Parliament, Saturday 28 November 2020 – The Speaker of the National Assembly (NA) takes cognisance of the statement which Mr Jaki Seroke issued on behalf of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) on 27 November 2020. The statement assumes that the Speaker has the authority to adjudicate internal party disputes about membership to the NA.
The PAC has one seat in the NA, which has been filled by the nomination of Mr Mzwanele Nyhontso. The member was sworn in as the party’s representative in the NA during the first sitting of the NA.
Subsequently, a dispute arose within the PAC regarding its leadership. For this reason, there was uncertainty about communicating the membership of Mr Nyhontso to the PAC and, consequently, who should represent the party in the NA and who is authorised by the party to communicate with the Speaker on behalf of the PAC.
Disputes of this nature have plagued the PAC, as noted in 2016 by the Gauteng Division of the High Court, Pretoria, in Pan Africanist Congress of Azania v Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa and Another (Pan Africanist Congress of Azania and Another Intervening), where Makgoka J held: “This application is one of the many that have occupied this court and our local division in Johannesburg. At the heart of the litigation is the power struggle that has engulfed the PAC over many years. None of those applications have succeeded in determining once and for all, who the legitimate leaders of the PAC are. The present application is no different.”
In the present matter, litigation between different leadership structures of the PAC was before the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) and the Speaker, accordingly, waited for the outcome of the legal process, which would have confirmed and provided certainty concerning the legitimate leadership of the PAC.
The Speaker received a letter from Mr Phillip Dhlamini, representing the PAC, dated 2 November 2020, informing the Speaker of the removal of matter from the SCA roll of 3 November 2020 by agreement. Attached to the correspondence were directions from the Court that urged the Parties to seek an agreement on the way forward and to settle their differences other than through the pending appeal process. The Court also advised that decisions made by the PAC leadership elected at the Congress on 24 August 2019 at Tompi Seleka in Limpopo Province and their consequences can only be set aside by a further application to court. Included in these decisions was the termination of Mr Nyhontso’s membership to the PAC.
Based on the legal advice received, the Speaker wrote to Mr Nyhontso to inform him that he has lost his membership of the NA, in terms of section 47(3)(c) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, with immediate effect.
Section 47(3)(c) of the Constitution, 1996, deals with loss of membership to the NA if a person ceases to be a member of the political party that nominated that person. The person would lose membership to the NA by operation of law. Therefore, this provision depends on a final and certain loss of membership to the party. It is important to note that the loss of membership to the NA, in terms of this provision, is not a “decision” taken by the Speaker. It occurs by operation of law. The Speaker merely informs the member of his/her loss of membership to the NA once the final and certain loss of membership to the party is confirmed.
The Speaker is not authorised in law to adjudicate matters in dispute within the PAC or any other party. Neither the Speaker nor Parliament gets involved in party political matters.
It is also neither for the Speaker nor Parliament to decide which is the legitimate leadership structure of the PAC and, similarly, it would be incorrect for either the Speaker or Parliament to recognise one structure as the legitimate leadership of the PAC over another. This position consistently been communicated to all parties purporting to be the legitimate leadership of the PAC.
The Speaker, therefore, notes with concern the media statement by the PAC under the leadership of Mr Nyhontso, in which reflections are made about the Speaker’s competence or integrity. The Speaker has a duty to act fairly and impartially to ensure that the rights of all parties, including minority parties, are protected. Further correspondence received from the parties will be responded to accordingly.
In matters, such as, the leadership challenges of the PAC, the Speaker has always acted in terms of the Constitution, on the advice of Parliament’s Legal Services and in a manner that is consistent with established practice.
The Speaker trusts that the PAC will resolve its internal issues and provide certainty on who the candidate is that must be representing the party in the NA.
ISSUED BY THE PARLIAMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA
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