ANC MP Mervyn Dirks goes to court to challenge ‘proverbial guillotine’

He claims his suspension is an attempt by dominant party members to subvert parliament’s oversight role

24 January 2022 - 17:45
By Andisiwe Makinana
ANC MP Mervyn Dirks was found to 'not have eradicated all forms of discrimination in the performance of his duties'.
Image: People's Assembly ANC MP Mervyn Dirks was found to 'not have eradicated all forms of discrimination in the performance of his duties'.

Suspended ANC MP Mervyn Dirks has urgently approached the high court in Cape Town in a bid to be reinstated to his positions in parliament.

He also wants the court to declare his suspension from his positions in the ANC caucus unlawful, unconstitutional, null and void.

Dirks, through Gardee Godrich Attorneys, wants the court to direct the ANC and its chief whip Pemmy Majodina to reinstate his membership of the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa), of which he is the party’s whip. He also wants to return as the ANC caucus’s questions whip, to its powerful strategy committee and its WhatsApp groups.

Dirks wants the court to interdict and restrain the ANC from appointing an alternative member in his positions.

The ANC national executive committee (NEC) approved a national working committee (NWC) recommendation at the weekend that disciplinary action be taken against Dirks in terms of the party’s constitution.

Dirks wrote to Scopa chair Mkhuleko Hlengwa last month asking that President Cyril Ramaphosa be summoned to appear and reveal what he knows about the misuse of public funds for party political activities.

He ignored Majodina’s instruction to withdraw the letter, which led to Majodina placing him on precautionary suspension on Thursday and relieving him of his duties in parliament, including his membership of Scopa. She also informed him of an intention to institute disciplinary proceedings against him.

Dirks’s complaint against Ramaphosa is due for discussion in a Scopa meeting on Tuesday.

In court, Dirks said he sought to interdict Majodina and the ANC from subverting “the very foundations of our constitutional edifice”.

It is the applicant’s position that the patently harsh decision by the First Respondent [Majodina] and Second Respondent [ANC] is devoid of constitutional and rational bases.

The First Respondent’s decision and attitude towards me is based on the Second Respondent’s factional politics which should not be allowed to overshadow the constitutional functions and duties of the national assembly,” he said.

Dirks argued that should Majodina’s decision be allowed to prevail, parliament’s robust oversight role would be greatly imperilled as ANC members would be reticent to put the constitution first for fear of a political lynching.

The momentous question is: how is it that an eminently constitutional request for the president to appear before a committee which is mandated to consider the financial statements of all executive organs of state, and to account for utterances that have implications on the public purse, is met with disdain and the proverbial guillotine?”

Dirks charges that Majodina and the ANC’s decision is constitutionally untenable and is instead an attempt by some dominant members of the party to prevent parliament from playing its constitutionally mandated oversight role and robustly holding the executive to account.

A leaked recording of an ANC NEC meeting emerged towards the end of last year in which Ramaphosa can be heard saying: “One of the officials said as these people from the State Security [Agency] testify [at the state capture commission], one of the officials said soon they will be revealing how money was used for some campaigns, and I said I would rather they say you got money from this business for CR17 than for the public to finally hear that their public money was used to advance certain campaigns.”