ID stands fast against floor-crossers
The Independent Democrats (ID) were riding high on the eve of the floor-crossing window on Friday after Cape High Court judges rejected bids by four would-be deserters to hang on to their seats until midnight.
Orange-shirted ID supporters erupted in cheers when the decisions were announced, and afterwards gathered outside the court singing “Let it roll, Patricia, let it roll”.
Judge Dennis Davis, in a ruling handed down on Friday, turned down an application by former ID general secretary Avril Harding to have his summary expulsion from the party reversed.
Harding was hoping to retain his seat in the National Assembly.
And on Friday afternoon, Judge Bennie Griesel rejected similar bids by the mayor of Overberg district municipality, JJ Januarie, the mayor of West Coast, Jakes Botha, and Swellendam councillor Rudolph Smit.
All four were axed on evidence that they were seeking to form a new party, the Social Democrats.
The judges found that the men were offered disciplinary hearings after their expulsion, and the possibility of reinstatement, and had not taken this offer up.
They should have exhausted all the party’s internal remedies before coming to court.
“He did it the wrong way round,” Davis said of Harding.
Davis, a veteran of previous floor-crossing windows, said the Harding case was one in which the profoundest principles of natural justice had been raised by both parties.
“But this is not a case about natural justice on its own,” he said. “It’s a case about floor-crossing.”
Crossing the floor was constitutional, he said.
But unfortunately, despite the “lofty justifications” premised on democracy and the consciences of politicians, the entire process had been tarnished by “unseemly political horse-trading”.
If what he had read in the media recently was true, the entire system of democracy in South Africa now resembled transfer season in the English Premiership.
ID leader Patricia de Lille said she was happy at the rulings because the ID was now able to replace the men with people who would service ID voters, who would otherwise have been left without representatives until the next elections.
“It seems to me that the Social Democrats party is a still-born party, because instead of recruiting new people they’re including ID people,” she said.
Harding was to have faced a party disciplinary hearing on Friday morning on a separate sexual-harassment charge.
Two doctors arrived with his legal representative to argue for a postponement on medical grounds.
However, when news came through of the high court ruling, the legal representative “said it no longer had to be heard”, according to ID spokesperson Steven Otter.
ID Cape Town councillor Achmat Williams did arrive at the party’s parliamentary offices on Friday morning for his appeal against his expulsion for alleged toenadering with Truman Prince of the Independent Civic Organisation of South Africa.
He said afterwards that the hearing ended at noon.
The party had given a commitment it would not replace him as councillor until he had been notified of the outcome.
Williams tried unsuccessfully on Thursday to get a high court interdict to stop the hearing, but he also lost.—Sapa.