The ANC Parliamentary Caucus welcomes the judgment delivered on Wednesday, 26 April 2023, by the full bench of the High Court of South Africa Western Cape Division, in the matter of the African Transformation Movement (ATM) v the Speaker of the National Assembly and Others (case numbers 7186/2022 & 21574/2022).
The first application concerned a motion of no confidence in the President of the Republic tabled by the ATM in March 2020 and reinstated in March 2022.
The Speaker duly considered the ATM’s request for the vote on the motion to be conducted by secret ballot but decided to decline it and set out the reasons for her decision.
The second application, launched on 20 December 2022, centred around the
lawfulness of the Speaker’s decision to decline the ATM’s request for a secret ballot in respect of the NA’s consideration of the independent panel report regarding a motion initiated by the ATM for the removal of the President from office in terms of s89 of the Constitution.
While it was a party cited in the ATM’s application, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) foolishly declared its support for the application.
The court clarified in its judgment that there is “no provision in its rules for a respondent in motion proceedings to deliver supporting papers, thereby making itself in effect a co-applicant.”
The court dismissed both cases with cost.
The full bench of the High Court asserted that it is not open to the ATM to argue that the decisions of the Speaker were unlawful merely because it disagreed with them.
The court also found that the Speaker had, in fact, placed great weight on the importance of the NA’s proceedings generally being conducted openly.
The ANC Parliamentary Caucus is pleased that the High Court has affirmed the constitutional principle of separation of powers between the Judicial and Legislative
arms of government, which the ATM and the EFF sought to undermine.
The Constitution clearly states in s57(1)(a) that the NA is the ultimate master of its internal arrangements, procedures and proceedings.
The High Court also affirmed the democratic principle that a court could not overturn the decision of a majority of members of the NA on 13 December 2022 on the spurious grounds that the Speaker should have agreed with the ATM’s request for a secret ballot.
In essence, the court rejected the ATM and EFF’s attempt to overturn the decision of the NA in which they participated. In this regard, the High Court asserted that:
“the validity of the vote depends not on whether the vote was conducted by open or secret ballot but whether members voted without undue or dishonest influence.”
This judgment carries an important lesson for future motions in Parliament and other
legislatures where very small two-person political parties like the ATM have attempted to use the judiciary to win positions they could not win through democratic processes.
The High Court also clarified another important matter that some opposition parties have abused – the alleged autonomy of individual Members of Parliament as opposed to their parties’ mandated positions.
The court asserted that, “it was the party, rather than the individual, for which the citizens voted in the elections pursuant to which the National Assembly was constituted.” It further clarified that
“members’ individual opinions must, for the sake of organisational coherence, generally be subordinated to those adopted by the party as a unit… It is not unacceptable in open and democratic constitutional dispensations for a parliamentary party to direct its representatives in the legislature to vote in accordance with the party’s predetermined position on the motion concerned.”
The ANC, cited as the third respondent in both matters, is pleased with the ruling of the High Court on costs.
In both cases, the ATM has been ordered to “pay the costs of suit of third respondent
including the fees of two counsel.”
This judgment should serve as a lesson for the few reckless and anti-democracy opposition parties in Parliament.
As ANC Chief Whip Pemmy Majodina and other ANC MPs who spoke during the debate in the NA on 13 December 2022, no opposition party should seek to win via the back door what they failed to win at the ballot box.
The ANC Parliamentary Caucus reiterates its full confidence in the leadership of ANC and RSA President Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa and the Cabinet he leads.
No amount of repeated slander, insults and lies will change that.
Issued by the Office of the Chief Whip Comrade Pemmy Majodina (MP)
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