Cape Town - Legal implications have been cited as one of the factors that forced Speaker Baleka Mbete to halt processes to suspend EFF MPs for disrupting Parliament three weeks ago.
But Parliament dismissed this on Tuesday, saying Mbete was forthright in her reasons for not proceeding with the suspensions, including the reasons laid out by EFF MPs in their response letters.
The EFF had promised to take Mbete to court if she went ahead and suspended 20 of its 25 members.
In a statement in the National Assembly on Tuesday, Mbete announced she would no longer go ahead and suspend the MPs.
Sources in the ANC said there were legal considerations in the Speaker’s decision to stop the processes of suspending the EFF members.
One of the sticking points was dragging Parliament through the courts where the judgment could have gone against the institution. The national legislature did not want to risk that, said one source in the ruling party.
Another member of the ANC said this was a calculated decision to block attempts to go to court.
But spokesman for Parliament Luzuko Jacobs denied this was the case.
“I would not add to what the Speaker said, including the fact that she considered the responses of the members concerned,” said Jacobs.
“Anything outside that is speculation. The Speaker was very forthright in stating the grounds for consideration.”
Mbete said, in a statement in the chamber on Tuesday, she had looked at certain factors before considering whether to suspend the EFF members or not.
She had decided that all matters relating to the disruption of proceedings of Parliament three weeks ago would now be dealt with by the powers and privileges committee.
ANC chief whip Stone Sizani said they accepted Mbete’s decision not to proceed with the suspensions as that was within rules of Parliament and the law.
“The powers and privileges committee will continue with the process and table its recommendation to the House upon concluding its work,” said Sizani’s spokesman, Moloto Mothapo.
Parliament has been taken to court on four occasions in the past three years.
While it won some cases brought by opposition parties, it lost other cases in court.
Mbete told Parliament on Tuesday that the proceedings of last month were stopped because of the disruptive conduct of EFF members.
One option she had was to invoke Rule 52 of the National Assembly rules and immediately suspend the members concerned.
However, she decided to order them to leave the chamber, but they refused and started disrupting the business of Parliament.
“A situation where rules were not observed would be tantamount to anarchy,” said Mbete.
She condemned the unruly behaviour of EFF members and said this behaviour undermined democracy.
EFF spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said they rejected Mbete’s statement in the chamber as the matter was now in the hands of the powers and privileges committee to investigate.
He said the Speaker’s remarks suggested the EFF was guilty of misconduct when the matter was still pending in the committee.
Mbete first made her intentions to suspend the 20 EFF members clear last week and she wrote to them asking for reasons why they should not be suspended.
Last year Judge Dennis Davis of the Western Cape High Court urged parties in Parliament not to run to the courts to resolve their problems in Parliament.
He said, during the DA case on the motion of no confidence against Zuma, that Parliament had the capacity and mechanisms to make its own rules.