National Assembly Rules: Review, continuation of deliberations from Chapter 5

Rules of the National Assembly

19 January 2015
Chairperson: Mr M Mdakane (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The Sub-committee of the Rules Committee, sitting to do a preliminary investigation and comment into the revision of the National Assembly Rules (the Rules) continued with discussions, from Chapter 5, reviewing both the draft of the Task Team and the proposals of the ANC. It was stressed by the Chairperson that the redraft of the Rules was not something sparked by the present Parliament, nor by the entrance of new parties to Parliament, but had rather been in the pipeline for some time. He and other Members also emphasised on several occasions that what the sub-committee was concerned with did not relate directly to events in Parliament recently nor was intended to react to them, but rather was trying to create a set of rules that would be pertinent and guide whatever future parties and parliaments there may be further into the future.

Particular points raised during the day's debate included a debate on whether the Rules should specifically make reference to the Constitution's requirement for freedom of speech, since some parties felt aggrieved that they had been unduly restricted. There was a proposal that Parliament should have a rule around a dress code. Whilst not all Members agreed with the proposals of the ANC, points were variously proposed that there should be formal attire, including closed collars for men, that consideration might need to be given to traditional dress, that it was not necessary to put this in the rules, and that a person deemed to be dressing inappropriately should be told that, it was agreed that new drafts would be produced for consideration by the Rules Committee. Substantive debate was held on whether, if the Speaker's authority was challenged or disobeyed by Members, the security services or police could be called to the Chamber. Opposition Members suggested strongly that this would be inappropriate and suggested that Parliament should rather put budget aside to create or train a parliamentary guard, similar to the example of other parliaments around the world, or better capacitate parliament protection services. The point was made that Parliament, as a national key point, would always have a police presence, but it was agreed that it would not be appropriate for police to be called as a matter of course to the Chamber. 

Members debated, also at some length, principles around raising a point of order, whether discretion should lie with the presiding officer, who might be perceived as more favourable to the ruling party, or whether the whippery should play a greater role, and the discussions around this continued in relation to the rules of debate, and whether what members could raise should be written into the Rules or be regarded as a convention. The proposals by the ANC for what would be regarded as "grossly disorderly conduct" were debated, but Members seemed to be inclined to the view that there was no need to define this as parliamentarians ought to be able to recognise when it occurred. The view was expressed that the Speaker ordering disobedient Members to withdrawn not only from the Chamber, but also the precincts of Parliament, was too harsh and reference was made to a recent court decision. Members then debated the principles behind salutation; some considered that the full "Honourable" should be used, although an opposition member expressed the view that "Mr / Ms" would not be disrespectful, pointing out that some members may not deserve the description of "honourable" and it would be nonsensical to insist that they be so called simply because of a parliamentary tradition. The point was also raised that the use of "Comrade" inside Parliament was perhaps inappropriate, particularly if used to a member of an opposition party. The ban on the use of offensive, abusive, insulting, disrespectful, unbecoming or un-parliamentary words or language was debated, with the point being made on the one hand that there was no need to compile a glossary, but on the other that this could be interpreted as restricting freedom of speech. An opposition member pleaded that South Africa should not become unduly formalistic, as were some Eastern parliaments. Members were also not in agreement on the proposals that no MP should be permitted to raise or debate a matter that may be pending before the House or a Committee, pointing out that this would hugely restrict the topics on which comment was needed. The ANC's new proposals for additional sub-rules to Rule 70, dealing with points of order, was raised, but not debated.

Meeting report

National Assembly : Revision of Rules: continuation of deliberations by sub-committee
Continuation of debate around role of Leader of Government Business
Ms N Michael (DA) reminded Members that there had been some difficulties expressed, on the previous day, in relation to the role of the Leader of Government Business,. She noted that in Rule 21, the two counselors for Parliament must be linked to the office of the President, given that the Leader of Government Business is usually the Deputy President.

The Chairperson said this point would be submitted to the Rules Committee for consideration.

