DA’s impeachment attempt is inconsequential
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