Parliament accepts legal opinion on SONA incident

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Powers and Privileges Committee has resolved to accept external legal opinion on the incident which led to the temporary adjournment of the sitting and delay in the presentation of the  State of the Nation Address (SONA) earlier this year.

President Cyril Ramaphosa presented the SONA on 13 February 2020.

The committee was on Tuesday briefed by the Parliament’s Legal Services on the legal opinion received from an outside legal counsel regarding the SONA incident.

The external legal opinion was expected to clarify two points, including whether the conduct by members on the day constitutes misconduct and whether the Powers and Privileges Committee has jurisdiction in considering this matter as referred to it by the Speaker of the National Assembly.

The legal opinion confirmed that according to Rule 214 of the Rules of the National Assembly, the committee is fully empowered to consider this referral as made by the Speaker.

On the question of contempt of Parliament, the counsel opined that a process must be followed whereby members are given an opportunity to put their versions of events and the committee makes a determination on the question of contempt.

Committee Chairperson Philly Mapulane emphasised that the committee is not dealing with the merits or demerits of the SONA incident at this stage, but to establish two fundamental issues in the legal opinion of whether or not does the committee have a jurisdiction on the matter, and whether the incident constituted a contempt of Parliament.

Draft charges for disruption of Gordhan’s Budget Vote Debate

The committee was also briefed about the appointment of the external initiator for the alleged disruption of the Budget Vote Debate speech of Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.

The committee accepted the report and welcomed the appointment of Advocate Mayosi as an external initiator for the enquiry that arises as a result of the alleged disruption of the presentation of the Budget Vote Debate speech by Gordhan.

Mapulane said members of the committee have viewed the footage and have identified members who disrupted Minister Gordhan.

"The external initiator will assist the committee by drafting charges and the alleged members afforded an opportunity to make representations,” Mapulane said.

According to Parliament’s Legal Services, Mayosi has experience in litigation, constitutional processes and in administrative law.

The committee has asked Parliament’s Legal Services officials to provide a written profile of Mayosi to committee members. –

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