DA’s im­peach­ment at­tempt is in­con­se­quen­tial

CityPress - - Voices - Moloto Mothapo voices@ city­press. co. za

The DA last week tabled a so-called im­peach­ment mo­tion propos­ing that the Na­tional Assem­bly re­move Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma from of­fice for al­legedly vi­o­lat­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion re­gard­ing the pres­i­dent of Su­dan’s visit to South Africa. The DA, which has to date prob­a­bly brought more mo­tions against Zuma than the to­tal num­ber of its public rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the Na­tional Assem­bly, has claimed that this mo­tion is “his­toric” be­cause it is based on sec­tion 89 of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

Their pre­vi­ous mo­tions, all of which ended up in the dust­bin of history, were based on sec­tion 102 of the Con­sti­tu­tion, which did not re­quire the party to legally mo­ti­vate the ne­ces­sity of the mo­tion. Sec­tion 89 of the Con­sti­tu­tion states that the pres­i­dent may only be re­moved from of­fice for a se­ri­ous vi­o­la­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion or the law.

Given the fact that no court of law has ever found the pres­i­dent guilty of trans­gress­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion or the law, mean­ing the DA’s pro­posed “im­peach­ment” fails to sat­isfy re­quire­ments set out in this sec­tion, the mo­tion then be­comes as in­con­se­quen­tial as oth­ers be­fore it. The claim that it is his­toric is thus noth­ing but a pro­mo­tional line to sell to the media what is, far from be­ing a sub­stan­tive mo­tion, a pub­lic­ity stunt.

The fact that there is no con­crete le­gal proof to back the DA’s mo­tion, given that the court process on the mat­ter is in­con­clu­sive, prompted the Speaker of the Na­tional Assem­bly to cau­tion the DA against pro­ceed­ing un­til the judg­ment on the gov­ern­ment ap­peal was de­liv­ered.

Also, nei­ther the North Gaut­eng High Court or­der be­ing re­ferred to in the DA mo­tion nor the en­su­ing case be­fore the court about the pres­i­dent’s con­duct have been com­pleted. The pres­i­dent is not on trial.

The DA did not heed the Speaker’s sen­si­ble and legally sound pro­ce­dural ad­vice. There­fore, with­out any sound le­gal or con­sti­tu­tional ba­sis to jus­tify the mo­tion, the de­bate be­comes just a rit­ual of our democ­racy, or aca­demic.

Par­lia­ment re­solved to de­bate the mo­tion merely be­cause it pur­ports to be a “con­sti­tu­tional mo­tion” that ought to be ac­corded the cour­tesy of a de­bate – noth­ing more, noth­ing less. Demo­cratic mul­ti­party par­lia­ments such as ours are ex­pected to de­bate such mo­tions, friv­o­lous as they might be, as and when they are tabled.

The DA has claimed a sim­ple one-third of the Na­tional Assem­bly would be suf­fi­cient for the House to form an ad hoc com­mit­tee to probe the pres­i­dent. It is clear that the party is badly ad­vised legally.

Nowhere in the Con­sti­tu­tion or the rules of the House does it state that a House may pass a res­o­lu­tion through a mi­nor­ity vote in­stead of a ma­jor­ity vote. That would be an af­front to the con­sti­tu­tional prin­ci­ples that un­der­pin our democ­racy.

In the fi­nal anal­y­sis, whether the DA’s mo­tion is a con­se­quence of an er­ro­neous com­pre­hen­sion of the law or merely a badly or­ches­trated pub­lic­ity stunt, it is not worth the pa­per it is writ­ten on.

The tragedy of this mis­guided po­lit­i­cal pos­tur­ing is that it makes light of sec­tion 89 of the Con­sti­tu­tion, a crit­i­cal pro­vi­sion that ought to be in­voked strictly un­der se­vere grounds of mis­con­duct on the part of the pres­i­dent. Op­po­si­tions in se­ri­ous democ­ra­cies know when to draw the line re­gard­ing such con­sti­tu­tional clauses, re­gard­less of the temp­ta­tion for nar­row po­lit­i­cal grand­stand­ing.

Gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to ap­ply for leave to ap­peal the North Gaut­eng High Court de­ci­sion re­gard­ing the pres­i­dent of Su­dan’s visit ought to be sup­ported by those who value African unity, a peace­ful res­o­lu­tion to the Su­danese cri­sis and sub­scrip­tion to the prin­ci­ple of African so­lu­tions to African prob­lems.

The ANC stands ready for this de­bate, and to con­sign this mo­tion into the rub­bish bin of history through su­pe­rior and co­gent ar­gu­ments.

Mothapo is ANC spokesper­son in Par­lia­ment

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