Ms C September (ANC) proposed that the Chief Whip and the Leader of Government Business must be responsible for drawing the orders of the day.

The Chairperson said the rule on who was responsible for the programme of the day was amended after a court case. The Programme Committee always sought to reach consensus, but there was no deadlock-breaking mechanism. After the redraft, which included changes to the composition of the Programme Committee, the new Rule provided  that the majority was able to take a decision, after engagement with other parties to hear their views. If the Programme Committee failed to reach a consensus, then the majority must take a decision after a thorough discussion. Each other party may have good arguments, but the majority party must not be denied the right to take a majority decision. This was stated in Rule 190.

Ms Michael said the Leader of Government Business should be consulted in the Programme Committee.

The Chairperson said the amendment now was saying "after consultation with the Leader of Government Business," - a change from the previous reference to "concurrence". The Rules Committee would take the final decision on this, in the Programme Committee.

The Chairperson said that, in his understanding, the effect would be that the matter would be concurrently agreed by the Chief Whip of the majority party and the Speaker, and the matter would then be presented it to the Programme Committee, where all parties were represented. If there was no consensus in the Programme Committee, the majority party took the final decision and that became the decision of the Programme Committee, would be implemented and the Speaker signed. For many years, there had been consensus, and in practice, it was most likely that this would always be found. The governing party held 62.3% of the vote, which meant that it must have a final decision. If the 62.3% failed to agree with the agenda, a decision must be made on what would be done.

Mr C Mulder (FF+) corrected the language, saying that this was not in fact the decision of "the majority party", but a decision of "the majority of the Programme Committee".

Mr B Mashile (ANC) said the Chief Whips Forum was particularly important, where all parties came together and tried to persuade each other, thus upholding the decorum of the House.

Ms J Kilian (ANC) said that in any parliament, certain practices developed over time. She noted that section 57(2)(b) of the Constitution noted that the rules and orders of the National Assembly must provide for the participation, in the proceedings of the National Assembly (NA or the Assembly) and its committees, of minority parties represented in the Assembly, in a manner consistent with democracy. There was thus an inclusive system but ultimately the decision of the majority would prevail.

Ms September said that Rule 190 (1)(a) said that a question before the Programme Committee would be decided when a quorum, in terms of Rule 133, had been established, and there was agreement among the majority of members present.

Chapter 5
Rule 44
Mr G Gardee (EFF) said in respect of Rule 44(1), which related to freedom of speech for Members and Ministers in Parliament, there were certain instances where rulings and orders were made inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution on freedom of speech.

Ms Kilian said Members of Parliament (MPs) had freedom of speech, subject to the Rules and the Constitution.

Mr Gardee said that it would be preferable to remove the phrase "subject to the Constitution" because there were many rulings and orders inconsistent with the Constitution.

Ms Michael said that the Rules must be written in accordance with section 58(1)(a) of the Constitution.

Another Member said freedom of speech was governed by the Bill of Rights and section 58 of the Constitution. It was impossible to rely on section 58 without including the Bill of Rights, as section 58 did not invalidate the Bill of Rights.

Rule 45
Ms Michael asked what the ANC proposal meant when it suggested wording that “Members shall at all times accord the presiding officers of Parliament and members due respect and conduct themselves with dignity and in accordance with the decorum of the House" as also the reference to Rule 45 (1)(e), which noted that no MP may bring dangerous or threatening articles or objects into the Chamber”

Mr Mashile  said this was a basic rule providing for the safety of Members.

Ms Michael said this rule was to let Members know that it was not permissible to bring dangerous articles into the House, as the understanding was that Members should be debating, and not threatening each other.

Mr N Singh (IFP) asked for clarity on the ANC proposals for Rule 45(1)(f), that Members may dress according to their personal tastes, provided that no party symbols may be displayed and provided further that such dress is in accordance with the dignity and decorum of the House.

Ms Michael said she believed this sub-Committee should propose the need for a formal dress code.

Mr Mulder seconded the adoption of formal dressing in Parliament.

