Speaker of Parliament`s remarks on respect for rules by MPs

2 January 2013

The Office of the ANC Chief Whip welcomes an appeal by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Max Sisulu, for political parties in Parliament to respect the rules of the institution and desist from the undesirable habit of drawing the judiciary into the affairs of Parliament without exhausting available internal dispute-resolution processes.

Last year, the judiciary was in an unfair situation whereby they had to pronounce on internal operational matters of another independent arm of the state - Parliament. It is unfair for any judge to be expected to adjudicate on political impasses involving political parties in Parliament, thereby playing a nanny over an institution whose independence is guaranteed in the Constitution.

As we have often said, the responsibilities of the Courts do not include micromanaging Parliament. It is for this reason that on three occasions, the Courts last year rejected the attempts of opposition parties to undermine the sacrosanct doctrine of separation of powers:

  • On 22 November 2013, Judge Dennis Davies dismissed the application by eight political parties to force Parliament to debate a no confidence motion. Judge Davis concurred that the judiciary cannot be expected to adjudicate on matters falling under the authority of Parliament.
  • On 30 November 2013, eight judges of the Constitutional Court rejected an "urgent" application by opposition parties, aimed at urgently forcing Parliament to debate the motion of no confidence in the President before 7 December 2012.
  • On 12 December 2012, a full bench of the Western Cape High Court unanimously dismissed an application by Mosiuoa Lekota against the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the NA. The Court found that both the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker had acted within the Rules of the National Assembly and the Constitution in sanctioning Lekota for his un-parliamentary remarks.

We agree with the Speaker of Parliament that parties must take advantage of the current process underway to review the rules of Parliament, including addressing any gap that might exist in the current rules.

It is our observation that this increasing new tendency to run to courts is symptomatic of a general lack of knowledge or misinterpretation of the rules of Parliament. For this reason, we strongly recommend that the institution seriously consider conducting a compulsory and comprehensive workshop on rules for all MPs upon conclusion of the current rules review process. This will afford MPs an opportunity to re-familiarize themselves with the rules and internalize the new rules regime. We are hopeful this will go a long way in cushioning Parliament against unnecessary hostile political battles, which result in abuse of courts.

Issued by:
The office of the ANC Chief Whip

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