Members of the opposition parties rejected outright the proposed dress code rules for Members of Parliament. They felt the dress code rules are an insult to the intelligence of lawmakers and they do not want to be dictated to about what they wear.
This surfaced when the Subcommittee on the Review of the Assembly Rules was discussing draft guidelines to accompany the National Assembly Rules – for approval by the Rules Committee.
The Parliament Procedural Advisor took the Committee through the guidelines for the Removal of the Speaker or Deputy Speaker (Rule 18 A). An optional addition includes: “If notice is given in the House, it must not take longer than 3 minutes to read out”. The Members also debated the circumstances under which the Speaker should recuse herself/himself.
On guidelines for Motions of Condolences, some Members were not happy with the inclusion of NCOP members. The Members could not agree on who qualifies to be “a prominent person” and agreed that this should be determined by House structures, not the Speaker.
The guidelines on Rule 21CF, which deals with imposition of fines to Members of Parliament for absenteeism, propose a fine of R1000 for each day of absence. The opposition objected to the idea, saying it should be left to the parties to monitor their members. It was proposed that a disciplinary committee envisaged by Rule 194B be a committee to oversee the matter.
Concerning Rule 53A(12), which requires the Rules Committee to approve a Multi-Party Committee to consider the circumstances surrounding the physical removal of a Member from the Chamber, it is proposed that the House establishes a Committee on Consideration of Removal of a Member. Members of the opposition said that the meetings of this envisaged committee should be open, and that the physical removal of a Member is not consistent with the Constitution. They felt the matter should be left to the Chief Whips’ Forum. One member of the ruling party suggested the idea be suspended because many court cases have been lost because the courts have felt that Members should be protected.
Guidelines for the Removal of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker
Mr Victor Ngaleka, Parliament Procedural Advisor, took the Committee through these guidelines relevant to Rule18A of Chapter 3.
Ms J Kilian (ANC) commented it is important to draft the guidelines using the same kind of language that is used when drafting rules. She asked if the motion to remove the Speaker could be introduced to the House during the time of motions.
Mr Kasper Hahndiek, Consultant to Parliament, stated that if that motion is put before the House, the House should try to attend to it. There is a time limit for notices of motions.
Mr M Booi (ANC) remarked that these guidelines are not closer to satisfying anybody. It must be remembered there is a proportional representation system in place. He asked the stage at which to remove the Speaker so that Members could feel they are making progress because it has been said many times the Speaker is unfair to some individuals. He wanted to find out if there is another way of writing that rule so that Members could feel they are making an impact.
Ms N Mazzone (DA) agreed with Mr Booi. With regard to amending motions from the floor, she said there is a feeling that Members should vote on the amendment first and then go to the motion. The Committee writes these rules but some Table Staff put the Speaker in a precarious position. She proposed that it must be stated in the rules that if there is a motion tabled to the House and the Speaker has an interest in it or is linked to it, then the Speaker should recuse himself/herself.
A legal adviser from the Office of the Chief State Law Adviser stated there is a permanent and temporary removal of the Speaker. The procedure for permanent removal is not in the guidelines. Section 52 does not list any grounds for the removal of the Speaker. So, the rules should be detailed for the process of the removal of the Speaker. The effects of Section 52 should be the same as those of Section 89. The guidelines have a provision for the Speaker to recuse herself/himself. Section 63(a) provides that motions to be presented to the House must come to the Speaker first.
Mr Kasper Hahndiek stated that Section 63(a) has an element of subjectivity. If the motion is substantive against the Speaker, then the Deputy Speaker has to give that substantive motion attention because the Speaker cannot do it.
Mr B Mashile (ANC) remarked that the fact that these rules and guidelines have been used for many years does not mean they are correct. But if you are foreseeing a danger, there is no need not to make a rule and present these motions to the House. He asked if the guidelines are effecting the requirement of a substantive motion because for guidelines there is a requirement of a substantive motion. He further asked if the Speaker gets removed, does that also mean the Deputy Speaker has to go as well.
Mr Enver Daniels, Chief State Law Adviser, stated what is important are the circumstances under which the Speaker has to recuse herself/himself. It is easy to remove the Speaker but the process should not be flimsy, but must be well thought out.
Mr Booi commented that when the Committee writes the rules, it should be clear about the process of the recusal of the Speaker. The Speaker should be protected. The transitional arrangements have to be in place. Whichever way the rules are written, the Committee has to ensure that whoever comes to be a Speaker has to feel protected and must know the procedures and processes to be followed for the removal of the Speaker. The Committee should apply its mind on the transitional arrangements for the removal of the Speaker.