Mr Gardee asked if there was a problem with dress code in South Africa, particularly in Parliament, that required a rule to deal with a certain dress code.

Ms September said there was a problem with dress code, in particular from the EFF, where gentlemen were wearing open necked shirts, which she did not believe was appropriate in the precincts of Parliament. Parliament was a place of work and needed an appropriate dress code.

The Chairperson said the Task Team should then and draft a specific proposal on dress code, to replace the proposal for Rule 45(1)(f). The draft code was needed as soon as possible. Those who had experience on dress code must start working on that, and the proposals for a suitable dress code in Parliament, the Chamber and committees should be drafted before the sub committee concluded its work.

Mr Gardee said there was no need to return to an era of dress code control. He did not have a problem with dress code, and had never seen an inappropriately-dressed person in Parliament and the Chamber. The Committee must be very straight, and if it was felt that there were MPs who were dressing inappropriately, no matter where they were sitting on particular side of the Chamber, then they should be named as the Honourable Mr or Ms X or Y. If MPs had a problem with the EFF wearing overalls, then this must be said upfront, and the perceived problem confronted.

The Chairperson said that new proposed rules on dress code would now be drafted and everybody would have a chance to engage before they were to be submitted to the full Rules Committee for final decision. There was no rule on dress code now.

Mr Mashile suggested that, instead of removing the ANC proposal on dress code, it should be retained for the moment, so that the rules on what was to be regarded as an appropriate dress code could be informed by the ANC's proposal on Rule 45(1)(f).

The Chairperson said the Task Team would write a proposal on dress code.

Ms Kilian agreed with the concept that a new proposal on dress code must be written, as Members must dress according to the agreed dress code.

The Chairperson said the rule could not be imposed before an agreement was reached on a dress code. He suggested that there could well be discussion also around shaving the head and traditional attire.

Rule 46
The Chairperson noted that Rule 46, in the proposal of the ANC, said that Members may not converse aloud during debate and, when making interjections, may not drown out the Member speaking.

Mr Mulder said the Committee could make a rule that Members may not "speak" aloud, but that they must "converse" aloud.

Mr Gardee said conversing was a different concept from interjections. Conversing implied Members speaking to one another.  Interjection could be a reaction by a Member to the Speaker, who for one reason or another may have said something.

Rule 47
Mr Singh said the task team proposal stated, in Rule 47(b) that no member [shall] may interrupt another member whilst speaking, except at the discretion of the presiding officer. He thought that having to request permission to put a question to the Member speaking gave the Speaker a lot of discretion.

Mr Gardee said this rule must be removed, since this was a multi-party Parliament. Since presiding officers inherently and by nature belonged to the majority party, this could imply that the Speaker's discretion may be applied for the benefit of the majority party.

Mr Singh said it should not lie within the discretion of the presiding officer only, whether to take a point of order or not, and the Rule must be written more specifically. Alternatively, the whips must take points of order. He suggested that the whippery must take more responsibility

Mr Gardee asked if there were real problems or if there were imagined problems. A point of order could be ruled as being in order or not in order, by the Speaker. A point of order could not be raised, however, simply at the discretion of a party, just to exercise power. The Committee must be forward-looking. He reiterated that he disagreed with the proposal to give the discretion on points of order to the presiding officer.

Mr Mulder said the issue of discretion or non discretion was broader. In any meeting of any organisation or party, the presiding officer had to have some discretion. A presiding officer must exercise discretion fairly.

The Chairperson said the Rules Committee would have to make a final decision on the discretion.

Mr Mashile said he was wanted to disagree with the points raised about the bias of the presiding officer.

