News24

Defection plans threatened

2002-06-20 19:57

Cape Town - A last-minute court bid by the United Democratic Movement on Thursday threatened to disrupt plans for the 15-day defection period scheduled to begin at midnight.

The UDM is asking the Cape High Court to block the floor-crossing legislation because voters' rights have been violated, party leader Bantu Holomisa said.

He was speaking as lawyers for the UDM prepared to launch an urgent interdict to stop the window period from coming into operation.

"We are going this route because we feel that the rights of the voter have been violated," Holomisa said.

One of the party's legal team told Sapa they intended to ask for an interim interdict "just so the act does not commence, and there can't be any floor crossing".

This would give room for a final decision by the Constitutional Court on the constitutionality of legislation.

ANC, NNP

The floor-crossing legislation is central to the ANC and NNP co-operation pact at all three levels of government, but particularly in the Cape Town unicity which is currently controlled by the DA.

On Thursday ANC and NNP party leaders addressed each other's parliamentary caucuses in a show of solidarity ahead of the start of the window period.

The two parties also announced plans to divide up mayors' posts in all 30 local authorities in the Western Cape.

A formal agreement, signed and released to the media, gives the ANC the post of mayor in the Cape Town unicity - currently held by the DA.

The NNP gets to appoint the deputy mayor and speaker.

In all, according to NNP chief negotiator Peter Marais, the ANC will get 15 mayors, and the NNP the same number.

Asked if he was confident that the NNP/ANC coalition would secure enough defections to take over all DA-controlled councils, Marais replied: "Yes, for sure."

ANC

In Cape Town, the DA has 107 councillors and the ANC 77. Seventy of the DA councillors are former NNP members, and the ANC needs only 24 of them to give it control.

ANC Western Cape leader Ebrahim Rasool said: "Our numbers certainly are above 24. We wouldn't be foolish to announce an agreement when we are unsure about the numbers."

DA

DA chief whip Douglas Gibson said the DA had won over 1 300 council seats across South Africa. Of the DA councillors, 591 were from the NNP.

"Over the past few weeks, the NNP has tried hard to create the impression that every defection from the DA to the NNP is a victory for the NNP.

"This is nonsense, of course. Unless the NNP leadership persuades 591 councillors to leave the DA to join them in their alliance with the ANC, they would have lost."

DP

Meanwhile, DP MPs earlier in the day signed a merger document that would compel them to remain members of the DA in the National Assembly, when that party gains formal recognition in Parliament.

The MPs signed the form more than 11 hours ahead of the start of the window period.

The effect of signing the form was to prevent any DP/DA MP moving to any other party. It is understood that one senior DP MP has been toying with the idea of joining the African Christian Democratic Party.

However, DA leaders denied NNP claims of coercion, and said none of its members intended to defect to another party.

While Gibson said the signing would not prevent MPs from defecting to another party, the DA's Federal Council chairperson James Selfe contradicted this statement.

Selfe told Sapa: "It does preclude. As we understand it a person that signs a declaration has exercised his choice."

Form

However, Selfe said no DP MP had been forced into signing the form.

"Every member of the DP has signed the form enthusiastically."

He said all the DP's 38 MPs, bar one who was on a plane, had signed the form.

He conceded that asking MPs to sign the form ahead of the start of the defection window - where MPs would be protected from being disciplined or suspended - might be viewed as intimidatory.

Declining to sign the form - without the protection of the window period - would alert the DP to which member intended to defect and would open that MP to possible discipline and loss of their parliamentary seat.

However, Selfe said in terms of the party's constitution, it would not be practical to discipline a member in less than a day, and that there was therefore nothing sinister about getting MPs to sign the form.

The document is an annexure to a notice to National Assembly Speaker Dr Frene Ginwala, that the DP intends to merge with the DA. The names of the MPs involved in the merger have to be attached to the official form.

The DA is a registered party for the purposes of local government elections. However, because the party's MPs and MPLs fought the national and provincial elections on a DP ticket, they technically remain DP members until the official merger with the DA.