DA threatens court action against Parliament

Speaker Baleka Mbete told the DA to go ahead with their threat of court action against Parliament. (David Harrison, M&G)

Speaker Baleka Mbete told the DA to go ahead with their threat of court action against Parliament. (David Harrison, M&G)

Speaker Baleka Mbete has told the DA to go right ahead with their threat to take Parliament to court. 

The party tabled a motion last week calling for the House to debate a motion of impeachment against President Jacob Zuma over the country’s handling of Sudanese leader Omar Al Bashir’s visit and departure from the country and it was ruled out this week under the “sub judice” rules. The DA received the Speaker’s ruling on the impeachment on Wednesday night, and took the matter up with Parliament’s programming committee on Thursday.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said on Thursday the refusal to allow the debate to take place due to sub judice rules was misplaced.

Citing various legislation, Steenhuisen said MPs had freedom of speech in the House and the rule could not be used as an excuse to prevent a matter from being put on the programme or order paper.

“I don’t think it’s possible to prejudge what the debate is going to say and use that as a reason to prevent from it being programmed. Doing so is actually curtailing our rights.

“I’m attempting to exhaust my internal remedies in terms of driving this process.
If you do not want to hear me out, I’m left with no option but to approach the court this afternoon to seek an order on this,” he said. Steenhuisen said the refusal to have the matter debated was just an attempt to protect Zuma at all costs.

“This Parliament does not belong to you Madam Speaker, it belongs to all of us. We have a right to place these motions and we have a right to have them assessed fairly.”

Mbete told him he was free to approach the courts on the matter.

“You are at liberty to do so. I also have a role to play, I have considered all issues before me. I have taken a decision and written back to the honourable member who had written me [on the motion]. And you have the freedom to approach the courts.”

Last week, announcing the intention to call for the impeachment, DA leader Mmusi Maimane said under Zuma the country has seen a degradation of the principle of the separation of powers, with the Executive showing an increased disdain for the Judiciary and the Legislative branch. 

“The DA will not tolerate the destruction of our Constitution and the pillars on which our democracy stands. We must fight to see the supreme law of our land upheld, and those who undermine it met with the appropriate sanction. Impeaching President Jacob Zuma will go a long way to restoring the integrity of our democracy in this regard,” he said last week.

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