Rule 50A
An ANC Member noted that the ANC proposal included a new Rule 50A relating to grossly disorderly conduct. Conduct would be regarded as grossly disorderly if a Member:
(a)   creates an actual serious disorder or disruption in the House;
(b)   in any manner whatsoever physically intervenes, prevents, obstructs or hinders the removal of a member from the House who has been ordered to leave the House;
(c)...repeatedly undermines the authority of the presiding officer or repeatedly refuses to obey rulings of the presiding officer or repeatedly disrespects and interrupts the presiding officer while the latter is addressing the House;
(d)   persists in making serious allegations against a member without adequate substantiation or following the correct procedure;
(e)   uses or threatens violence against a member or other person; or
(f)   acts in any other way to the serious detriment of the dignity, decorum or orderly procedure of the House.

Ms Mulder said the disorderly conduct was not defined.

Mr Gardee said (a) and (c) above must be removed as they impeded freedom of speech.

The Chairperson said disorderly conduct would be defined under the definition section and guidelines, and a Member must know that certain words are inappropriate.

Rule 53
Mr Gardee was of the view that Rule 53(1), dealing with withdrawing from the Chamber and precincts was a bit too harsh. He suggested that instead the Member would simply have to leave the Chamber.

Mr Mashile said it was right to make members withdraw from the Chamber and the precints. It was a way of correcting people. One way of punishing them was to instruct them to withdraw from the precincts of Parliament altogether.

Mr Gardee said the review of the Rules must be made in line with determination of the courts. There was a determination by the court in the matter of EFF v Parliament where the court ruled that, whilst it was possible to sanction parliamentarians, it should be appropriate.  A Member ordered to withdraw from the Chamber will have suffered enough as s/he would have been humiliated by being ordered to leave, and noted on live television coverage walking out of the Chamber. One Member, once ordered to withdraw from a plenary, had later attended another plenary because he did not know that he was ordered to leave all. He suggested that it was appropriate to remove the words “withdraw from the precincts”from the draft version.

The Chairperson said the Task Team would find a way of resolving this

Ms September said she felt it was acceptable to keep the portion that dealt with naming of a Member to withdraw from the Chamber.

Mr Singh said he did not feel that naming was particularly appropriate in the context of South Africa.

Ms September said Rules 52 and 53 were mirrored in similar rules in other parliaments around the world. In other parliaments, once a MP was named, a motion to sanction that member followed immediately.

The Chairperson said consideration must also be given to the fact that the Powers and Privileges Committee, when reviewing the action taken by the Speaker, may, as one of the options, also recommend a harsher penalty, in accordance with the Powers and Privileges Act. He believed that the censure of naming must be retained.

Rule 54
Mr Gardee said that the proposed Rule 54(2) as set out in the ANC document may not have to be considered. Parliament had recently witnessed a lot of drama with the police or parliamentary security. Refusal to leave the Chamber must just be noted as an additional transgression, and the presiding officer should consider it in this light. Any attempt to have police brought in to remove members was not in the interests of good practice of parliament. The phrase "parliamentary security" must not at any time include the Departments of Intelligence, Defence or the Police Services If Parliament can appropriate money and establish its own security services, then it should do so. The Powers and Privileges of Parliament Act (the PPP Act) was very clear as to when security could enter Parliament, and that should not be merely when there was argument, heckling and debate, or disobedience of authority, among others.

Mr Singh agreed with Mr Gardee that security must not usually be called into Parliament. Members had to leave when instructed by the Speaker, and refusal to leave must be considered an additional transgression. A situation could develop that might be tense, but should not warrant the calling of security.

Mr Mashile said the PPP Act provided for when the police could enter the Chamber, without even being called and noted that they are also available to be called when necessary. A Member could avoid the embarrassment from being removed from the Chamber by behaving in an orderly manner.

The Chairperson said the debate was now being informed by the current behaviour of Members in the Chamber. He repeated a concern that from the discussions, the impression was created that the review of the Rules started with the current Parliament, whereas in fact the Rules review started long ago before the birth of the new political parties, including the EFF, but the reasons being advanced were now referring to the current or immediate past situation. He reminded Members that these revised Rules were being drafted for use in twenty years time. Even if the EFF, for example, was to be in the majority, the Rules must assist them to run Parliament smoothly. Even the dress code was "becoming an EFF thing", yet discussion on this was started long before the birth of EFF. The Rules must be drafted to benefit Parliament, even when the current parties no longer existed.

