EFF sanctions lifted, Parliament accepts decision

EFF MPs, who were suspended from Parliament, have been given some reprieve by a high court judge, who lifted the sanctions. (David Harrison, M&G)

EFF MPs, who were suspended from Parliament, have been given some reprieve by a high court judge, who lifted the sanctions. (David Harrison, M&G)

The suspension and sanctions imposed on 20 Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MPs by Parliament last month had failed to take into account “democratic imperatives”, Judge Dennis Davis said on Tuesday.

Granting the EFF the urgent interdict they had sought through the high court in the Western Cape, he stressed that the MPs were elected representatives.

“These applicants are not aggrieved employees. They are public representatives who represent at least 6.35% of the electorate ... they are paid to represent their constituents.

“Failing to pay them is not only hardship to themselves ...
but weakens their financial ability to do the job for which they’re paid,” Davis said.

Similarly, a suspension that barred them access to their offices prevented them doing their jobs as public representatives.

Democratic imperatives
He said the suspensions had “failed to take account of democratic imperatives”.

Davis said the applicants had, given the nature of the relief being sought, made out a case justifying the granting of a temporary interdict preventing Parliament imposing suspension sanctions on them.

It would come into effect immediately. No date has been set for final judgment on the suspensions.

Last week, Davis heard argument on the matter from Dumisa Ntsebeza, for the EFF, and Willie Duminy, for Parliament. The EFF has 25 MPs at Parliament.

Following the National Assembly’s adoption last month of a report by Parliament’s powers and privileges committee, six EFF MPs were suspended for 30 days without pay, six for 14 days without pay, and eight were ordered to apologise to the House and fined 14 days’ salary.

The matter originated with the “pay back the money” incident in the National Assembly on August 21 this year, when EFF MPs chanted and banged on their desks, disrupting President Jacob Zuma’s replies to questions.

In his judgment on Tuesday, Davis emphasised that his judgment “cannot and does not provide a definitive finding regarding the applicants’ conduct” on that day.

Parliament to comply
Parliament said it would comply with the order.

“Parliament notes the judgment ... delivered today, which, as an interim measure, requires Parliament to pay, with immediate effect, the salaries and allowances to 20 Economic Freedom Fighters members,” it said in a statement.

Parliament said it was important to note that Davis had indicated in his judgment that another court needed to deliberate on the merits of the EFF’s application.

“Judge Davis categorically said that the judgment was not definitive and did not seek to undermine Parliament’s authority to conduct its own business, as an independent branch of the state, in terms of its own internal arrangements.

“He further said that the judgment was not about determining whether the conduct of the 20 affected EFF members was deserving of sanction.”

‘Serves to delay’ sanctions
In a separate statement, the ANC at Parliament said the interim order “only serves to delay the implementation of the sanctions against the EFF MPs, not to scrap or declare them unlawful”.

It said that in presenting his judgment, Davis had been clear that the court’s decision related only to the interim edict, not to the merits of the case, the fairness or otherwise of the parliamentary disciplinary process, or the penalties imposed.

“In this regard, we remain firm in our view that the disciplinary process was fair, just, open and transparent, and would stand any judicial scrutiny,” ANC chief whip Stone Sizani said.

Pay back the money
The matter originated with the “pay back the money” incident in the National Assembly on August 21 this year, when EFF MPs chanted and banged on their desks, disrupting President Jacob Zuma’s replies to questions.

In his judgment on Tuesday, Davis emphasised that his judgment “cannot and does not provide a definitive finding regarding the applicants’ conduct” on that day.

However, he found that the suspensions had “failed to take account of democratic imperatives”, and had weakened the 20 EFF MPs’ ability to serve the public who elected them. – Sapa, Staff reporter

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