Process to impeach has been eased

2018-01-28 06:00
Jacob Zuma

Jacob Zuma

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The parliamentary process to impeach the president has been made much easier after an agreement to give equal weightings for each political party represented in parliament, eliminating the practice of the majority party using its majority to shield the president.

In an unprecedented move, the proposed composition of a parliamentary panel that will 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.

The new process is likely to be used against President Jacob Zuma, should he not heed calls to resign.

A National Assembly technical committee, which is devising a rule to give effect to section 89 of the Constitution – a section that deals with the removal of the president from office – agreed to take the two proposals to the rules committees on the composition of the panel.

The rules committee will then have to decide whether to adopt the hybrid committee made up of members of parliament, retired judges and an evidence leader or a panel made up of retired judges and excluding politicians as proposed by the Economic Freedom Fighters. 

In a meeting of the subcommittee on the review of the National Assembly’s rules on Thursday, the ANC made a ground-breaking concession when it agreed to give up proportional representation in the proposed structure in favour of a committee in which there is equal representation.

Initially, the ANC’s Juli Kilian argued that the majority party would like to see a structure that is proportionally comprised.

“We derive that from the Constitution.

"Why are we so scared of majoritarianism, it’s a requirement to form a government,” she said. 

The composition of Parliament committees reflects the numerical strengths of the parties represented in the National Assembly, with the ANC obviously enjoying the majority in all parliamentary structures.

The DA’s Natasha Mazzone proposed that the panel be made up of a member from each of the parties that are represented in the National Assembly, four retired judges and an externally sourced evidence leader. 

Mazonne pleaded with the ANC, saying the opposition was “afraid of majoritarianism” and worries that the majority party might simply outvote the opposition on the matter without necessarily considering the checks and balances a panel of experts might consider”.

The ANC conceded when the EFF’s Mbuyiseni Ndlozi pointed out that proportional representation was out of the question in light of last month’s Constitutional Court ruling in the EFF case against the National Assembly speaker wherein the party argued the National Assembly failed to put in place mechanisms to hold President Jacob Zuma accountable. 

In rejecting the establishment of an ad hoc committee to investigate and recommend to the National Assembly whether the president be removed from office, the Constitutional Court had said the process lacked a sifting mechanism which would determine whether there was a case for the president to answer.

The court also found against an ad hoc committee system 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 was the leader of that party.

The committee will meet on Tuesday.

Read more on:    parliament  |  eff  |  jacob zuma

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