The ConCourt judgement declaring that it is unconstitutional for the speaker of the Parliament to use police to force members of the Parliament to leave the house has been accepted by the Parliament.
The ConCourt judgement stated that the Parliament must operate in a free environment that guarantees members of the parliament freedom from arrest, detention, prosecution or harassment as a result of carrying out their duties. This is to ensure proper exercise of its oversight function over the executive.
This judgement by the court follows an application brought forward by the Democratic Alliance asking the court to declare unconstitutional, a law permitting the Speaker of the house to order police to remove members who were causing a disturbance in Parliament.
Prior to the ConCourt judgement, SA National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete used the provisions of this law to order police to force Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MPs out of Parliament during President Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address.
The court refused to confirm an order of the Western Cape High Court in May last year declaring section 11 of the Powers‚ Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act as unconstitutional and invalid.
Certain words were instead read into the section by the court as a form of adjustment to resolve the constitutional errors. It said the words “other than a member” was to be read into the section immediately after the words “A person”‚ this will exclude the MPs from the section, making it only applicable to those who are not members of the parliament.
According to the section after adjustments, a person who created any form of disturbance in the precincts while Parliament or a House or committee was holding a meeting‚ might be arrested by the police and removed from the precincts‚ on the order of the Speaker or the Chairperson or a member of the security services depending on the circumstances.
Parliament’s statement on Saturday made it clear that its presiding officers had always supported the protection of the rights and freedoms of all members of Parliament with regards to the Constitution and would not relent in doing so.
“But of equal importance to the Presiding Officers is to ensure that the business of the House is able to proceed without undue disruption and hindrance. Therefore‚ they welcome the clarity this judgment of the Constitutional Court has brought to a rather vexed and complex issue with which the presiding officers and Parliament have been seized for some time now.”
Meanwhile, in his reply to the 2016 SONA debate, President Jacob Zuma admonished MPs to always be mindful of their actions and utterances and put aside their party differences and work together for the common goal of moving the nation forward.