UDM leader Bantu Holomisa wrote to Speaker of the National Assembly Thandi Modise to change how the committee handling Public Protector Busisiwe Mkwhebane’s impeachment will vote.
The National Assembly on 16 March voted to impeach Mkhwebane on the recommendation of an independent panel that found sufficient prima facie evidence of incompetence and misconduct on Mkhwebane’s part to institute an inquiry.
The vote in favour of the inquiry carried with 275 in favour versus 40 against, with Holomisa and his UDM colleague Nqabayomzi Kwankwa among those who voted against impeachment.
Last week, Parliament announced which MPs will serve on the committee that will conduct the inquiry.
The committee’s 26 members come from each of the 14 political parties represented in the National Assembly. Only 11 MPs will be voting members of the committee, and the remaining 15 will be non-voting members. Holomisa is among the non-voting members, while the ANC, DA, EFF, IFP, and FF Plus have voting members.
The committee is called a Section 194 committee, in reference to the section of the Constitution which allows for the removal of a head of a Chapter 9 institution such as the Public Protector.
In his letter, Holomisa said that the voting component follows the same structure as that of a portfolio committee.
“You will agree that ad hoc and section 194 committees are by their very nature different from portfolio committees, in that their raison d’etre and subject matters are of equal importance to all political parties, and that they discuss and handle matters of national importance. Therefore, all parties should have an even stake in participation, processes, and voting,” wrote Holomisa.
He said political parties represent different constituencies and therefore hold different positions and that it is important for these positions and divergent views to be reflected in all the decision-making processes of Parliament, starting with the committee process.
“Furthermore, the fact that there are fourteen political parties represented in Parliament is an expression of the will of the people of the Republic of South Africa,” he wrote, adding:The so-called large parties must stop this false and arrogant thinking that they are ‘doing us a favour’ by ‘allowing us to participate’ in Parliamentary processes in a manner that is determined by them, and not in a manner that respects the will of the people.
“It is the sheer hubris of those who claim to be democrats and fighters for democracy care so little for the will of the people.”
He said in that light, he finds it, “… problematic, wholly undemocratic and unconstitutional”, that smaller parties are not allowed to vote in the Section 194 Committee.
“I do not understand how the IFP and the Freedom Front Plus, political parties which carry disparate and different mandates from their respective constituencies are expected to vote on behalf of the eleven smaller parties. This practice both undermines the role of smaller parties in Parliament and violates their right to participate fully in all the decision-making processes of Parliament.
“The current ‘system’ of merely satisfying the letter of Parliamentary processes, but not honouring the spirit of democracy and participation is flawed and smaller parties cannot be treated as mere tokens.”
He proposes a weighted voting system for all ad hoc and Section 194 committees.
“In a weighted voting system, each political party in a section 194 committee will have a weighted vote as determined by the percentage of the electorate they represent. This system will ensure that parties will not have a disproportionate influence over voting outcomes.”
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