The Western Cape High Court on Monday denied the Economic Freedom Fighters an urgent interdict to halt disciplinary proceedings by Parliament against 20 MPs who last month heckled President Jacob Zuma in the legislature.
The ruling came after the EFF’s legal counsel conceded that he was hard-pressed to prove the need for urgent relief or the party’s argument that Parliament’s powers and privileges committee was bound to be biased against his clients.
Advocate John van der Berg argued that the application concerned the constitutional principle of parliamentary privilege that entitled MPs to hold the executive to account.
But he acknowledged that he lacked more information about the committee that will hear the charges other than that it was likely to have a majority of ruling party members hearing charges that were referred by a speaker also belonging to that party.
Judge Vincent Saldanha asked: “Not being told who the committee is, how can I be asked to find that they will be biased?”
He struck the matter from the roll, but resisted a call by the lawyers acting for Parliament to make an immediate cost order against the EFF.
Instead the judge gave the party 15 days to bring argument on why it should be spared a cost order, saying he was inclined to be lenient in this regard because they were a young political party.
Shortly before the ruling was made, the court was informed that Parliament had postponed the hearings that were due to begin on Tuesday morning by a week. Sources close to the EFF said it was likely the party would use this time to seek another order for interim relief.
EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu has consistently argued that the party’s members cannot expect a fair disciplinary process because the ANC has instructed Speaker Baleka Mbete to contain the robust debate it has brought to Parliament.
The charges were brought after EFF MPs on August 21 brought parliamentary business to a standstill by shouting “pay back the money” at Zuma during presidential question time — in a reference to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s order that he should reimburse some of the public funds spent on his private home in Nkandla. SAPA