/ 13 June 2024

Concourt dismisses MK’s urgent application to stop National Assembly sitting

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Jacob Zuma, former South African president and leader of uMkhonto weSizwe (MK Party), during a news conference at the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) national results operation centre in Midrand, South Africa, on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Leon Sadiki/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The constitutional court has dismissed the urgent application the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party brought on Monday to interdict the National Assembly from sitting on Friday to swear in MPs and elect a new president.

In a ruling published late on Wednesday night, the court said the application was without merit and did not engage its exclusive jurisdiction. 

It was not in the interests of justice to grant direct access, as the party created its own urgency by filing papers at the 11th hour.

The steps by the Electoral Commission of SA the party impugned – the dismissal of electoral objections and the announcement of the results – happened on June 1 and 2, the court noted.

“However, despite this knowledge, the applicant only launched the application on 10 June, 

“The applicant has failed to show any justification for not bringing this application sooner when it was aware of the constitutional requirement to convene the National Assembly no later than 14 days after the declaration of the election results, the urgency is thus self-created.”

The MK Party did not make out a case that it would suffer irreparable harm if the interdict was not granted, nor that the balance of convenience favoured granting an interdict.

“The application must fail on its merits,” the court said, adding that the party has misconstrued the constitutional provisions it sought to rely on.

“In addition the applicant has also not adduced facts to establish a prima facie case in respect of the relief it will seek in the main application.”

The party in the main application asked the court to declare Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s decision to convene the National Assembly unconstitutional, along with the Electoral Commission of South Africa’s (IEC) announcement of the election results. 

It wanted the court to set aside the election results and order President Cyril Ramaphosa, the fourth respondent, to call fresh elections within 90 days.

In its founding affidavit, Sihle Ngubane, the secretary general of the MK party, argued that the elections “were anything but free and fair”. He alluded to evidence of irregularities in his party’s possession but said no purpose would be served by including it in its founding papers.

Lawyers predicted that the application was doomed, saying it rested on a misreading of the Constitution

The party argued that the National Assembly would not be properly constituted because fewer than 350 members would be in attendance as its 58 MPs would boycott the sitting. But section 53 of the Constitution makes clear that the chamber can elect a new president provided at least a third of its 400 members were present.