Parliament finalises rules for impeachment

2018-01-07 06:03
Richard Mdakane

Richard Mdakane

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Parliament is convening an urgent meeting to finalise the drafting of the rules to give effect to section 89 of the Constitution, which deals with the removal of a president from office.

The subcommittee dealing with the review of the National Assembly rules is scheduled to meet on Thursday and Friday in Parliament.

A notice inviting relevant MPs to the meeting was issued via SMS on Wednesday afternoon stating that, “pursuant to the Constitutional Court judgment on December 29, the speaker has requested the subcommittee to meet as soon as possible to finalise the draft rules for section 89 motions”.

The Constitutional Court last month found that the National Assembly had failed to put in place mechanisms and processes to hold President Jacob Zuma accountable for failing to implement the Public Protector’s remedial action regarding non-security upgrades at his home in Nkandla.

The House is expected to set up procedures and processes to be followed in the event a motion to remove the president from office is tabled.

A draft rule to this effect proposes the appointment of a panel of external experts who would have to be guided by clearly circumscribed terms of reference to ensure that the panel’s mandate is clear and does not encroach on the role of an ad hoc committee.

However, the office of the chief state law adviser warns against this, saying a committee made up of people who are not MPs would fall outside the Constitution’s rules.

A document dated April 2016, which City Press has seen, outlines the proposed procedure on the tabling and processing of a motion to remove a president.

It states that such a motion should be based on a recommendation to that effect by a committee of the House appointed to consider any relevant charges against a president.

Such a committee would be an ad hoc committee appointed for that purpose either by the House or the Speaker.

“A member may by motion propose that the Assembly initiate proceedings in accordance with these rules to remove the president from office in terms of section 89 of the Constitution,” it says.

The Speaker may disallow a proposed motion to initiate proceedings only if it does not comply with the specified criteria and if a proposed motion is disallowed.

The reason for disallowing it must be provided to the relevant member, who may amend and resubmit the motion.

The proposed rules also state that when the National Assembly approves the referral of a charge to a committee or the Speaker appoints an ad hoc committee, the Speaker has to inform the president of the details of the charge and invite him or her to respond in writing within 14 calendar days.

According to the ANC’s Richard Mdakane, who chairs the subcommittee of the rules committee, these proposals were forwarded to all the political parties represented in Parliament for comment last year, “but parties never came back to us”.

However, four of the biggest opposition parties who are represented in the subcommittee denied receiving the proposals.

“We are still waiting for parties to comment on this. We make recommendations for parties, and once they get back to us, we can rework it according to what the parties proposed,” Mdakane said.

He was confident that parties would buy into the proposals.

“On our side, once parties say they are happy, we put it to the rules committee and then to the House for adoption.

"I don’t see any party rejecting what we have put forward. In fact, if parties made decisions faster – as they are expected to – we would have finalised this before the end of last year.

"We would have passed the rule by October or November,” he said.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said that, in the rush to pass the rules on the removal of disruptive MPs, the rules committee ignored all the other outstanding issues, including the section 89 rules.

The rule to remove MPs was adopted by the House in 2016 amid objections from a number of opposition parties.

“We were heading towards the end of the year and the speaker was desperate to have the rule for throwing the Economic Freedom Fighters [EFF] out [of Parliament] passed. A whole lot of stuff was outstanding,” Steenhuisen said this week.

He denied that there was a request for his party to provide input into a proposal and questioned Mdakane’s motive for making such a statement.

The EFF, the Inkatha Freedom Party and the United Democratic Movement were also not aware that they needed to make submissions on a proposed rule.

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  john steenhuisen  |  national assembly  |  constitution

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