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Debate on the motion to pass a resolution to dissolve the National Assembly by Hon. L. Maseko

5 September 2018 , National Assembly

Thank you House Chairperson

The basis of the DA-sponsored Motion is predicated on the alleged grounds that this House has failed in its duties to uphold section 55 (2) of the Constitution. I therefore submit that, this could not be further from the truth.

The record shows that the National Assembly, notwithstanding the myriad of challenges it encounters, continue to discharge its duties and functions in a manner consistent with the Constitution.

The National Assembly continues to hold executive organs of the state accountable though its various committees and other processes enunciated in both the Constitution of the Republic and the Standing Rules.

To remind the proponent of this Motion, it is worth noting that at the beginning of this year, the National Assembly received a report on the Ad Hoc Committee on the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) Inquiry.

The Inquiry was initiated by this House intended at unearthing and deal with the corrosive acts of wrong doing by those entrusted with the public trust at the SABC.

The National Assembly acted in this manner inspired by the acute realisation of the undesirable effects of such maleficence in the SABC which militated against the interests of the people of our country.

The Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) is one of the committees of this House which continue to hold the executive accountable on how public funds are used.

To this end, a considerable number of acts of wrong doing have been discovered and accordingly reported. The National Assembly in its praxis, has continuously implemented rulings of the Judiciary where directed, and this can be illustrated in the Motion of No Confidence debate in relation to the Secret Ballot (on the 8th attempt) to the secret ballot the SASSA findings and as stated earlier, the SABC Board.

House Chairperson,

It should be clearer that the DA Motion is indeed nothing but a self-serving attempt at undermining the will of the people.

Since its inauguration and in more recent times, the National Assembly has distinguished itself as the resounding embodiment of the will of the people.

In this House sits Honourable Members mandated by more than 10 million South Africans who have given to us the task of safeguarding their interests and not those of our own.

The mandate we have the honour of carrying requires of us, both in our intentions and actions to promote the interest of the people of South Africa.

Many of our people look to this National Assembly to give them hope by resolving the myriad of challenges confronting them.

It then goes to follow that any iota of instability, so occasioned by frivolous Motions akin to the one we are debating today directly affects their interests negatively.

Ensuring the political and economic stability of our country, the importance of institutional stability, the resilience of the National Assembly, the predictability of our national laws, politics, policies and governance systems, all provide confidence to the continent and more broadly other countries of the world.

Economic investors take decisions based on these indicators in determining that the Republic and its institutions are worthy of support. Reckless motions such as this one by the DA, assault the integrity of the National Assembly and weaken the prestige of the country.

House Chairperson,

In the unlikely event that this House adopts the proposed resolution to dissolve this House, our country men and women will be within reason to demand reasons for that decision.

The people who mandated us will be justified in questioning our intentions and loyalty to their cause and the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

This historic moment, thus bestows upon us the duty to caution the Democratic Alliance not to offend our people in its attempt to undo the gains of freedom only to appease interests other than those of our people.

It is within reason to implore the House not to adopt the proposed resolution on the dissolution of the NA.

It is not sufficient grounds for this motion to be carried only on the basis that it has satisfied procedural requirements as set out in the Standing Rules or because of the minor areas of weakness seen in the work of the House.

A fundamental question ought to be asked to the proponents of this Motion, as to in whose interest will the dissolution of the House be?

I submit, House Chairperson that it is certainly not in the interest of the people of our great nation that this National Assembly should be dissolved.

The dissolution of this House will not only serve to dislodge elected public representatives from the National Assembly.

Such a resolution will have the undesirable effect of depriving all South Africans the use of their pre-eminent representative body tasked to counterbalance the possible excesses of both the Executive and Judiciary.

The dissolution of the National Assembly is tantamount to dishonouring the abiding principle of our democratic dispensation that no government shall justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of the people.

A motion to dissolve the National Assembly is an admission by the DA that they do not see themselves as part of the solution in addressing challenges through the National Assembly but rather appropriating the Constitution in the desire and hope that the end result will be a coalition, raises serious doubts about their loyalty to the National Assembly, a structure they see they can use and abuse when they have the single objective in mind of political power at all cost

As the Motion before us stand, I maintain that it cannot be defended as it is void of reason.

This National Assembly was constituted through an electoral process and the discussion whether this House earned and nurtured confidence should be left to freedom loving people of our country.

As the National Assembly, we should reject the invitation to conspire with the Democratic Alliance's drive to undermine the will of our people.

