The initiator tasked with leading the charge against three EFF MPs who disrupted a parliamentary sitting with President Cyril Ramaphosa, recused himself from the proceedings, citing a bias perception. Adv Norman Arendse, SC, was appointed in June to lead Parliament's charge against EFF MPs Nazier Paulsen, Khanya Ceza, Ntombovuyo Mente and Dumisani Fannie Mthenjane, who disrupted the House on 30 August 2022 while the President was responding to oral questions. Due to the EFF's multiple points of order aimed at the Phala Phala saga, the President had to wait for nearly an hour before he could continue answering questions. The Powers and Privilege Committee had met to start with the hearing, but Adv Arendse placed his recusal request before the Committee. He cited a possible complication that stems from his appointment as the chairperson of the UCT Council, where he works with the student representative council, which is dominated by the EFF Student Command.
Members accepted Adv Arendse's recusal request as did the legal team representing the affected EFF Members. The hearing was postponed until a new initiator was appointed. Members stressed the urgency of this given that Parliament was due to rise soon and the matter had been “hanging” for some time and avoid delaying the administration of justice.
The Chairperson greeted Members of the Committee and the legal representatives of the two parties and declared the meeting open.
Withdrawal of Initiator
Adv Norman Arendse introduced himself as the one who had been scheduled to be the initiator in this matter. He was appointed to draft the charges in early June and initiate the complaint before the Committee. The matter was only picked up again very recently since Parliament was in recess in June and July which was a long gap for the matter. Since his appointment as initiator by the State Attorney, he has also been appointed as chairperson of the University of Cape Town Council, which involves a lot of important work with constituencies such as the students at UCT. He has reflected on this, consulted with some senior counsel, white and black, and discussed this with some senior colleagues at the University Council, and he decided to withdraw as initiator for the Powers and Privileges Committee. For that, he humbly apologised to his colleagues, parliamentary officials and the Committee for any inconvenience caused. He requested to be released by the Committee as initiator.
He reaffirmed that he was not politically conflicted at all as he has represented and acted for and against numerous parties before in various matters as is the nature of being on the Bar. However, this matter raised a unique complication for him. The EFF student body won overwhelmingly at the elections at UCT. Hence, he had to deal with them both as a student body and as a political formation. Further, given the turmoil the University Council had recently experienced, he had to regrettably withdraw from the matter to avoid being perceived as “taking sides”, which is not the case. He asked to be formally released as initiator.
The Chairperson invited Committee Members to make a decision on the matter. She thanked Adv Arendse for being honest with the Committee.
It was suggested Members hear from the legal team representing the affected Members [of Parliament].
Dr M Ndlozi (EFF) requested the Committee deliberate on the matter before hearing from the legal representative of the affected Members.
The Chairperson agreed with his suggestion on the procedure.
Prof A Lotriet (DA) and Ms D Dlakude (ANC) supported Mr Arendse’s request to be released from the matter to avoid further complication.
Dr Ndlozi agreed with the rest of the Members. He underscored the negative impact of delaying delivery of justice, noting the matter has been in abeyance for over a year. It must be noted that the administration of justice has been delayed further by this, leaving a “hanging cloud” over the affected Members. Having said this, he understood the conflict of interest.
The Chairperson noted Members’ views and declared there is no objection to releasing Adv Arendse from the matter. On behalf of the Committee, she thanked Adv Arendse for the work done so far and his honesty. The State Attorney will have to begin the process of finding another initiator.
Adv Arendse wished everyone well.
The Committee Secretariat informed the Committee that the matter had been postponed until a new initiator has been appointed. Members would be informed as soon as the date has been diarised.
Input by legal representatives of the affected Members on recusal of initiator
Adv Kameel Premhid, representing the affected EFF Members, wanted to place on record that his team had no objection to Mr Arendse’s withdrawal and expressed commendation for his decision.
The legal team would not be able to make its case today because the initiator has to be in post for the hearing to continue. He referred to page 216 of the National Assembly’s rules and indicated that the proceeding cannot continue – the rules made it clear that the Committee must nominate a person who is duly qualified to act as the initiator of the hearing. The initiator presents the evidence regarding the allegations, may cross-examine and so on. Thus, the hearing today could not continue because there is no initiator.
He also indicated that the legal team [for the affected Members] had spoken to the legal representatives acting for Parliament before the commencement of the hearing. It was agreed in principle that the legal team would try to expedite all outstanding issues, including agreeing dates, so that there is no undue delay to this matter being finalised and that there is no prejudice to the affected Members they represent. He hoped this found favour with the Committee.
The Chairperson appreciated Adv Premid’s clear remarks, and his support of withdrawal. She agreed that the proceedings could not continue today.
Ms Dlakude supported the postponement of the hearing until Parliament has completed sourcing an initiator with the assistance of the state legal advisors. She urged Parliament to fast-track the process, given that it was chasing time.
Mr Z Mlenzana (ANC) concurred with Ms Dlakude. He agreed that this Committee needed to conclude the matter before the end of its term.
Dr Ndlozi concurred with the view of why the hearing could not continue without an initiator.
Mr N Xaba (ANC) suggested that during the fast-tracking process, the programming committee could also consider putting Members to work during holiday periods or the Committee may request permission from the House Chairperson to conclude the matter.
The Chairperson concluded that there is agreement from Committee Members that Parliament should fast-track the process of appointing another initiator and the matter should be concluded quickly.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.