcommittee so far, saying it was a good start considering that it had never been a mechanism to give ­effect to section 89 of the Constitution.

“Such a team working on the inquiry should not work alone; it should have ­experts to assist the team determine whether there is a prima facie case or not. But from where we are standing, ­Parliament cannot outsource its responsibility,” said Mthembu.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) had proposed that the investigation to determine whether there is a case for a president to answer should be done by a panel of retired judges and not by politicians.

In trying to assure opposition parties, the ANC’s Thoko Didiza said there would be enough safeguards in the process.

The EFF’s Mbuyiseni Ndlozi was adamant the ANC’s option had a serious fundamental flaw that is in violation of the Constitutional Court judgment in the EFF case against the National Assembly Speaker. In that case, the court found against an ad hoc committee because “parties are entitled to be represented in substantially the same proportion as the proportion in which they are represented in the Assembly”.

It said a decision by members of the majority party in the ad hoc committee might prevent an impeachment process from proceeding beyond the committee to shield a president who is party leader.

Read more on:    anc  |  eff

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