Trollip’s reinstatement proof that constitutionalism trumps majoritarianism

Athol Trollip (MPL)

Leader of the official opposition the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature

My reinstatement today and the payment of my salary effectively overturn my suspension of two weeks and a fine of one month’s salary.

The statement that I read out today as per the out-of-court settlement is precisely what I offered to do when the Premier first demanded an apology at a legislature sitting on 23 July 2014.  At the said sitting I undertook to make a qualified apology.  I said:  “Hon Speaker, I want my question to be answered by the Premier and once the Premier has answered the question I will consider whether there was a need for an apology because the things that he says that I have said, I never did say.”  I did not and could not apologise for calling the Premier a liar, a cheat and a thief, because I never ever said that nor implied that.

This offer was rejected by the speaker, Noxolo Kiviet, and the matter was referred to the Ethics Committee under the chairmanship of the deputy speaker, Bulelwa Tunyiswa.  The deputy speaker subsequently tabled the ethics committee report on 16 September 2014 where I challenged the fairness and contents of the report.  The speaker ruled that the report be referred back to the Ethics Committee for reconsideration.

The report was re-tabled on 2 October 2014 and was largely unchanged, save for the fact that the charges and findings appeared to be embellished to achieve what was clearly a predetermined outcome.

In this regard my notice of motion of my interdict included affidavits that testified that three ANC-MPLs including one of the Ethics Committee members were heard to say:  “Siza kumfumana kwi ethics, uTrollip” (We will get Trollip in the Ethics Committee).

The fact that the legislature’s legal representatives offered to settle the matter and accept my qualified apology, is an important admission – that this whole matter and its subsequent flawed procedures were without any justifiable substance.

Another important matter in this saga is the fact that the two respondents, the speaker and the deputy speaker, agreed to settle and accept responsibility for both parties’ costs.

The arrogant attitude of the deputy speaker and the ethics committee throughout this entire process has effectively cost the public purse approximately R100 000, if not more.

This flagrant disregard for taxpayers’ money and the almost reflex attitude toward contesting any and all legal challenges without any consideration of the merits of the case by the state is a “luxury” that no country can afford, especially a poor province like ours that almost always blames poor service delivery on a lack of funds.

If Bulelwa Tunyiswa had had any respect for due process, the constitution and all its provisions regarding basic rights and the legislature’s own rules and codes of conduct, she could have not only saved the fiscus this waste of scarce resources but also saved the governing party, the legislature and the presiding officers a lot of embarrassment.

What is more, is that the Premier himself could have been saved from the unending embarrassment of a matter that has been in the glare of the media spotlight since June 2014, if the presiding officers had accepted the offer of the qualified apology when it was originally made.

This settlement, reached at the cost to the legislature/public purse, reinforces the fact that the role of the opposition to hold the executive and government to account is a constitutional one and that we do not fulfil this role by the leave/magnanimity of the ANC.

The DA has shown that we will not be bullied nor cowed by the majority party.