ConCourt's Nkandla ruling a 'bitter lesson for Parliament'

2016-12-07 18:59
(File, Netwerk24)

(File, Netwerk24)

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Cape Town - Parliament learnt a "bitter lesson" when the highest court in the land ruled that it had acted inconsistently with the Constitution over the question of President Jacob Zuma's financial liability for upgrades to his Nkandla home, deputy speaker Lechesa Tsenoli admitted on Wednesday.

The implication of the Constitutional Court ruling was that no such thing must happen again, Tsenoli said during a lunchtime end-of-year media briefing by Parliament's presiding officers.

Tsenoli said the interrogation of reports needed to be conducted in a manner that was consistent with the Constitution and the court's judgments.

He was responding to a query – addressed to Speaker Baleka Mbete – about the negative impact of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng's judgment in March regarding the Nkandla upgrades report.

The judgment found that Parliament did not perform its oversight role when it processed and passed Police Minister Nathi Nhleko's discredited report that absolved Zuma of all financial liability for upgrades at his home in Nkandla. Parliament's resolution on the report was subsequently invalidated and set aside.

"The Constitution is our guide, we will be judged by how we deal with the judgment and will act appropriately," said Tsenoli.

"We are human. We make mistakes. The Constitution supports democracy and acts as a catch-all when things don't work," he said, adding that that the institutional structure of the country had been designed with this in mind.

'Hindsight is a good teacher'

Tsenoli also defended Mbete, who is also ANC chairperson, saying said that criticism from the opposition that she was biased had started "before she had even warned up her seat", from the start of the Fifth Parliament in 2014.

He said this showed that the attacks were not based on fact but were "part of an ongoing political campaign".

National Council of Provinces (NCOP) chairperson Thandi Modise agreed that a big lesson had been learnt through the Constitutional Court ruling on Nkandla.

"Hindsight is a good teacher," she said, adding that Parliament was to "never repeat what is not correct".

However, she disputed accusations that Parliament had protected the president this year and said that, if necessary, ANC members in Parliament had a duty to act at the expense of their own political party.

At the briefing Mbete focused on the successes of the year. Parliament was proud that it had received a clean audit for the second successive year and that the rules of the House had been revised and improved.

In all, 10 bills had passed through the National Assembly and 19 through the NCOP, although a few had been subsequently returned unsigned to Parliament by the president.

The National Assembly rises for the year after Wednesday's sitting, and the NCOP on Friday.

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