South Africa Court rules National Assembly Speaker cannot be compeled to schedule a debate motion of no confidence

Basseterre, St. Kitts, 29th August , 2013 (CUOPM) –A victory for the Speaker of the National Assembly in South Africa.

The National Assembly in South Africa says it welcomes a decision by the Constitutional Court to dismiss, with costs, Democratic Alliance Parliamentary leader, Ms Lindiwe Mazibuko’s application seeking to compel the National Assembly Speaker, Mr. Max Sisulu to schedule a debate on the motion of no confidence in the President His Excellency Jacob Zuma.

A release from the Parliament of South Africa states that in its judgment, the court confirmed the decision of the Western Cape High Court that the Speaker, acting alone, has no residual power to schedule a motion of no confidence in the President to be debated and voted on in the Assembly.

The Court also found the Rules of the NA relating to the programming of such motions to be unconstitutional as they did not provide for the tabling of motions of no confidence. The constitutional invalidity of the impugned rules was suspended for six months to allow Parliament sufficient time to correct the defect.

The application to the Constitutional Court followed the earlier dismissal of the matter by the Western Cape High Court in November. At the time the lower Court issued a stern warning against “drawing the judiciary into every and all political disputes.” Despite this warning, an application was made to the Constitutional Court at a time when the institution was in effect reviewing the relevant Rules.

Speaker the Hon. Max Sisulu

Mr Sisulu has consistently maintained that he did not have the authority to take decisions outside the Rules. The Court agreed with this position and stated that, where the Rules provided for a matter and gave direction, the Speaker had no authority to act on his own accord contrary to this.

The Speaker welcomes today’s final settlement of this matter by the Constitutional Court. Members are encouraged to use the review of the Rules process to make meaningful contribution and improve the Rules of the NA rather than resorting to recurrent applications to the courts.

There are processes within Parliament to address any grievances or oversights in the rules. MPs are encouraged to take advantage of the review of the Rules to ensure that the Rules facilitate the discharge of their mandate rather than hinder them.

The process to review the Rules of the NA was started last year. A multi-party sub-committee which is assisted by former Members and other experts was set up to review the rules to ensure that they better reflected the provisions of the constitution.

A draft of the proposed review has been sent to Parties for comment.

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