Opposition parties welcome court ruling on cops in Parliament

A court ruled that it is unconstitutional for police to remove or arrest disruptive MPs from the chamber.

FILE: Members of the Parliament look on as members of the Economic Freedom Fighters, wearing red uniforms, clash with security forces during South African President's State of the Nation address in Cape Town on 12 February, 2015.

CAPE TOWN - Opposition parties have welcomed a High Court ruling that it is unconstitutional for police to remove or arrest disruptive Members of Parliament (MPs).

A full bench of the court today ruled that Section 11 of the Powers Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act was invalid to the extent that it permits police to arrest MPs for what they say.

The matter will now go to the Constitutional Court.

The Democratic Alliance took Parliament to court after Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MPs were forcibly removed by police in plain clothes for interrupting President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation Address in February.

The party's James Selfe says Parliament has 12 months to amend the problematic legislation.

"We found section 11 very offensive to the Constitution and we're delighted that the court shared our point of view."

Welcoming today's ruling, the EFF's Mbuyiseni Ndlozi took aim at National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete.

"The EFF welcomes this as another indication of the unfitness to hold office of Baleka Mbete because she was warned that a decision to use police to arrest or remove MPs from the chamber will be inconsistent with the constitution."

Congress of the People says Parliament's presiding officers and the executive are failing dismally to govern in compliance with the Constitution.

Meanwhile, Parliament says it will be taking steps to appeal the judgment that says it is unconstitutional for police to remove and arrest disruptive MPs.

Secretary to Parliament Gengezi Mgidlana said, "When the High Court takes a decision like this it is automatically referred to the Constitutional Court. As a matter of principle we'd like to appeal this judgement because it wasn't about arresting members but about proper decorum."

The order has been referred to the Constitutional Court for confirmation.