KZN defectors back floor-crossing agreement

KwaZulu-Natal legislators, who lost their seats when they defected to the African National Congress last year, said on Friday they supported this week’s floor-crossing agreement despite the fact that they were effectively sacrificed for the deal.

One of the five defectors has already been given a new seat in the provincial legislature and at least two of the others are confident they will be redeployed soon.

“You don’t win them all,” said a philosophical Mike Tarr. “If you divorce yourself from the decision, then I think it was the correct one.”

In June 2002, Tarr and four other members of the KwaZulu-Natal legislature took advantage of the second window-period for defections, which was designed to allow elected office-bearers across the country to change parties.

Tarr and Maurice MacKenzie joined the ANC from the ruling Inkatha Freedom Party. Belinda Scott and Tim Jeebodh moved from the Democratic Alliance, and Sam Nxumalo jumped ship from the United Democratic Movement.

Their seats would have been added to the ANC’s tally and given the party a majority in the province—and the power to form a new provincial government.

But barely four months later, the Constitutional Court ruled that floor-crossing at provincial and national level was illegal and that those who had moved could not take their seats with them.
This shut the KwaZulu-Natal five out of the legislature and the IFP, DA and UDM quickly moved to fill their chairs with others from their reserve party lists.

The ANC then indicated it would push new legislation through the national parliament that would not only provide for another session of floor-crossing but also retrospectively legitimise the June defections and put the five back in the house on the ANC benches.

To stop the ANC passing the new law, the IFP threatened to call fresh provincial elections. The IFP was on the brink of dissolving legislature at a special sitting in Pietermaritzburg on Wednesday when, in a last minute deal, the ANC agreed to scrap the retrospective clause in the new bill.

“Those of us who jumped the gun or whatever (by moving before the Constitutional Court ruling) are out of a job now but we will be put on party lists and there is a lot of movement,” Tarr said.

Tarr confirmed that he had already been earmarked for a new position but he declined to comment on when and where he might be appointed.

“There are vacancies coming up,” said Tarr. He did not expect that he would have to wait until the 2004 elections before he represented the ANC in public office.

Scott too backed the ANC’s compromise on the retrospective clause.

“It’s a very small sacrifice to pay for stability in the province and I commend the ANC for their statesmanship,” she told Sapa.

Scott said the decision of where to redeploy her—before or in the 2004 poll—was the prerogative of the ANC’s leadership.

“For me it’s never been an issue of position. I would go wherever they want me to go. If they want me outside that’s fine,” she said.

MacKenzie was already back in the legislature by early December—not in his own seat but brought in to replace ANC member Nhlahla Ngidi who had resigned to take up a job in the public service. - Sapa

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