Parties rally against defection law

The United Democratic Movement (UDM) on Wednesday completed drawing up papers for its Constitutional Court challenge to the defection laws, as more parties rallied to its side.

The Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) announced during the day it would fight the case alongside the UDM, which is already being backed by the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).

PAC president Stanley Mogoba said his party felt strongly that the defection law ”goes against the grain of our Constitution”.

”The PAC will join hands with UDM and other like-minded parties in contesting this matter before the Constitutional Court,” he said.

Freedom Front (FF) leader Pieter Mulder said his party too had offered the UDM what at this stage was only moral backing, though they were in discussion on other forms of support.

A full bench of the Cape High court earlier this week gave the UDM a Thursday deadline to file the papers, after ruling in favour of the party’s urgent application for the laws to be suspended until the Constitutional Court ruled on the matter.

”I’ve signed them (the papers) around five o’clock this afternoon; I’m satisfied with everything,” UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said on Wednesday evening.

”Arrangements are being made to ensure that first thing tomorrow morning they will be filed with the Constitutional Court.”

He said the UDM was currently the sole applicant: it was unclear whether the other parties could be joined at a later stage, or whether they would have to file separate papers.

Holomisa said speculation the case might be heard only in the last week of July made sense because the court was currently on leave, and the case appeared to merit consideration by a full bench.

Also on Wednesday, the Cabinet announced government would, in its replying papers, ask the Constitutional Court for a declaratory order on whether a High Court could block legislation such as the defection laws.

”Although government has reservations regarding the main ruling of the Cape High Court… it does accept the decision of the court,” a Cabinet statement said.

”Besides government’s confidence in the content of the legislation passed, the fundamental principle of competence of a High Court to prevent the operation of a law already proclaimed, needs to be clarified.”

Justice department representative Paul Setsetse said the government would repeat its High Court argument that the law came into operation when it was gazetted on the afternoon of June 21, and not midnight as a presidency representative and the Speaker of the National Assembly have maintained.

The issue is crucial for the handful of defectors who appear to have jumped the gun and are now in limbo.

Politicians returned to the Cape High Court on Wednesday morning to hear Judge Siraj Desai grant another urgent application, this time confirming temporarily that eight ”defectors” are still members of the Democratic Alliance (DA).

The eight, who include seven councillors from the hotly-contested Cape Town unicity, received letters this week telling them the DA no longer regarded them as members of the party.

Their names were included in revised New National Party (NNP) candidate lists for the National Assembly and Western Cape legislature published on June 19 — a day before the defection legislation was to come into force. The matter will be argued on August 8.

Also on Wednesday, the UDM’s legal team said it had yet to decide whether to ask for a full explanation for a telephone call from Justice Minister Penuell Maduna to Cape High Court Judge President John Hlophe, last Thursday evening.

The call was made after High Court Judge Hennie Nel granted the UDM an initial urgent interdict pending the full bench hearing. Maduna is himself a respondent in the case.

Setsetse said that Maduna had indeed phoned Hlophe ”administratively” after Nel’s ruling, to try to find out when a full bench of the court could be convened to hear the case.

The merits of the case were not discussed, he said. – Sapa

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Ben Maclennan
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