Mr Gardee said whatever the Committee considered would have to last for some time, and, considering what had happened, the Members must try to meet each other half way.

Ms Michael said that on the day in question, when there was a disturbance in Parliament, police entered the Chamber. The Speaker should have a discretion whether or not to call security.

Mr Mulder said the definition, by the ANC, of "parliamentary protection services"  referred to "security personnel appointed by Parliament to provide protection within the precincts, and includes security services performing a policing function within the precincts with the permission or under the authority of the Speaker in terms of Section 4 of the Powers and Privileges Act". There was a problem with this definition and he suggested that it would be preferable to rather capacitate Parliamentary Security Services, rather than involve the Police Services.

Mr Singh said parliament protection services was a sound idea, and it would be preferable to other security services, including police, coming into the Chamber.

Mr Gardee said Parliament could contract a security company for security, take them through a refresher course on what would be involved in providing protection services to Parliament, and how to perform those functions. It was unnecessary to allow security to conduct political and security functions in the Chamber. In most countries in Africa that was why an army general or police commissioner had removed the Speaker of Parliament, because they were tired of having to control MPs. He expressed the concern that, for instance, Parliament might suddenly decide to advertise a tender for powerful bouncers who can take care of parliamentary security services, particularly in the Chamber. In an extreme situation, the police could also be called. He repeated his own view that no police should be allowed in the Chamber.
 

The Chairperson summarised the impression that all ­ parties agreed with the ANC proposal that MPs might be removed by protection services, but not by the police or the army. Removal should be by any other body that was created by Parliament, either its Serjeant-at-Arms, or bouncers, or a private company, or another body that Parliament can create. The authority of the Speaker must be respected by everyone.

Ms September reminded Mr Gardee that "Parliament was not a night club in Long Street or (like) other famous night spots in Cape Town that needed bouncers".

Mr Mdakane said if a Member, when ordered to leave the Chamber, refused to do so, there must be reinforcing mechanisms.

Ms Michael said Parliament must look for something like a parliamentary guard, which most ­ parliaments across the world had. She suggested that there should be specific provision that no member of the armed forces may enter the Chamber.

Ms Kilian said whatever was agreed should define "precincts of Parliament". She thought that it would be very useful to use the ANC proposal of a guard at Parliament and to emphasise the importance of the security services in terms of section 199 of the Constitution. The PPP Act was very clear that security services could only enter the Chamber when called to do so by the Speaker, or when there is immediate danger to a person. It must be made clear exactly when police or the parliamentary guard would be called to support Parliament.

Mr Mulder said all parties were in agreement that Parliament must have its own security services.

Mr Gardee said agencies of the security apparatus of the state were not needed in parliamentary work, especially in the Chamber where Members were seated. It would be unthinkable to have the highly politicised police service providing security in Parliament.  The entrance of police into the Chamber must be stopped. The definition of the ANC for "parliament security services" included agencies of the security apparatus of the state, and this was a matter before the Constitutional Court. Parliamentary guard was achievable through the appointment of a security company that could assist the Serjeant-at-Arms, not the police. There was no need to have any provision as to when police could enter the Chamber during debate. Parliament had the capacity to finance its own security to deal with political debate inside the Chamber and in the committees.

The Chairperson said the Rules Committee would make a final decision and come to a resolution on the definition of "parliamentary protection services".

Mr Mashile said that if the intention was to ban police from Parliament altogether, it would be unsuccessful.

The Chairperson made the point that Parliament was a national key point and members of SAPS were always present. There was no way police could be removed altogether from Parliament but the intention here was to make sure that they could not only enter the Chamber to remove a Member who disregarded the authority of the Speaker.

Part 2: Rules of Debate
Ms Michael said that in this regard she wanted to support the point made earlier by Mr Mulder that only whips could raise a point of order.

