Cops can't be ordered into Parliament, ConCourt rules
The Constitutional Court on Friday found that the Speaker of the National Assembly cannot order security forces to remove a parliamentarian causing a disturbance in the House.
It declined to confirm an order the Western Cape High Court in Cape Town made in May last year when it found section 11 of the Powers‚ Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act was invalid to the extent that it permitted an MP to be arrested for conduct that was protected in the Constitution.
However‚ the court inserted words into the section to show that an MP could not be removed from parliament for causing a disturbance.
The section states that a person who creates any disturbance in the precincts while Parliament or a House or committee is meeting‚ may be arrested and removed from the precincts‚ on the order of the Speaker or the Chairperson or a member of the security services.
During the State of the Nation address in February last year‚ members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) were removed from the house after they disturbed President Jacob Zuma’s speech. Speaker Baleka Mbete invoked section 11 when she ordered police officers to remove the EFF members.
Since then such disturbances have become commonplace. Parliament is grappling with a sharp increase in rowdy behaviour since the election of 25 EFF MPs in 2014.
On Thursday‚ Mbete ordered Democratic Alliance (DA) Parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane to leave the house. Maimane tried to raise a point of order while Zuma was answering questions and refused to sit down when Mbete ordered him to sit. The rest of the DA’s MPs followed him out.
It was the DA that successfully challenged the constitutionality of section 11 in May.
In the Constitutional Court’s majority judgment‚ Justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga found that if the word “person” in the Act included a member of Parliament‚ the section was constitutionally invalid.
It found the omission of the words “other than a member” after the word “person” in section 11 to be inconsistent with the Constitution.
The court rectified the constitutional defect by reading in the words “other than a member” after the words “A person” at the beginning of section 11.
This means that any person other than a parliamentarian can still be removed from Parliament for causing a disturbance.
- TMG Digital