EFF drags parliament to court over rules against errant MPs

The EFF has petitioned the Cape Town High Court to declare the powers and privileges committee rules of the National Assembly illegal and unconstitutional.

In addition, the red berets want the court to overturn the National Assembly’s decision to accept a committee report that suggested suspending six EFF MPs, including party president Julius Malema, for allegedly interfering with last year’s State of the Nation Address (Sona).

These prayers are part of a pressing court application that the Cape Town High Court will hear next week. The outcome will likely set the tone for the 2024 Sona on February 8.

The committee’s report, which the National Assembly adopted in December, found the six EFF MPs guilty of contempt of parliament for organising a “peaceful protest” against President Cyril Ramaphosa during his previous Sona.

Call for suspension without pay

According to the report, the MPs who stormed the stage brandishing placards calling for Ramaphosa’s resignation should be suspended for the entire month of February and have their salaries withheld in full.

This implies that in the event that the legal action is unsuccessful, the EFF MPs will be forced to watch the Sona on television alongside the general public, and they will not be allowed to participate in the February Budget Speech.

In addition, they will not participate in any parliamentary portfolio committee activities while they are suspended.

They are also prohibited from entering the parliamentary precinct for any reason.

The court application is anticipated to be heard on January 29, and the sanction that has been imposed will begin on February 1 and end on February 29.

The suspension also affects Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, Vuyani Pambo, national spokesperson Sinawo Thambo, party chief whip Floyd Shivambu, and secretary-general Marshall Dlamini.

According to the EFF notice of motion, the National Assembly’s Rule 214 relating to the powers and privileges committee is illegal and unconstitutional because it does not guarantee that an impartial and independent decisionmaker will oversee parliament’s procedure for disciplining MPs.

The party further submitted to the court that the same rules fail to provide sufficient guidelines for the exercise of discretion insofar as sanctions are concerned.

Justice delayed is justice denied

The EFF contends that these rules give the committee unequalled discretion without offering enough guidance on the standards of proof, the right to cross-examine witnesses, or the right to obtain documents and information.

It argues that the lack of a time limit for the filing of charges against an MP is what worsens the regulations, given that it took nearly a year for the EFF MPs to be prosecuted.

In light of this, the EFF is requesting a court order “declaring the impugned rules relating to the powers and privileges committee unlawful and unconstitutional to the extent that they do not comply with the provisions of Sections 1[c] and 57[1] of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 constitution, as well as Section 12[3][a] of the Powers, Privileges, and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act No. 4 of 2004.

“The court must declare Section 12[5] of the Powers, Privileges, and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act No. 4 of 2004 unlawful and unconstitutional in that it fails to provide sufficient guidelines for the imposition of sanctions on a member of parliament.”

Accordingly, the EFF thinks that the court will deem the decision to suspend the six MPs for the entire month of February illegal, unlawful, and unconstitutional, and it will revoke the sanction, allowing the impacted MPs to resume their jobs right away.

If the court cannot grant the aforementioned orders in the immediate future, the EFF will settle for “an interim interdict suspending the operation of the sanction and penalty against [the six MPs] until the finalisation of this application.”

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