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Johannesburg - The Constitutional Court dismissed an application by the DA to compel Parliament to debate a vote of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma, in a judgment on Tuesday.
But it found that the legislature's rules on the matter were unconstitutional and must be fixed.
"The appeal is dismissed," Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke said.
He said according to Parliament's rules, Speaker Max Sisulu did not have the power to schedule a motion of no confidence in Zuma.
"...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, and that in any event the relief sought in the appeal has become moot."
Moseneke said the primary purpose of a motion of no confidence was to ensure that the president and the national executive were accountable to the Assembly.
He found that rules regulating the Assembly were inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid.
"The rules of the Assembly must permit a motion of no confidence in the president to be formulated, discussed and voted for... within a reasonable time," he said.
"...The extent that the rules regulating the Assembly do not vindicate the rights of the members of the Assembly in this respect, they are inconsistent with section 102(2) of the Constitution and invalid."
The court ordered that the Assembly "correct the defect" in its rules so that members or political parties could debate a motion of no confidence.
Parliament was given six months to do this.
DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko, supported by seven other opposition parties, tabled a motion of no confidence in Zuma in the National Assembly on November 8.
However, Sisulu later adjourned a programming committee meeting without the debate being scheduled, on the basis that no consensus had been reached.
The DA took the matter to the Western Cape High Court where it was dismissed by Judge Dennis Davis.
Davis ruled that it was any MP's right to request a no confidence debate, and that such requests were "by their very nature" urgent.
But, because the Assembly's rules did not provide for no confidence debates, Davis could not tell Sisulu when and where the debate should take place.
The high court held that Parliament had the obligation to give effect to the right to debate and vote on a motion of no confidence, but that only the Constitutional Court could hear this matter.
It was argued by Mazibuko's lawyer in the Constitutional Court in March that the high court erred in finding that the Speaker did not have the power to schedule the motion in the event of a deadlock in the programming committee.
Mazibuko submitted that the Assembly rules were inconsistent with the Constitution.
Both the DA and the ANC claimed Tuesday's Constitutional Court ruling as a victory.
DA chief whip Watty Watson told reporters the opposition was vindicated by the court order that Parliament remedy the absence of a rule on no confidence within six months.
"This was the principle we believed was worth fighting for and we are vindicated in our belief... today was a victory for our constitutional democracy and the right of Parliament to hold the executive to account."
But ANC chief whip Stone Sizani said the case should never have been taken to court, and the ruling party read the outcome as a victory for the democratic separation of powers.
"The judiciary should not be placed in an uncomfortable position of interfering in internal affairs of an independent arm of the state, unless so directed by the Constitution," he said.
The DA said it was now up to Mazibuko to decide whether she wanted to reintroduce the motion of no confidence in Zuma and she was currently abroad.
"I can't say what Lindiwe will do but the reasons for bringing the motion in November last year are as valid, even more valid, today," Watson said, citing the growing controversy over millions spent on security upgrades at Zuma's home in Nkandla, in KwaZulu-Natal. - Sapa