Mr Kasper Hahndiek felt that the Committee should think deeply about what Mr Booi said. There is space in the guidelines about the sequence to remove the Speaker and there is flexibility on this matter. He is not sure if there should be a separate guide for the removal of the Speaker but the rules that exist currently apply to all Ministers for their removal. The recent Concourt judgement focused on the conduct of the President regarding the Constitution, and its findings focused on the National Assembly, not the Speaker.
The Chairperson agreed with Mr Hahndiek, and went on to say that when the Committee drafts these rules, it should draft them as Members of Parliament, not as members of certain political parties.
Guidelines for the Appointment of Whips to Smaller Parties
Mr Ngaleka took the Members through these guidelines, relevant to Rule 21A(3), line by line.
Ms C Dudley (ACDP) stated the process is not practical at all. It could be done administratively. It is an administrative issue.
Proposed Guidelines: Members’ Dress Code for Parliamentary Work
Ms J Kilian (ANC) read the final draft of the Members’ Dress Code guidelines, point by point.
Ms Mazzone stated the DA is opposed to the dress code. The guidelines suggest that if the presiding officer feels what you are wearing is not appropriate, then you must leave the premises. They cannot be dictated to about what Members must wear. The struggle has not been fought for them now to be told what they have to wear when they come to the peoples’ assembly.
Ms Dudley stated the matter of dress code should be left to the discretion of the parties. ACDP members have to wear what they feel represents their party and constituency. There is no need to be prescriptive. This would see them taking each other to court on silly issues.
Mr Mashile stated that the problem is that in the National Assembly all parties work as a collective. It is important to consider how people they represent want to see them. People represented in the National Assembly would not know who their leaders are if their leaders come to Parliament wearing mini-skirts and Bermudas.
Mr M Ndlozi (EFF) remarked that these rules are made for the EFF. The draft guideline would not make it in a court of law. It is embarrassing to the credibility of the lawmakers. It is irrational. It is an insult to the intelligence of the lawmakers. Parliamentarians are able to decide for themselves what appropriate dress is. We must trust the intelligence of Members who have been duly elected to determine what is a fitting dress code in terms of the dignity and decorum of the House. Members of Parliament are not kindergarten kids. There are overalls that are decent. Some do not appear to know what an overall is.
Mr Kasper Hahndiek suggested that Points 1-5 should be guidelines, and Points 6 and 7 be classified as rules.
The Chairperson indicated that Rule 45(f) should be taken as the stand of the Committee and the guideline would follow later. The issue would be taken to the Rules Committee for consideration where the majority would take a final decision.
Guidelines for draft resolutions
Mr Ngaleka read these guidelines relevant to Chapter 7.
Ms Kilian proposed that in (b), the phrase “more particularly” be replaced by “include”, and that (c) and (d) be incorporated into one sentence. On motions of condolence, she proposed that in (b) “always” should be inserted after “should” or alternatively “shall always”. She asked for the definition of “a prominent person”.
Mr Mashile pointed out he has got a problem with the inclusion of the NCOP in (c) on motions of condolences.
Mr Kasper Hahndiek asked Members to show sensitivity and think of cases where an NCOP Member dies. He also stated that the Committee should decide on the definition of a “prominent person”.
Mr Perran Hahndiek, Committee Secretary, informed Members it is not a problem to remove NCOP in (c). He said the definition of “a prominent person” would be determined by the structures of the House, not the Speaker.
Ms Dudley added that the definition of “a prominent person” could be decided during party debates when motions are submitted.
Mr Mashile stated that the issue of “a prominent person” is a subjective one. The Committee needs to come up with broad guidelines because a person might be prominent to some groups, but to others not.
Mr Kasper Hahndiek proposed that the standing by the House to acknowledge the passing of “a prominent person” should be left to the discretion of the presiding officer.
Guidelines on criteria for questions to the Deputy President
Members went through these guidelines.
Mr Mashile stated it is not correct to question the Deputy President, for example, about a trip taken by his office to a foreign country.
Mr Booi remarked it is important to develop guidelines because the Deputy President and Ministers are carrying out duties assigned to them by the President.
Mr Kasper Hahndiek stated that in such situations answers could be elicited from the Office of the President because it is the President who assigns work to the Deputy President and Ministers.
