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Tuesday, 06 February 2024 14:34

Parliament to implement new rules during Sona as EFF loses court bid.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

National Assembly (NA) Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says they will implement the new rules of Parliament to prevent any disruption in the House during the State of the Nation Address (Sona).

President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to deliver the Sona on Thursday.

Mapisa-Nqakula on Tuesday said the new rules are designed to regulate proceedings during joint sittings of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces.

Disruptions and violence have marked the annual State of the Nation Address since 2015, with the EFF storming the stage during the proceedings in 2023.

In December, Parliament suspended EFF leader Julius Malema, his deputy Floyd Shivambu, and four other MPs for a month for disrupting last year's event.

The party has since suffered another blow in the Western Cape High Court after their bid to interdict Parliament from applying newly adopted House rules that will prevent the chaos that has characterised its conduct at the Sona failed.

In its urgent application, the EFF sought to prevent Parliament from applying the rules at this year's SONA on Thursday.But Judge Deidre Kusevitsky dismissed the application for interim relief.

In her judgment, Kusevitsky said before a court grants an application for an interim interdict, it must be satisfied that the applicant (EFF) has good prospects of success in the main review application.

"The claim for review must be based on strong grounds which are likely to succeed. This requires the court adjudicating the interdict application to peek into the grounds of review raised in the main review application and assess their strength. It is only if a court is convinced that the review is likely to succeed that it may appropriately grant the interdict.

"The rationale is that an interdict which prevents a functionary from exercising public power conferred on it impacts on the separation of powers and should therefore only be granted in exceptional circumstances," she said.

She found that the EFF had failed to satisfy the requirements for the relief sought.

"The courts have reiterated the separation of powers and the duty and obligation for all arms of state to at all costs, be mindful thereof and not usurp its powers. It is also up to that organ of state to regulate its own procedures and processes. There are therefore no exceptional circumstances present which would allow me to breach the separation of powers doctrine," she said.

Kusevitsky also noted Parliament's argument that the amendments "were never conceivably contemplated" and that a MP would ever disregard and disrespect the decorum of Parliament.

Mapisa-Nqakula told a media briefing that the new rules would bar anyone from disrupting the president during the sitting.

"In terms of the new rules, no member is allowed to interrupt the president while delivering the State of the Nation Address. Similarly, interruptions are prohibited during the president's speech at the opening of parliament, which is the first thing of the two houses following elections.

"Additionally, these rules stipulate that no other business may be considered during a joint sitting other than a specific business for which the joint sitting is convened."

"These measures are critical in ensuring that these important national events are conducted in an orderly and respectful manner reflecting the dignity of parliament and the importance of these addresses in setting the nation's legislative and developmental agenda."

Mapisa-Nqakula said Thursday's State of Nation Address is significant as it is the final one before this year's general elections.

"As we prepare for this SONA, we are also engaged in extensive preparations for both the opening of the 7th parliament and for welcoming the new generation of members of parliament," she said.  

"We will ensure that this SONA will not only reflect the importance of the occasion but will showcase the efficiency, capability, resilience and maturity of parliament."

National Council of Provinces chairperson Amos Masondo said the new rules were to ensure there was order in the House.

For Parliament to be able to do its work, it would need to implement these rules.

He said the rules were not aimed at any party, but members of the national legislature. They will be used when there is a need.

They are meant to maintain the decorum of the Chamber, said Masondo, adding that they will not shy away from implementing the rules.

He added that former presidents Thabo Mbeki, Kgalema Motlanthe and Jacob Zuma have been invited to attend the Sona.

They have acknowledged receipt of the invitation. Former deputy presidents Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Baleka Mbete were also invited.