21 November 2002
The Constitutional Court has ruled that five KwaZulu-Natal legislative members who defected to the African National Congress (ANC) would not be protected. Instead, they have lost their seats. Four of the five have been replaced by the parties they defected from.
The judgement relates to an earlier Constitutional Court ruling declaring “floor crossing’ unconstitutional for procedural reasons. To give those who changed parties (in the belief that the legislation was valid ) time to change their minds, the Court granted a period of protection, which expired on October 22.
After the ruling expired, the five defectors to the ANC were replaced by their original parties. Two of the defectors were from the Democratic Alliance (DA), two were from the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), and one was a United Democratic Movement (UDM) member.
The ANC applied to the Constitutional Court for protection of floor-crossers to be extended until new legislation allowing for party defection is passed by Parliament next year. Minister of Justice Penuell Maduna also brought an application to the Court, asking for the reinstatement of the five provincial MPs.
The applications were opposed by the IFP, DP, Pan Africanist Congress, the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal and the four individuals who have replaced the defectors in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature.
Defectors may be back
The Court dismissed the applications and ordered the ANC and the minister of justice to pay costs. Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson said it would be “intolerable’ and would lead to uncertainty if the courts were expected to revise their earlier rulings.
However, the glee of opposition parties may be short-lived. If new floor-crossing legislation tabled in Parliament is passed into law early next year, the five provincial MPs may be able to take up their positions in their original parties before crossing to the ANC again, displacing the new appointments, because the proposed legislation allows for retrospective protection.
Meanwhile, the opposition parties congratulated the Constitutional Court on its ruling. DA KwaZulu-Natal leader Roger Burrows said the ruling showed the judiciary’s independence, compared with that of its neighbouring country, Zimbabwe.