Parliament may have to sue Winnie
Parliament might be forced to institute civil proceedings against African National Congress MP Winnie Madikizela-Mandela after it emerged on Thursday that it may be illegal to simply dock her wages to enforce a fine.
The National Assembly last year unanimously endorsed a recommendation by Parliament’s ethics committee that Madikizela-Mandela be severely reprimanded by Speaker Dr Frene Ginwala and that a fine equivalent to 15 days’ salary—about
R12 500—be imposed.
This was after Parliament’s ethics committee found Madikizela-Mandela guilty of contravening the institution’s code of conduct, in that she failed to disclose donations of R50 000 a month to supplement her monthly income, as well as her financial interests, in the Winnie Mandela Family Museum.
She is the first MP to be found guilty under the code. The code states that members must disclose all gifts, hospitality, sponsorships and benefits valued at more than R350, as well as shares and financial interests in companies and other corporate entities.
At Thursday’s National Assembly programme committee meeting, Parliament’s legal adviser, Hishaam Mohamed, told MPs that the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers Act provided that the salary paid to members was subject to Parliament’s rules and orders.
While it would be unconstitutional for Parliament to reduce or tamper with MPs’ salaries, there was a difference when making a deduction, as long as a proper process was followed.
However, provision for such a process did not exist and would either have to be formulated in Parliament’s rules, or by way of legislation, such as the Powers and Privileges of Parliament Bill, which is currently in its 10th draft. “I would think the safest route would be to institute civil proceedings against a member.”
Ginwala said the matter would be followed up, and she would report back to the Chief Whip’s Forum before imposing and implementing the penalty against Madikizela-Mandela.
Madikizela-Mandela is suing Parliament on the basis her constitutional rights were violated by the ethics committee because it failed to give her an opportunity to present her side of the story.
Madikizela-Mandela failed to appear before the committee on at least two occasions, claiming she was ill at the time.