26 August 2014
South Africans watched in anger and disgust as Parliament, one of the most important pillars of our democratic state, which represents the aspirations of our democracy deteriorated into chaos during one of its sessions last week. South Africans must be reminded that Parliament is the cornerstone of our democracy and must be respected by all those who ascribe to democratic principles as enshrined in the Constitution.
The Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster (JCPS) condemns in its strongest terms the incident that took place in the National Assembly chambers and the Parliament Precinct on Thursday last week. The JCPS cluster wants to make it clear that the authority of the state shall not be undermined.
The (JCPS) cluster has a responsibility to protect and safeguard the Republic and thus must ensure that the laws of the country are upheld by all citizens and not undermined. Therefore the cluster cannot watch whilst the authority of Parliament is compromised in a manner that was witnessed last Thursday. It is the responsibility of the JCPS cluster to ensure that state institutions are not threatened and are safe and secured as required by the Constitution.
Whilst cognisant that Parliament is independent, the JCPS cluster cannot stand idle as our democracy is undermined in full glare of the public and the world. The JCPS Cluster Ministers have instructed senior government officials within the cluster to make recommendations on how to prevent such incidences from happening in the future. Certain measures by the security cluster have been put in place with immediate effect to ensure that such never occurs again.
Parliament is an institution set to protect and uphold the Constitution. The Members of Parliament (MPs) must abide by an Act of Law which prescribes rules of engagement, deliberations and behaviour within the decorum of this house. The Constitution of the Republic of Parliament of South Africa, 1996 sets out certain powers, privileges and immunities of Parliament and provincial legislatures and their members.
The existing legislation called “The Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act, 2004, bestows powers to the Speaker and the Chairperson to exercise joint control over the precincts of Parliament. It further provides that Rules conducting the orderly conduct of persons and proceedings be put in place.
The Speaker may in terms of the Rules of National Assembly, have persons removed and may institute misconduct and contempt of Parliament proceedings against a member.
The Act clearly prohibits certain activities in respect of Parliament and its members. These activities are deemed to constitute contempt of Parliament and can lead to sanctions.
In this regard a person may not:
- Improperly interfere with or impede the exercise or performance by Parliament or House or Committee of its authority or functions.
- A person may not improperly interfere with the performance by a member of his or her functions as a member;
- While Parliament is in session create or take part in any disturbance within the precinct.
Furthermore, Section (11) of the Act 2004 provide that any person who create or takes part in any disturbance in the precinct whilst Parliament or House or Committee is meeting, may be arrested and removed from the precinct on the order of the Speaker or the Chairperson or designated by the Speaker or a Chairperson, by a staff members or member of the Security Services.
It must be stated that there exist enabling legislation to ensure that no meeting or sitting of the National Assembly, House or Committee is disrupted. Working with other state agencies this legislation will be enforced to make sure that such occurrences are never again repeated.
Once again we would like to remind South Africans that democracy comes with rights and responsibilities and therefore that all citizens of this country whilst exercising their rights must do so within the confines of the law.
I thank you.
Ms Nikelwa Tengimfene
Chief Director: JCPS Cluster Communication
Cell: 082 574 5495
Issued by: Government Communication and Information System