FEDERAL LEGAL COMMISSION
DA members call for overhaul of party’s disciplinary body
The function of the DA’s Federal Legal Commission has taken centre stage in discussions around constitutional amendments which will be voted on at the party’s congress over the weekend.
The DA’s congress this weekend is set to not only elect leadership but also to make important changes to the party’s constitution.
DA constitutional amendments chair Kevin Mileham says while there were the usual submissions that the party received at almost all of its conferences, this time around the numerous calls by DA members for changes to be made to how the Federal Legal Commission (FLC) operates, have been “radical”.
Some of the submissions which Mileham and his team received were about what the party considers misconduct and the sanctions against those found guilty of wrongdoing. There were suggestions for changing the investigation procedure and becoming more effective overall.
The FLC has also been flagged for taking a long time to deal with matters, which party members believe should be remedied.
Read more in Daily Maverick: DA leaders back Steenhuisen ahead of April federal congress, but Phalatse confident of winning leadership race
The party’s disciplinary body has been heavily criticised, especially by those who faced its wrath in the past. Recently, the former Speaker of the Western Cape provincial legislature Masizole Mnqasela accused the body of flouting processes.
This was after he was charged with misconduct, without a hearing, over the results of an internal party investigation into allegations of irregularities pertaining to subsistence and travel and entertainment allowance claims.
Former DA MP Phumzile van Damme once spoke about how the body had been weaponised by certain people in the party.
She took to social media to say: “The problem is not FLC. The problem is that the FLC process is often used to settle political scores. For FLC to be truly independent, the federal executive role must be removed, in my opinion. Interested in hearing how other candidates feel about this.”
Her tweet was in response to former KwaZulu-Natal MPL Mbali Ntuli’s piece in Daily Maverick, “Insiders and outsiders: The politicisation of the DA’s disciplinary processes”.
Amen. The problem isn’t FLC. The problem is that the FLC process is often used to settle political scores. For FLC to be truly independent, FedEx’s role must be removed in my opinion. Interested in hearing how other candidates feel about this. Thanks for sharing, @mbalimcdust https://t.co/nAWo0KjOK8
— Phumzile Van Damme (@zilevandamme) September 15, 2020
At the time, Ntuli was running to be party federal leader, contesting against John Steenhuisen. She put forward one of the most immediate changes she would make if elected to lead the party — bringing an end to the politicisation of the DA’s FLC.
Ntuli’s opinion piece paints the FLC as being unfair when dealing with disciplinary matters.
“I have no doubt that many of our colleagues on the FLC do a thankless job to the best of their ability. However, no ‘firewall’ exists between FLC and political structures, as claimed by the current leadership. Once investigations are concluded, they must be tabled before PECs [provincial executive committees] or the FedEx [Federal Executive], and herein lies our problem. The FLC will often find no further need to continue with an investigation, only to be circumvented by politicians with vested interests in these bodies.
“These politicians will then weaponise the process in order to make sure that their political opponents under investigation are pursued, convicted, punished, excommunicated or have their name dragged through the mud in order to diminish their political capital. This is abhorrent behaviour,” she wrote.
Ntuli faced the FLC in 2017. She was charged for allegedly liking a comment by Pearl Pillay, who was arguing with another person on Facebook. The post in question is said to have been about Helen Zille being a racist.
The former MPL argued that the charges against her were bogus and that is why the party could not officially boot her out.
Read more in Daily Maverick: DA elective congress: A key moment, and not just for the party
Mileham explained to Daily Maverick that while it was evident that members wanted drastic changes to be made, it was highly unlikely that there would be any changes made to the rules concerning suspensions.
“Where members are found wanting, for a lack of a better word, their caucus leaders or provincial leaders can suspend them from participating in party engagements,” he said.
According to the party’s constitution, the FLC has the powers to exercise its functions “justly” and “expeditiously” and must do so, at the request of the federal leader, Federal Executive or the Federal Council.
“The Federal Legal Commission determines rules of procedure applicable to it which may not be in conflict with this constitution, and which must be approved by the Federal Council,” according to the DA’s constitution.
Mileham mentioned that the party had been inundated with submissions regarding changes which should be made to its constitution.
“In the previous conference we had 48 constitutional amendments and this year we had 101, which later dropped to around 89 submissions,” he said.
Submissions for amendments were initially made on 24 October and 18 November 2022, after which the committee reviewed and refined suggestions made by members. They were then published and members were given another opportunity to make comments.
In March the party held a webinar where the amendments were debated. The final call on suggested changes to the party’s constitution will be made through a vote by about 2,000 delegates who will be attending the congress over the weekend.
The two-day congress will be held at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand. DM