What happened to Parliamentary Privilege?

Parliamentary Privilege allows members of parliament to speak freely, without fear of censure or criminal or civil actions resulting from their words,  be they slanderous or in any other way offensive, and certainly that includes speaking their opinions. But, Mosiuoa Lekota, leader of the COPE party, one of the opposition parties in SA’s current parliament, was thrown out of parliament for just that, speaking his mind.

Lekota’s reasoning seemed to be:  President Zuma has been and is avoiding disclosing the content of certain security tapes related to the 2009 dropping of charges against himeslf (Zuma), for alleged corruption.  As a consequence, Zuma was able to assume the highest office in the land, something probably not possible if Zuma had corruption charges standing against him.  Because Zuma refuses to release the tapes in defiance of a court order to do so, Lekota reasons that that is prime faci evidence that Zuma is concealing something that is probably illegal in nature and that should be sufficient to argue for impeachment of the president.

For that opinion, Lekota, an elected member of parliament, albeit on a list based system instead of being directly elected, gets thrown out of parliament for refusing to withdraw these statements.

The ANC’s comment – Lekota was engaged in character assassination by making statements for which he had no evidence and should be disciplined, and anyway, parliament had more important things to deal with than this issue.  

Well, what could be more important than proving the honesty and integrity of the holder of the highest office in the land and how can the evidence be said not to exists as it is being withheld by Zuma, possibly on the basis of a questionable non-disclosure agreement between Zuma and the NPA?

This is Michael Hulley at his best, or worst, depending on your perspective.  For years he successfully kept Zuma out of court and now, again, he is attempting to keep Zuma out of the highest court in the land, namely Parliament.  So again, Zuma avoids being held accountable, this time to parliament and to all the people of South Africa.  So what is it that Zuma does not wish to reveal?  If it is of no consequence, why all the fuss and bother?

There is a pithy little saying about every dog having its day, and one day, parliament will have its day.  Justice may be delayed but it cannot be avoided entirely and for ever. 

The buck stops at the ballot box 

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