Mr Gardee said he agreed with whips alone being able to raise a point of order, but said this should not be listed as a Rule, but a convention. Parliament was a political environment and not a church. Sometimes the whip may not be doing his or her work. A party leader must be included.

The Chairperson said no rule would be noted, but it would be a political management issue, for whips alone to be allowed to raise points of order. They were some whips who, instead of raising points of order, engaged in disorder. The Chief Whips Forum would discuss this issue, for political management.

Mr Mashile said if points of order were about procedure, the whips were better placed to raise them.

Mr Gardee said a point of order may not be restricted only to a procedure. It could happen that a Member abused an opportunity to speak and hurled insults at another Member, and then a point of order could be raised.

The Chairperson added an example that singing in the House, when it was adjourned, should also stop. However, this was something that must be left to the whippery rather than writing it as a rule.

Mr Mulder said he supported the initiative of the ANC in the proposal for Rule 59A, that “In the event of a member not showing due respect to the authority of, or not obeying an order or ruling or direction of the presiding officer, or acting in a disruptive or grossly disorderly manner in the House, the presiding officer may order that the microphone being used by such member be disabled or switched off”

The Chairperson said the initiative was good, even though on one day Mr Gardee was very upset when the speaker disabled his microphone.

Ms Gardee said there were problems in certain instances. For instances, microphones were switched off in the Chamber, not by the Speaker’s overriding button, but by some parliamentary officials who were biased to one party. Officials were performing a political party function. The switching-off of microphones must be at the Speaker’s discretion. The Member must also be informed that his/her microphone was about to be switched off.

The Chairperson said all Members agreed that the Speaker alone must order switching off of the microphones.

Ms September said Members on the Speaker’s list may speak for the time allocated to them on the list, which may not be less than two minutes.

Rule 60
Mr Mashile said that not giving smaller parties time to advance their own ideology undermined the principle of reaching a democratic outcome.

The Chairperson said if everything could not be done to manage political management, then there was a problem. This meant that the whips had no time management role.

Ms Kilian said there was a clear understanding on time party allocation in debates, and the ANC was generous to give other parties time to debate, given that the ANC constituted the majority and must be given the larger share of the time.

Rule 61
Mr Mulder said he supported the idea that no Member must be referred by his/her first name.

Mr Singh made the point that on many occasions Members were referred to as "comrade", and said Members must be referred to as "honourable".

Ms September agreed that no MP should refer to another Member by his or her first name.

The Chairperson asked what was wrong in saying "Comrade Mashile".

Mr Singh said it was wrong because this was Parliament, where the word "honourable" must be used. There was no need to bring party friendship into Parliament.

Mr Gardee said though no Member must be referred by any other name, rather by the title "Honourable" coupled with the surname, it was sometime painful to refer to the Members as "honourable" merely because this was Parliament, when they did not deserve to be called by that word. He believed it was not ,disrespectful to refer to somebody as Mr/Ms XYZ or, if they must, as "honourable Ms/Mr XYZ"

Mr Mashile said Mr Gardee must be serious, as all Members had been voted in by a number of people to be in Parliament.

The Chairperson said there was nothing wrong in referring to Members as "honourable" and there was no need to split hairs over this issue. However, he did not have a problem in calling MPs "Comrade Honourable XYZ". He agreed that it would not be appropriate to refer to the Speaker as "Comrade Chairperson of the ANC".

Mr Mashile agreed that Rule 61, which said that no Member should refer to any other Member by his or her first name, or names only, did not prohibit Members from calling each other "Comrade".

Mr Mulder said it was incorrect when referring to another Member from another party. The rule must state that Members must call each other respectfully.

Ms Michael said that, in the precincts of Parliament, Members must refer to each other as "Honourable". Outside Parliament, Members could call each other by any other name. The sobriquet "Honourable" was in fact in honour to the people who elected the Members.

Mr Gardee repeated his view that Members should not only be restricted to calling each other "Honourable" in Parliament, but could also call each other "Mr" or "Ms", which would be particularly helpful when referring to a Member who was not honourable in behaviour. The word "honourable" was a very respectful word.