Guidelines on committee business
A Committee official read out the guidelines.
Mr Kasper Hahndiek noted the guidelines are related to the meetings of committees and subcommittees.
Mr Booi proposed that powers given to Committee Chairpersons should be limited. It is not good to allow them to be an entity because they report to the Speaker. He suggested that (c)(2) be removed.
Mr Ngaleka took Members through the determinations relevant to Chapter 3.
Mr Ndlozi objected to Rule 21CF which proposes a fine of R1000 for each day of absence from committees. He said the matter should be left to the party caucus to monitor their own members. The implication of this rule is that Mrs Winnie Mandela should be taken to the Disciplinary Committee for not attending committee meetings, for example. He said Mrs Mandela was even absent during the vote on the President’s removal. He went on to say minority parties are at a disadvantage because they do not have the numbers to cover the many committees that sit on a daily basis. Once you have a determination like this, it is easy to terrorise smaller parties or the majority party would terrorise some of the individual Members.
The Chairperson stated that Mrs Mandela is on sick leave.
Ms Kilian stated it is important to submit an apology. Members cannot just come and go as they wish. This is a peer review mechanism to ensure Members attend meetings.
The Chairperson said the intention is not to punish Members. It is important to send an apology because they are employed by Parliament. It is easy to submit an apology. The proposal is that the Disciplinary Committee should oversee the implementation of the rule.
Mr Ndlozi said this is problematic because some parties have only five members. Some want to get on the list just to vote on specific issues. This curtails the rights of smaller parties and it is not practical. It might work for the bigger parties like the ANC.
Mr Booi said what they want to curb in future is to pay people who “are loitering” and who only come to Parliament to collect their cheques, and who are not doing committee work.
Committee for Consideration of Removal of a Member from the Chamber
Mr Kasper Hahndiek read Rule 53A(12) which requires the Rules Committee to approve a Multi-Party Committee to consider the circumstances surrounding the physical removal of a Member from the Chamber. It is proposed that the House establishes a Committee for Consideration of Removal of a Member.
Ms Mazzone asked if the meeting is a closed meeting but it is filmed, why should the media not be allowed to attend the hearing because the eviction is made in public.
Mr Kasper Hahndiek said this envisaged this Multi-Party Committee would determine soberly what had happened.
Mr Ndlozi asked why it has to look at things soberly in a closed meeting.
Mr Kasper Hahndiek replied that it is to ensure that things are done fairly by the leadership.
Ms Mazzone remarked that the proposed Multi-Party Committee has to ensure that people are not thrown out of the House willy-nilly. The Multi-Party Committee has to keep control, not to prove there was a good reason for the eviction. When you are tried, the people you represent must see the proceedings because they saw you when you were thrown out of the House.
Ms Kilian said there must be a possibility of a review, a cautious assessment of what happened so that it is not a free for all.
Mr Kasper Hahndiek suggested that the envisaged Multi-Party Committee looks at the conduct of the evicted Member away from the public to avoid political grandstanding. If the ejected Member has got facts, the ejected Member must go to the Multi-Party Committee.
Mr Booi suggested that this idea be suspended as there are cases that have been lost because the courts have felt that Members should be protected.
The Chairperson stated that the proposed Multi-Party Committee is there to assess if there was fairness from both sides – the one ejecting and the one ejected. It is not a Disciplinary Committee in the literal sense.
Ms Dudley proposed that the idea be left to the Chief Whips’ Forum.
Mr Ndlozi stated that the physical removal of Members is not consistent with the Constitution as has happened in the past. If you are removed because you caused harm inside the House or to another Member, then the Disciplinary Committee would be a good place as there is no proportional representation there. He wanted to find out what recourse there is if the ejected Member has not caused harm and the finding of the envisaged Multi-Party Committee is that the ejected’s rights were violated. He asked if President Zuma would appear before the Multi-Party Committee to see if he has violated the Constitution.
Mr Kasper Hahndiek stated when Rule 53(a) was passed, the Rule made provision that the ejected be reported to the Multi-Party Committee to look at the circumstances. But there is no reason why the proposed Multi-Party Committee cannot sit in public. This Committee of the House is not there to find anybody guilty, but its findings would be comprehensive.
The Chairperson suggested that Mr Kasper Hahndiek should consider having two options regarding the composition of the proposed committee which is going to look into the physical removal of a Member from the House.
The meeting was adjourned.
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