Lawyers for rowdy Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MPs who caused chaos during President Cyril Ramaphosa's parliamentary questions sessions last year, want National Assembly Speak Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to testify at their disciplinary hearing.
This comes as the National Assembly's Powers and Privileges Committee is set to start its disciplinary hearing into the conduct of Nazier Paulsen, Khanya Ceza, Ntombovuyo Mente and Dumisani Fannie Mthenjane on Monday.
The committee is considering charges against the EFF MPs for the disruptions that took place during a House sitting on 30 August 2022 when they disrupted the House while Ramaphosa was responding to questions.
The EFF had, in the early stages of the matter, announced that it would take the case to court.
On Monday, advocate Kameel Premhid, for the EFF, told the Western Cape High Court that the affected MPs made three requests of Parliament at every stage of their participation in the litigation.
Their main bone of contention was the refusal of a subpoena for Mapisa-Nqakula to appear before the committee hearing the matter.
This was in order for her to be cross-examined.
"Each one has either been refused, not answered, or the goal post shifted. Every one of those has a prejudice against my clients. We are kicked around from pillar to post...
"There has been a formal request for the subpoena of the Speaker. The request bubbles up to the 20 October meeting. They don't engage in the fact that our request is not only for them to call the Speaker but it's also that we should have the right to have the Speaker there. They say go away," he said.
According to Premhid, they were told to ask Mapisa-Nqakula directly if she would participate.
We then ask the Speaker directly to come and give evidence. She refuses, and that is the end of the matter. The difficulty we face is that we now don’t have a mechanism outside the committee changing its mind to issue a subpoena for the Speaker.
"They take the view that the Speaker is not necessary because the video is there. If they had properly considered and conceded to our request, there would be no need for this. Our prejudice would not be there," he said.
Representing Parliament, advocate Adiel Nacerodien said the response of the committee was that if you want the Speaker, then you can ask for her.
"She has refused. In that refusal, she says that if the EFF asks the committee to exercise its powers to subpoena, let me know. They don't take that further step. They don’t ask the committee. That is how it works.
"We are now in a situation where they have not asked the committee to subpoena the Speaker on their behalf. If the committee calls the Speaker, they have a right to cross-examine her," he said.
Acting Judge Murray van Heerden questioned Nacerodien on several points.
"You took over a year to get to the charges against these members. This matter should have been done within a month since the incident," he said, after which he suspended proceedings for the legal teams to obtain instructions from their clients on how the matter should proceed.
During the committee deliberations on 20 October 2023, parliamentary legal advisor Andile Tetyana indicated that at the meeting on 27 September 2023, there was interaction with the legal teams of the affected MPs.
A case management meeting was arranged, which took place on 4 October 2023.
During the interaction, the counsel for the affected MPs asked the initiator whether the committee would be calling the Speaker as a witness.
"The response from the initiator was that, at this stage, there was no need to call the Speaker as a witness. The committee can determine this. So, having considered all the relevant evidence, the initiator believed it was unnecessary to subpoena the Speaker or call the Speaker as a witness. Members would recall the incident of 30 August 2022; the committee sent sworn statements and affidavits to members about that incident," committee documents read.
Six witnesses will be called by the initiator.
Parliamentary Legal Services did not believe that the Speaker had to be called as a witness, but said if the affected MPs want to call her as their own witness, the committee can accept that.
The EFF wanted the Speaker to testify in the disciplinary hearing, while the African National Congress MPs argued that there were enough witnesses, reports and video footage.
The court matter was postponed to Wednesday.