ANC welcomes ruling on debate

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Cape Town - The African National Congress and opposition parties have welcomed Thursday's Western Cape High Court ruling pertaining to a motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma.

Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko lost her bid, on behalf of eight opposition parties, to force National Assembly speaker Max Sisulu to schedule debate on the motion for Thursday.

It was officially the last sitting of the house for 2012.

Speaking on the steps of the court, Mazibuko was optimistic about the judgment.

“The ANC could have used its majority, if it so felt, to vote that motion down and the principle that has been upheld is that it cannot be constitutional, it cannot be right,” said Mazibuko.

Judge Dennis Davis found Mazibuko had every right to bring the motion, and to demand that a debate be urgently held.

However, a gap existed in the Parliamentary rules.

Davis said there was a lack of a “deadlock-breaking mechanism”, which led to Sisulu adjourning a programming committee meeting last week without the debate being scheduled, on the basis that no consensus had been reached.

“We are going to be considering our options with respect to the lacuna judge Davis referred to in the rules of Parliament which effectively enables the majority party to use its majority to stifle opposition debates, opposition motions and indeed any opposition proposal that is put on the floor of Parliament,” said Mazibuko.

She and her counterparts in the opposition would continue pushing for the motion to be heard before the parliamentary session ended.

“There are provisions in the Constitution that Parliament can be recalled when there's a matter of extreme urgency such as when the president was deploying the armed forces.... You stop all other business and Parliament must convene to consider that matter,” said Congress of the People leader Mosiuoa Lekota.

Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi said he was optimistic, and would consult with his colleagues on the way forward.

The Freedom Front Plus said the ruling should not be seen as a loss for opposition parties, but as a victory for democracy and the rights contained in the constitution.

The parties would get legal advice on whether to take the matter to the constitutional court, should they find no joy at Parliament's rules committee.

ANC Chief Whip Mathole Motshekga said this would be a mistake.

Speaking after the ruling, Motshekga said it was not up to the constitutional court to “fill the gaps” in the rules of Parliament.

“It's Parliament itself, the rules committee of Parliament, that can do that. If they want to go that route it means they have not yet learnt a lesson and they will learn another lesson in the Constitutional Court.”

ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said the ruling vindicated the party's argument that the courts could not be used to undermine the independence of Parliament.

“Any prescription of its work by any of the two arms of state (government or judiciary) would undermine a fundamental principle that underpins the Constitutional provisions of separation of powers,” he said.

Had the court ruled in favour of the motion, “it would have reduced the independence and the Constitutionally prescribed powers of Parliament in exercising its business”, said Mthembu. - Sapa

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