ConCourt rules against police removing MP’s from Parli

BY CHARL BOSCH - MARCH 18, 2016

The Constitutional Court has upheld the ruling of the High Court that Section 11 of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities Act of Parliament, which allows for the speaker to have MP’s removed by the police, was unconstitutional.

“If 'person' in section 11 of the Act does not include a member, then the constitutional issue of an infringement of the parliamentary privilege of freedom of speech does not arise,” Justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga said in passing his verdict.

“The matter must end there; and there cannot be confirmation of the high court’s declaration of constitutional invalidity. If it does, then I must engage in the confirmation debate. When the order made... takes effect, Parliament will not be left unable to deal with members who cause or take part in disturbances”.

Madlanga’s verdict comes after the High Court approved an application by the Democratic Alliance (DA) in May last year to have the controversial section 11 declare invalid, after National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete and National Council of Provinces Chairperson Thandi Modise applied the rule to remove protesting Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MPs during President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address.

“[The ruling] is a victory for democracy and accountability as it empowers MPs to do the work South Africans expect of them, which is to hold the Executive and the President accountable for their actions,” DA Federal Chairperson James Selfe said in a statement.

“MPs have a constitutional duty to hold those in power to account, and this judgment paves the way for MPs to do so without the threat of removal from the House. It would be a sad day for our democracy if the presiding officers were allowed to have members arrested and removed from Parliament for fulfilling their constitutional responsibility, however much the executive may not like the message or how it is delivered”.