It is not the Speaker's job to adjudicate the PAC's leadership disputes - Parliament

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Speaker of the National Assembly Thandi Modise.
Speaker of the National Assembly Thandi Modise.
Jan Gerber, News24
  • In the midst of a leadership dispute, Mzwanele Nyhontso is no longer the PAC's only MP.
  • Speaker of the National Assembly Thandi Modise did not decide this, she followed the law, Parliament says. 
  • Once a person is no longer a member of the party whose seat he or she occupies, they cease to be an MP. 

Speaker of the National Assembly Thandi Modise is satisfied that she acted within her powers in informing Mzwanele Nyhontso that he is no longer the PAC's sole representative in Parliament.

The PAC is embroiled in a factional dispute over who the party's leader is – with one grouping recognising Nyhontso as party leader, and another group, Narius Moloto.

Several court battles have ensued.

In a statement, Parliament's spokesperson Moloto Mothapo pointed out that Modise does not have the authority to adjudicate internal party disputes.

READ | PAC members protest outside Brackenfell High

"The PAC has one seat in the NA [National Assembly], which has been filled by the nomination of Mr Mzwanele Nyhontso. The member was sworn in as the party's representative in the NA during the first sitting of the NA," reads the statement.

"Subsequently, a dispute arose within the PAC regarding its leadership. For this reason, there was uncertainty about communicating the membership of Mr Nyhontso to the PAC and, consequently, who should represent the party in the NA and who is authorised by the party to communicate with the Speaker on behalf of the PAC.

"In the present matter, litigation between different leadership structures of the PAC was before the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) and the Speaker, accordingly, waited for the outcome of the legal process, which would have confirmed and provided certainty concerning the legitimate leadership of the PAC."

Informing

Modise received a letter from Phillip Dhlamini, representing the PAC, dated 2 November 2020, informing her that matter has been removed from the SCA's roll by agreement.  

"Attached to the correspondence were directions from the court that urged the parties to seek an agreement on the way forward and to settle their differences other than through the pending appeal process.

"The court also advised that decisions made by the PAC leadership elected at the Congress on 24 August 2019 at Tompi Seleka in Limpopo Province and their consequences can only be set aside by a further application to court.

"Included in these decisions was the termination of Mr Nyhontso's membership to the PAC."

Based on legal advice, Modise informed Nyhontso that he has lost his members of the National Assembly in terms of section 47(3)(c) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, with immediate effect.  

"Section 47(3)(c) of the Constitution, 1996, deals with the loss of membership to the NA if a person ceases to be a member of the political party that nominated that person. The person would lose membership to the NA by operation of law. Therefore, this provision depends on a final and certain loss of membership to the party.

Loss

"It is important to note that the loss of membership to the NA, in terms of this provision, is not a 'decision' taken by the Speaker. It occurs by operation of law. The Speaker merely informs the member of his/her loss of membership to the NA once the final and certain loss of membership to the party is confirmed," reads the statement.

"The Speaker is not authorised in law to adjudicate matters in dispute within the PAC or any other party. Neither the Speaker nor Parliament gets involved in party political matters.

"It is also neither for the Speaker nor Parliament to decide which is the legitimate leadership structure of the PAC and, similarly, it would be incorrect for either the Speaker or Parliament to recognise one structure as the legitimate leadership of the PAC over another. This position has consistently been communicated to all parties purporting to be the legitimate leadership of the PAC."

The Nyhontso-faction have subsequently criticised Modise, who noted this "with concern".

"The Speaker has a duty to act fairly and impartially to ensure that the rights of all parties, including minority parties, are protected.  Further correspondence received from the parties will be responded to accordingly.

"In matters, such as the leadership challenges of the PAC, the Speaker has always acted in terms of the Constitution, on the advice of Parliament's Legal Services and in a manner that is consistent with established practice.

"The Speaker trusts that the PAC will resolve its internal issues and provide certainty on who the candidate is that must be representing the party in the NA."

- Compiled by Jan Gerber

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