The National Assembly is elected to represent the people and to ensure government by the people under the Constitution. It is a national forum for public consideration of issues, so, any move to dissolve this obligation, can only come about where there is conclusive proof that the National Assembly no longer performs this function.

I submit, House Chairperson that such conclusive proof does not exist.

Honourable Speaker, let me remind the DA of the powers of the National Assembly

Section 55 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, apportion to the National Assembly the following powers:

(1) In exercising its legislative power, the National Assembly may-

(a) consider, pass, amend or reject any legislation before the Assembly; and
(b) initiate or prepare legislation, except money Bills.

(2) The National Assembly must provide for mechanisms-

(a) to ensure that all executive organs of state in the national sphere of government are accountable to it; and
(b) to maintain oversight of-

(i) the exercise of national executive authority, including the implementation of legislation; and
(ii) any organ of state.

Lastly Honourable House Chairperson, In debating this motion, it then becomes important to remind this House of the PRINCIPLE, which forms part of the Preamble of the Freedom Charter, which states that: "NO GOVERNMENT CAN JUSTLY CLAIM AUTHORITY UNLESS IT IS BASED ON THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE". This principle is followed by the MECHANISM, which is VOTING FOR A TERM OF OFFICE, in the case of the Republic, it is five (5) years. What we see in this motion of the DA is POLITICS, politics of hypocrisy and emotional blackmail by the DA. So, having said that House Chairperson:-

I would reflect on the observations by Prof. Pierre De Vos, a Constitutional Law Lecturer at the University of Cape Town when he responded to an assumption that Parliament can be collapsed and new elections can be held if more than 50 MP's resign from the National Assembly. To this, his response is in the negative, a big No and an illusion by the DA: In quoting him, he says

"Section 46(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 states that The National Assembly consists of no fewer than 350 and no more than 400 women and men, elected as Members in terms of the electoral system".

"This has led some people, most-notably Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema - to argue that if more than 50 MPs resign from the National Assembly, the National Assemble will collapse because it will consist of less than 350 members".

Prof. De Vos goes on to say that "this is a spectacular misreading of the Constitution. When the Constitution was negotiated, there was some disagreement about the ideal size of the 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 National Assembly, but prescribes to the legislature that it could not reduce the size to below 350 MPs and could not increase the size to over 400.

Item 4(3) in Schedule 6, further contains the transitional arrangement which provided that the National Assembly would consist of 400 members for the duration of its term that expired in April 1996. After that, legislation could determine the size (if it was not smaller than 350 and not larger than 400).

This is exactly what the Electoral Act 73 of 1998 in terms of Schedule 3 provides a formula to determine the size of the National Assembly, stating that:

"By taking into account available scientifically based data and representation by interested parties, the number of seats of the National Assembly, must be determined by awarding one seat for every 100 000 of the population with a minimum of 350 and a maximum of 400 seats". This, as South Africa's population is now larger than 40 million, the act has set the size of the National Assembly at 400 members as prescribed by section 46(1) of the Constitution".

When sixty (60) MPs resign their seats, the size of the National Assembly does not dip below 350. It remains 400. All that happens is that there will be 60 vacancies in the 400-member National Assembly.

The National Assembly will continue to do its work - although 60 opposition MPs will be missing from the National Assembly when it does so. There will be no election, end of story. 400 MPs were elected to the National Assembly as required by section 46(1) - whether some of them resign in a huff, is neither here nor there.

The provision that might be relevant is not section 46(1), but rather section 53(1) of the Constitution. This section states that (except where the Constitution provides otherwise), most the members of the National Assembly must be present before a vote may be taken on a Bill or an amendment to a Bill.

This means that no legislation can be passed unless there are at least 200 MPs present in the National Assembly.

This means that the National Assembly could be rendered toothless if at least 200 MPs resign (which we all know will never happen). Although it would be able to meet, it would not be able to pass any legislation.

Even if all the members of opposition parties resign, the governing African National Congress would be able to pass legislation with its 249 MPs. The ANC MPs are never going to resign en masse to collapse the National Assembly.

So, whatever happens, a mass resignation by opposition MPs from the National Assembly will be utterly irrelevant as far as the duration of the National Assembly and the timing of a new election is concerned. So, as Prof De Vos says, "the claim is four Pinocchio's FALSE".

House Chairperson.

The Democratic Alliance request this House to pass a Motion to dissolve the National Assembly in line with section 50(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

It is worth noting that the African National Congress does not support the Motion as the reasons advanced in favour of the Motion are void of substance and reasoning.

Indeed, all South Africans should see the Motion and the DA itself for what it truly is, a desperate attempt to undo the will of the people of our country.

I thank you.

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