National Assembly adopts impeachment rules, EFF wants to test them on Ramaphosa

2018-11-22 22:54
National Assembly (Paul Herman, News24)

National Assembly (Paul Herman, News24)

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The National Assembly approved rules to remove a president in terms of Section 89 – or impeachment – on Thursday, and the EFF wants to test it immediately  - on President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The rule was adopted unanimously.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen thanked every member of the Rules Committee, who drafted the rules, and said it gave effect to Section 89 of the Constitution.

He went on to rail against the ANC for not holding former president Jacob Zuma accountable.

"Can we believe the myth and shibboleth that one man on his own was capable of entrenching, ensuring, defending and manipulating the whole state capture process in South Africa?" he asked.

"Now, honourable members, that is so fanciful, that anyone who believes that, probably still believes in the tooth fairy or Father Christmas. Because it is impossible to sustain the grand theft we've seen with state capture by a single individual. 

"We know, you know, South Africa knows, that at every step of the way Mr Zuma was aided, abetted, protected and defended by the very party that sits to the right of me today [the ANC]," Steenhuisen said.

"The truth of the matter it that it is not sustainable for Mr Ramaphosa to say that he didn't know. Just as it is not sustainable for him to say he did not know of the half a million campaign donation (R500K) made into a trust account of his son. 

"I'll say this to you: we have swapped ubaba ka Duduzane for ubaba ka Andile. So we have to ask ourselves, South Africans, what has changed?"

READ: EFF wants retired judges for impeachment committee

EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi also welcomed the rules but lamented that their suggestion that an independent body, overseen by a judge, be appointed to determine if a president has a case to answer, wasn't accepted. In the rules adopted, it is optional for a judge to be appointed on the panel. The EFF wanted it to be an obligation.

"But what this rule really does, it says that the days where presidents, like the constitutional delinquent Jacob Zuma, who violated the Constitution, that when such people have done so in the way that Zuma did, it will no longer happen without consequences," Ndlozi said.

"It seems that the next person who must be put through this process is Ramaphosa. We must investigate as Parliament. We must put this rule into a test…"

House chairperson Grace Boroto asked him to withdraw that, after an ANC MP raised a point of order, saying that Ndlozi was casting aspersions on Ramaphosa.

"That's not casting aspersions!" Ndlozi said. "What are the aspersions? I am saying we must test the rule."

"Honourable Ramaphosa must be impeached."

He refused to withdraw, and Boroto asked him to leave the podium and the House.

IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa said the new rule "adequately ensured parliamentary compliance and certainty as regards to Section 89".

"What is fundamental is that Parliament cannot outsource its functions, its duties and responsibilities to another body," he said.

"If we elect the president here, it is our duty to hold the president responsible here. It would be a dereliction of parliamentary duty to ask judges – another sphere of government – to perform the duties of Parliament." 

ANC MP Juli Killian referred to the Constitutional Court judgment which forced Parliament to set a specific mechanism for enforcing Section 89 after the EFF went to that court. 

She also said only the National Assembly could remove the president. 

"We are the appointing body, and we must remove him on the basis of evidence."

In a statement, Parliament explained how the process would work.

Section 89 of the Constitution provides for the National Assembly to remove a president of the Republic from office on the following grounds: a serious violation of the Constitution or the law, serious misconduct and an inability to perform the functions of the office.

The new procedures, which the National Assembly Rules Committee adopted on August 28, provide for any member of the National Assembly to initiate, through a substantive motion, a process to remove a President in terms of Section 89. 

Once such a motion is submitted, the Speaker of the National Assembly must refer it and any supporting evidence to a panel of three independent legal experts. 

The panel, which the speaker appoints after consulting political parties represented in the Assembly, must assess if there is sufficient evidence for Parliament to proceed with a Section 89 inquiry. The panel must function impartially and without fear, favour or prejudice.

The panel must conclude its deliberations within 30 days and report to the National Assembly. The House must then decide whether to proceed with an inquiry. 

If it decides to proceed with an inquiry, the matter must be referred to a specially constituted Impeachment Committee. This Impeachment Committee will investigate, establish the veracity (and, where required, the seriousness) of the charges against a president and make a recommendation to the National Assembly. The committee's report must include all views expressed in the Committee.

Once the Impeachment Committee has reported, the House must schedule the report for debate and decision at a House sitting with due urgency.

If the report recommends that a President is removed from office, the question must be put to a vote. A President is removed from office if two thirds of members of the Assembly support the recommendation.

During the fifth Parliament's earlier review of the National Assembly Rules, the Rules Committee discussed procedures to regulate the Section 89 removal of a president but could not finalise them.

Parliament prioritised finalisation of the procedures following the December 29, 2017 Constitutional Court order that it do so without delay.

Read more on:    eff  |  cyril ramaphosa
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