Opposition parties reject DA bid to dissolve Parliament
Publish date: 11 August 2017
Issue Number: 4282
Diary: Legalbrief Today
The EFF, UDM, Freedom Front Plus and COPE say they will not support the DA’s motion to dissolve the National Assembly, notes a BusinessLIVE report. They have roundly criticised the move as opportunistic. The report notes that ANC MPs are also unlikely to support the motion, which requires a simple majority of Parliament’s 400 MPs to back it in order to pass. The ANC has 249 seats in Parliament. The DA, which has 89 seats in Parliament, yesterday submitted the motion in terms of section 50(1) of the Constitution. The dissolution of Parliament would necessitate an election. President Jacob Zuma narrowly survived a no-confidence vote on Tuesday, which was conducted through secret ballot. EFF Chief Whip Floyd Shivambu said the DA was ‘being opportunistic’. The EFF has 25 seats, making it the third-largest party in Parliament. ‘We will not support this motion … it is opportunistic. We will argue that there is a quicker way to dissolve Parliament – if all opposition MPs resign, then Parliament will have to be dissolved … if they (DA) are serious, let them resign,’ Shivambu is quoted in the report as saying. He believed Parliament could be dissolved if 51 members resigned from the legislature.
The DA’s motion looks doomed, according to an SABC News report which says neither the dissolution of Parliament nor a significant number of MP resignations is likely to ensure early elections. The report says the National Freedom Party, the African Independent Congress and the IFP are also not in favour of the DA’s move. The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution says this is unlikely to make a difference. Casac’s Lawson Naidoo is quoted in the report as saying: ‘So long as there are 200 MPs, Parliament will be able to function. We know the ANC have 249 MPs. A mass resignation will not affect the functioning of parliament.’
Any suggestion that Parliament can be collapsed by a mass resignation of MPs is a ‘spectacular misreading of the Constitution’, constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos says, according to a TimesLIVE report. It notes that in the wake of the announcement on Wednesday by the DA that it would table a motion to dissolve Parliament‚ EFF leader Julius Malema tweeted the party, saying this was not necessary as section 46 of the Constitution stated that a mass resignation of at least 50 MPs would have the same effect. That section states that Parliament is composed of no less than 350 MPs. De Vos says on his Constitutionally Speaking blog this is a ‘spectacular misreading’ of the Constitution‚ as this section purely determines the size of Parliament. ‘When the Constitution was negotiated there was some disagreement about the ideal size of the NA (National Assembly). Some parties wanted the number of MPs to be reduced from 400 to 350 or even 300. As a classic compromise the Constitutional Assembly devised section 46(1), which allows the legislature to decide on the size of the NA but prescribes to the legislature that it could not reduce the size to below 350 MPs and could not increase the size over 400‚’ he said. ‘When 60 MPs resign their seats‚ the size of the NA does not dip below 350. It remains 400. All that happens is that there will be 60 vacancies in the 400 member NA. The NA will continue to do its work – although 60 opposition MPs will be missing from the NA when it does so. There will be no election. End of story‚’ De Vos said.
Meanwhile, the debate over the fate of ANC MPs who defied the party in Tuesday's vote continues. The insistence of some within the ANC to take disciplinary action against their colleagues who voted with the opposition in the parliamentary motion of no confidence will do more harm than good for the ruling party, analysts say in a Beeld report. Ralph Mathekga says it would be technically impossible to ascertain which MPs voted in favour of the motion. ‘It is simply a witch-hunt by the Zuma faction. The party is already divided and such a step would make matters worse.’ Cosatu warned last night against a witch-hunt, saying a ‘divide and conquer’ approach will damage the party. But Super Zuma, ANC secretary in KZN, yesterday insisted that disciplinary steps should follow. ANC spokesperson Khusela Sangoni said the national leadership is yet to decide whether they plan to take action against rogue MPs.