Rule 63
It was noted that the ANC proposed new wording for Rule 63:  that "No Member shall:

(1) use offensive, abusive, insulting, disrespectful, unbecoming or un-parliamentary words or language;  (2) use offensive, abusive, insulting, disrespectful, unbecoming or un-parliamentary expressions or gestures; 
(3) impute improper motives to or make a personal charge against any Member, except when a substantive motion in terms of Rule 63A calling in question the conduct of that member is discussed; or (4)use his or her right of speech for the purpose of obstructing the business of the Assembly

Mr Gardee said he agreed with (1) and (2) but not with (3) and (4), because they were not in the interests of parliamentary democracy. In relation to (2), he made the point that what could be an improper gesture in one culture could be a proper gesture in another culture. The Parliament should have lighter moments, not just oppressive moments.

Mr Singh said there was no list or glossary of words that were "un-parliamentary". The House must know what was or was not a parliamentary gesture .

Mr Mashile suggested that the content of (1) and (2) could be combined, and (3) should be retained. If any gestures were made that were offensive, the Speaker must sanction those persons. There was no need to write down a list of parliamentary or un-parliamentary words, but when the words were said, there should be a provision to enable the Speaker to consider the words used as un-parliamentary.

Mr Gardee said if t(3) was not removed now, then the Committee must wait for the judgment in the matter of EFF v Parliament on the Marikana issue. What was presently in (3) would restrict freedom of expression in Parliament, and that would lead to MPs only attending Parliament to listen to "good stories", with anyone crossing that being referred to the Powers and Privileges Committee.

The Chairperson noted that (1) and (2) of the ANC's proposals would be accepted, that (3) should be re-drafted, and (4) dropped.

Rule 63A
Mr Gardee said he does not know how the ANC had come up with Rule 63(A), given that the EFF members had been referred to by all sorts of names, including Hitler. The proposal for Rule 63(A) said: “No member may impute improper motives to any other member, or cast personal reflections on a member's integrity or dignity, or verbally abuse a member in any other way”. There was nothing known as "verbal abuse", only "engagement". The presiding officer may rule that what was happening was "engagement", yet to the affected Member, it would be seen as abuse. He queried restricting freedom of speech to a substantive motion, when a Member could, for instance, stand up and answer an allegation that Honourable X was involved in a corruption in nuclear deals with the Russians.

Ms Kilian said while she did not disagree with the overall principle of freedom of speech, it must not be used to offend and abuse other members verbally.

The Chairperson said a substantive motion was debated already in the Chamber, but there was nothing wrong, for instance, in saying that Mr Mashile was tall.

Rule 64A
Mr Gardee also wanted to comment on the proposals for Rule 64(A) which said : 
“No member may reflect in a disrespectful manner on the House or Committee and its proceedings”. He feared that the Parliament in South Africa would become like the Parliament of China, where everything was run in a robotic fashion.

Mr Mashile said that one example of disrespecting the proceedings of the House might be when a Member said, for instance, that "Parliament was now engaging in a Mickey Mouse debate".

Rule 68(2)
The ANC's proposal for Rule 68(2) was noted. This said that no member may raise or reflect on any matter serving or pending before a Committee of Parliament for decision.

Mr Gardee said he did not have a problem with the rules of anticipation except for the portion that no Member may raise or reflect on any matter serving or pending before a Committee of Parliament for decision. This would effectively amount to stifling freedom of speech from his EFF counterparts. He felt that the wording was too draconian. It would mean, for instance, that the issues around Nkandla could not be spoken about because they were pending before the committee dealing with the Nkandla matter. Members would end up not talking about anything, as everything was being restricted, and the Rules were becoming insensitive. The majority party was happy with some of the problems happening in the Executive. The Rules as framed left the majority party directing what Parliament may talk about and when to talk about it. He suggested that Rule 68(2) be deleted.

