Top court will decide on debate

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IOL pic nov23 motion jacob zuma Independent Newspapers

Johannesburg - The Democratic Alliance will bring an urgent appeal in the Constitutional Court for a decision on its proposed motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma, it said on Thursday.

“Our legal team will file this urgent appeal as soon as possible,” said DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko.

On Thursday, the Western Cape High Court dismissed Mazibuko’s urgent application to force a parliamentary debate on the motion of no confidence in Zuma.

In his ruling, Judge Dennis Davis said there were gaps in the National Assembly rules, but he found it was not for the court to dictate to Parliament.

The application had sought to compel National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu to schedule the motion of a no confidence debate before Parliament went into recess.

Mazibuko said the court had nonetheless upheld the constitutional right to have a motion of no confidence debated in a reasonable time frame.

However, the National Assembly's failure to do so had frustrated this right.

She has brought the urgent application, on behalf of eight opposition parties, to force a parliamentary debate on the motion.

“We will also request that the court rule that the debate be held as a matter of urgency,” she said.

Mazibuko said that as Davis had emphasised, the National Assembly was a forum which represented all the country's people.

As such, its members had a constitutional right to have matters of national importance heard in an open debate with their peers.

“This right cannot be subverted without recourse, and we now look to the nation's highest court to vindicate it,” said Mazibuko.

In his ruling, Davis said Mazibuko had every right to table her motion under the Constitution.

The Constitution provided that no majority had the power to subvert this right for any individual member of minority parties, who represented a section of the electorate.

But, there was a lack of a “deadlock-breaking mechanism” in the Parliamentary rules when a no confidence motion was being considered by the National Assembly programming committee, he said.

Last week, Sisulu adjourned a programming committee meeting without the debate being scheduled, on the basis that no consensus had been reached.

In summary, Davis ruled that: “The applicant had the right to bring a motion of no confidence; that motion of no confidence should be treated as a matter of urgency; the time should have been found to have that debate and, the rules should be provided to ensure that the National Assembly rather than the courts makes the determination on what occurs.”

The ruling in effect means the controversial debate will not take place on Thursday, which was the last sitting of the National Assembly for 2012.

The motion was brought on the grounds “that under his (Zuma's) leadership the justice system has been politicised and weakened; corruption has spiralled out of control; unemployment continues to increase, the economy is weakening, and the right of access to quality education has been violated”.

The move was “mandated” by eight opposition parties, including the African Christian Democratic Party, the Azanian People's Organisation, the Congress of the People, the Freedom Front Plus, the Inkatha Freedom Party, the United Christian Democratic Party, and the United Democratic Front.

ANC Chief Whip Mathole Motshekga earlier described the motion as frivolous and without foundation.

He and his lawyers wrote a letter to Davis, parts of which were contained in a media release on Wednesday.

In the letter, Motshekga said the ruling party would not oppose a vote of no confidence taking place in the National Assembly, but proposed it be scheduled for February next year.

Committee meetings, oversight visits and international study tours were planned for MPs from Monday November 26 to December 7.

“Cancelling these commitments or summoning back all MPs for a special sitting would place a significant administrative, logistical and financial burden on the institution,” said Motshekga. - Sapa



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