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RULE OF LAW

Sona disruptions — Parliament had every right to eject EFF MPs, court finds

Sona disruptions — Parliament had every right to eject EFF MPs, court finds
EFF members are evicted from the 2023 State Of The Nation Address at Parliament in Cape Town. (Photo: Gallo Images / Jeffrey Abrahams)

The Western Cape High Court has found that the Economic Freedom Fighters has no right to reject the authority of parliamentary rules nor disrupt parliamentary proceedings.

The finding by Judge Derek Wille in the Western High Court on Monday that the EFF doesn’t have the right to disrupt parliamentary proceedings comes at a significant moment as the role of SA’s seventh Parliament with a coalescing government of national unity solidifies.

So far, former president Jacob Zuma’s newly formed uMkhonto Wesizwe (MK) party and a few others in the coalition of the vengeful are refusing to play ball.

In 2021, Zuma was convicted of “unprecedented” contempt and sentenced to 15 months in jail. He served only a fraction of it after an attempted insurrection in KZN and Gauteng in July of that year.

Judge Sisi Khampepe said then that the majority of the court felt about Zuma’s contempt that “when the constitutional safeguards are undermined so egregiously, it requires swift and effective action… Never before has the Constitutional Court been subject to the kinds of attack launched by Mr Zuma.”

Peak Zupta years

Back in 2015, during Zuma’s peak power as president, the EFF disrupted the State of the Nation Address, chanting “Pay back the money” with regard to state expenditure on Zuma’s private home at Nkandla. EFF MPs scuffled with parliamentary security when they were forced out of the National Assembly.

The same happened in 2017 when Zuma’s star fell into a quagmire of State Capture allegations.

These incidents, the EFF’s 2015 and 2017 ejections, have washed ashore several years after the fact.

In 2015, the State Security Agency (SSA) and the then minister of state security, David Mahlobo, scrambled cellphone communications in Parliament as an alleged “counter-threat measure” before Zuma’s scheduled address. The EFF was removed from the chamber.

Mahlobo later blamed the move on “an operational error” by an official.

Free speech not absolute

On Monday, Judge Wille said, “In our new democracy, parliamentary members enjoy freedom of speech, but this right cannot be absolute. It is governed and regulated by parliamentary rules and regulations.” 

The foundations of South Africa’s constitutional dispensation placed an obligation on all “to respect and adhere to constitutional supremacy and the rule of law,” he said.

The EFF’s leader, Julius Malema, and 23 of the party’s MPs were the applicants, with the Speaker of the National Assembly, the chair of the National Council of Provinces and the minister of police as respondents. 

The EFF had been accused of  “wilfully, violently and with premeditation unlawfully [disrupting] certain presidential proceedings”, on two occasions after which the Speaker, Baleka Mbete at the time, requested protection services to remove EFF MPs.

As is its habit, the EFF turned to the courts, where it sought an order that it had been unlawful to order the ejection of its parliamentary members. On top of that, the party claimed compensatory “constitutional damages”.

The EFF alleged party members had been “unlawfully and violently assaulted during and after” the process of their removal from Parliament. The express intention of the EFF disruptions had been to humiliate Zuma and prevent him from addressing the nation.

Judge Wille said, “In these circumstances, it would not be legally permissible for the applicants [EFF] to assert their rights to some species of constitutional protection to excuse their conduct.”

Applying the rule of law

Judge Wille explained that while the opposed application concerned “some complex legal issues”, it essentially boiled down to “applying the rule of law in our new constitutional democracy”.

While the EFF had placed more emphasis on the “constitutional character” of their application, their complaint was not the removal itself, but “the gratuitous violence” that followed.

However, Judge Wille found “the disguised and chameleonic approach of dressing up the true cause of action was simply an attempt to circumvent several statutory hurdles, and this application was not infused with any true constitutional ingredients”.

To enable parliamentary members to carry out their constitutional functions effectively, specific targeted legislation was enacted to provide for further privileges and immunities for parliamentary members to protect the authority, independence and dignity of the legislatures and their members.

Following this targeted legislation, a person who causes or participates in a disturbance in the chamber during a parliamentary session may be arrested and removed from the chamber, Judge Wille said.

Parliament had sought punitive costs against the EFF, stating that the party’s application was “fatally flawed”.

The EFF had made “several unfounded serious claims and allegations” and the party’s application had been “unjustified, vexatious, impermissibly delayed and moot”, the respondents said.

The high court ordered the EFF to pay the costs of two counsel. DM

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  • Denise Smit says:

    Please let us remember the summing up of the EFF approach by the judge. Chameleonic. They will never be stately or mature as some reporters have claimed during these elections. If it seemed so , it is their chameleonic approach of disguise when it suits them

    • James Leroy says:

      The only reason juju has “matured” since the election is because he was rejected by the people he thought would make him president. He is embarrassed. It gives me much joy.

  • Malcolm McManus says:

    Very childish these EFF clowns. Am embarrassment to South Africa. Very appropriate that they wear clown suits although not suitable dress code for parliament, a place for serious business.

    • Sydney Kaye says:

      The rules should be changed to disallow any party regalia, otherwise next thing MK will arrive in camouflage.

    • Peter Smith says:

      When a clown seats himself on the throne he does not become a king, the kingdom becomes a circus! – Author unknown

      • D'Esprit Dan says:

        Turkish proverb, from memory – DM had it in one of their newsletters last year. But yes, Malema is the court jester at best, Pennywise the Dancing Clown at worst. EFF policy reads a bit like the script from Killer Clowns from Outer Space (yes, Google helped with that one!).

  • Sydney Kaye says:

    They will need to increase parliamentary police , ready to evict both EFF and MK for when they inevitably disrupt proceedings.

  • Sydney Kaye says:

    They will need to increase parliamentary police , ready to evict both EFF and MK for when they inevitably disrupt proceedings.

    • Malcolm McManus says:

      For sure. Blatantly obvious. Imagine how smooth parliament would go without clowns. Not that global behavior in parliaments across the world is much better. The only difference is our clowns wear clown suits, so are easier to spot when they arrive.

  • Rae Earl says:

    Juju and his mob are receiving their just desert on such a regular basis that it seems they are incapable of reasoning with regard to even basic facts. The country as a whole is now laughing at them and their dress code which would appear to denote low levels of intelligence.

  • anton kleinschmidt says:

    The media helped create this Frankensteinian monster. In fact they played the most prominent role in doing so.

    The EFF is no longer of any political significance. It would be nice if the media recognises this reality and stops giving them a soapbox

  • Vic Mash says:

    They will claim the judge is racist because he is white…

  • James Isaac says:

    Apparently this guys that are handling EFF, Specialized tactical unit (CAT) that protect the President were left out from R21000 scarce skills allowance increase.
    They were getting R4000 like other Specialized Tactical units but the Counter Assault Team (CAT) was left out even when the management complain about losing members to the security companies. According to the SAPS management and Minister of police. they are not in the attention of the media
    management act only on media attentions

  • Truth Hurts says:

    The EFF behaved like a bunch of clowns, while being paid by our tax monies! Through all the years they have been in parliament, and ro some extent provincial legislatures, I still want to see any value they added.

    An empty tin, makes a lot of noise! That tin in South African politics is the Eff and Juliass. It seems like the Zupta Mk party is following that path! They have nothing ro offer South Africans, and they want our institutions to grind to a halt. They must never be given that platform, they never earned it! South Africa and her people are resilient, and she will never be taken for granted by anyone! And if they don’t believe me, they must ask the once dominant Anc!

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Dangerous toddlers – and in the way of toddlers everywhere, completely about self.

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