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Parliament, Friday, 20 September 2019 – The Subcommittee on the Review of the National Assembly Rules met today to consider proposed rules concerning a section 194 enquiry. Section 194 of the Constitution deals with the removal from office of the Public Protector, the Auditor-General or a member of a commission established by Chapter 9 of the Constitution.

The subcommittee concurred that, among other things, currently there is no clear definition of the grounds for removal and it was imperative that the grounds be clearly defined to close the vacuum that exists.

While the Constitution and the NA Rules do set out a broad framework for Parliament to exercise its functions in terms of section 194, the subcommittee agreed that to ensure clarity and uniformity, specific rules are required as mandated by the Rules Committee.

The proposals presented to the National Assembly Rules Subcommittee were that the rules should provide at least four stages for a section 194 process in Parliament, namely:

  1. The initiation;
  2. The preliminary assessment of evidence (prima facie);
  3. An inquiry by a committee; and
  4. A decision by the House.

Concerning the first stage, the rules currently provide two mechanisms for a member to initiate the process- by way of a substantive motion in the National Assembly or by way of a written request to the Speaker. A single mechanism is broadly favoured.

In terms of the second stage, namely the preliminary assessment of evidence, it is anticipated that a determination of whether prima facie evidence exists for the Assembly to proceed with an inquiry that would be fact-based and rely on legal considerations.

Concerning the third stage, options being considered include, a special committee on section 194 processes, an ad hoc committee or a portfolio committee of the National Assembly. Ultimately, the decision regarding removal of an office bearer in Chapter 9 institutions, would be taken by the National Assembly, after due process.

The subcommittee has referred the principles discussed to the administration in order to develop draft rules for its consideration at the next meeting tentatively scheduled for October 2019. In terms of the process map, when the Subcommittee reaches an agreement on the guidelines, it will present its recommendations to the National Assembly Rules Committee, which in turn would submit its recommendations to a plenary sitting of the house for approval / adoption.

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