A South African court ruled on Tuesday that the forced removal and arrest of Members of Parliament (MPs) by police is unconstitutional.
Delivering the judgment at the Western Cape High Court in Cape Town, Judge Andre le Grange said it is against the constitution by allowing police to remove or arrest MPs for things they say, including chanting or singing, in the National Assembly.
The forced removal or arrest of MPs violates their constitutional privilege of freedom of speech, le Grange ruled.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) took parliament to court after Parliament Speaker Baleka Mbete ordered police to remove MPs of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) out of parliament on February 12 for creating chaos when President Jacob Zuma was delivering the State of the Nation Address.
Mbete invoked Section 11 of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act, for making the move.
Section 11 allows the Speaker of the National Assembly and the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) to order the staff of Parliament of security services to arrest and remove any person who creates a disturbance during a sitting of Parliament, house or a committee.
But in his ruling on Tuesday, Judge le Grange said Section 11 is too broad and “constitutionally flawed.”
“Parliament has more than sufficient tools to maintain order in its precincts. It has the rules and power to hold members in contempt,” said le Grange.
He said the argument that in the absence of Section 11, the National Assembly and NCOP will be unduly impeded in their duty and functions and that members may now disrupt the ordinary business of Parliament with impunity is unconvincing.
The DA hailed the ruling as “an important victory for South Africa’s constitutional democracy.”
The judgment also sends a message to the Speaker of the National Assembly that the constitutional principle of separation of powers cannot be overruled to serve narrow political interests, said Maimane. Enditem