An ANC Member then proposed a redraft of Rule 68(1) to read:
“A member may, with the prior consent of the presiding officer, make an explanation at a time approved by the presiding officer, after the conclusion of the debate from which the complaint arises, but only if, during that debate, a material part of the member’s speech has been misquoted or misunderstood: Provided that-:
(a)   such explanation shall be limited to reading into the record a correction as approved by the presiding officer, not to exceed three minutes in duration; and
(b)   no debate is allowed upon such explanation”.

Mr Gardee said the proposal by the ANC and the Task Team was the same, except the addition of the phrase "the approval of the presiding officer".

Mr Mashile said the involvement of the Speaker could not be denied, as she was the one responsible for maintaining order in the National Assembly.

Rule 70(3)
The ANC read out the proposals for Rule 70(3) as follows:
“The member raising the point of order must commence by quoting the exact Rule or standing order, or at least the principle or subject matter upon which the point of order is based. If he or she does not do so, the presiding officer can insist on him or her doing so, and if he or she fails or does not adequately do so, the presiding officer may summarily rule that it does not amount to a point of order or the matter is out of order”.

Mr Mashile said this was correct and would apply to any Member raising a point of order, so that s/he would not feel agitated when a ruling was made against the Member.

Ms September said it was important to note the intention behind what the proposals were seeking to establish. This would help when appealing to the Chair in relation to something about which the point of order was being raised. It also prevented Members from raising spurious points of orders.

Mr Gardee said the Rules were putting Members in a fix. If it was stated to be un-parliamentary for a President to be asked questions, on Nkandla for example, a point of order would always arise. It was an unprecedented move to expect all Members, when they raised a point of order, to specify that this was done, by way of example, in relation to Rule Y read together with Rule Z, which stipulated that the Speaker may not do XYZ. This was not in line with the United Kingdom advanced democracy.

The Chairperson said many Members seemed to be agreeing on this rule. He repeated that this rule was not targeting the EFF, as the review of the Rules started before the EFF was conceived.

Rule 70(6)to Rule 70(13) (*numbering may need correction)
It was noted that the ANC had suggested the addition of the following paragraphs to Rule 70 , on points of order:

"(6)  No other Member may raise another point of order before the presiding officer has Ruled on the first point of order.

(7)   No member may raise a point of order again or a similar point of order, in any other form, if the presiding officer has ruled that it is not a point of order or that the matter is out of order.

(8)...No member may raise a point of order on a point of order.

(8)...Members may not disrupt proceedings by raising points of order that do not comply with this Rule. If the presiding officer is of the view that a member or a group of members are  repeatedly, during a debate or sitting, taking points of order that do not comply with the prescripts of this Rule, with the purpose of  unnecessarily prolonging a specific debate or sitting, or to disrupt the proceedings of the House, the presiding officer may, in exceptional circumstances, take the drastic step not to allow any member which appears to be part of this orchestrated action to raise any further point of order.
(9)   When a point of order is raised during debate, the member called to order must resume his or her seat, and after the point of order has been stated to the presiding officer by the member raising it, the member raising the point of order shall likewise immediately resume his or her seat when he or she has concluded his or her submission or if the presiding officer asks him or her to do so.
(10)   The presiding officer must give his or her ruling or decision on the point of order immediately, or defer the decision to the earliest opportunity thereafter, by way of a considered ruling.
(11)   The presiding officer's ruling on a point of order is final and binding, and may not be challenged or questioned in any manner whatsoever and no further debate or discussion on the matter will be allowed.
(12)   Members must comply with the letter and spirit of rulings on points of order made by a presiding officer.
(13)   A member who is aggrieved by a presiding officer's ruling on a point of order may subsequently in writing to the Speaker request that the principle or subject matter of the ruling be referred to the Rules Committee. The Rules Committee may deal with it as it deems fit, provided that it confines itself to the principle underlying, or subject matter of, the ruling concerned, and may not in any manner consider the specific ruling which is final and binding.

Mr Singh said the principles of the point of order were correct.

Mr Gardee asked if anyone was aware of how many points of order whose ruling had been deferred.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

Share this page: