EFF proposes Parliament 'impeachment panel' to investigate misconduct of president

The National Assembly's subcommittee on rules met on Wednesday to discuss drafting the rules for the procedure to remove the president. (Elmond Jiyane)

The National Assembly's subcommittee on rules met on Wednesday to discuss drafting the rules for the procedure to remove the president. (Elmond Jiyane)

President Jacob Zuma should appear before a fact-finding inquiry in Parliament before a motion to impeach him can go ahead, the Economic Freedom Fighter’s Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said on Wednesday.

The National Assembly’s subcommittee on rules met on Wednesday to discuss drafting the rules for the procedure to remove the president after being instructed to do so by the Constitutional Court in a judgement in December. The legislation for the impeachment of a president is envisioned in Section 89 of the Constitution, but the Constitutional Court found that parliament’s rules on the issue were inadequate.

Political parties have struggled with the process of drafting the rules, and some of the technicalities which include defining what would be a “serious violation” of the constitution. According to Section 89, a president may only be removed for three reasons: a serious violation of the Constitution or the law, serious misconduct, or inability to perform the functions of office.

Ndlozi said that in order for an impeachment process to begin, there would still need to be an inquiry to establish the facts around accusations the president is facing. He said that the Constitutional Court said in its judgement that the inquiry must take place before a motion to remove the president can be heard. The inquiry would determine if the president has breached Section 89.

“The president never gave his side of the story, we have never heard his response and there is no oral proof. According to the judgement, section 89 needs an inquiry before a debate can happen,” Ndlozi said.

Frank Jenkins, parliament’s legal advisor, and other political parties agreed with Ndlozi’s assessment that an inquiry is necessary prior to a motion to remove the president being heard. Ndlozi suggested that it the inquiry take the form of an “impeachment panel” to be headed by five retired judges. The IFP’s Mkhuleko Hlengwa responded to Ndlozi’s suggestion, saying that if there were to be a panel of five retired judges then there should also be a parliamentary committee who would work alongside the panel to ensure that MPs were not deferring their duties.

The Democratic Alliance’s John Steenhuisen, who was in agreement with Ndlozi for most of the day, said that there should be a legal opinion on if MPs can relegate such an important duty to people who are not MPs.

Rules around the removal of president have yet to be confirmed. In 2016, a draft version of the rules circulated, but MPs on Wednesday said they had only recently seen the draft rules after the Constitutional Court judgement.

The subcommittee is continuing, but so far the appears to unanimous agreement that an inquiry must happen before the motion to remove a president can be debated. The format of that inquiry has yet to be decided, but if it made a rule in the National Assembly, it will mean that President Jacob Zuma could be called before MPs to answer for his conduct along with facing a judicial inquiry into state capture allegations.

The Constitutional Court ruled that MPs have six months to put impeachment procedures in place. 

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