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Analysts call out parliament's over-reliance on lawyers, judges

'Politicians must adopt political rationality'

Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya Political Editor
Richard Calland, political analyst and public law lecturer at UCT.
Richard Calland, political analyst and public law lecturer at UCT.

The recusal of legal academic and political commentator Richard Calland from the committee instituted to probe the possibility of President Cyril Ramaphosa being impeached showed an over-reliance on lawyers and pretended that people had no political views.

These were sentiments of two political analysts who spoke to Sowetan yesterday. The views go against popular public sentiment, led by the DA, the EFF and expressed on public platforms such as radio stations and on social media, calling on Calland to recuse himself because of perceived bias in favour of Ramaphosa in his public comments.

National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula had announced the three-person independent panel – former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo, former judge Thokozile Masipa and Calland to determine whether Ramaphosa has a prima facie case to answer to with regard to the Phala Phala farm saga.

Calland on Tuesday announced that he would step down from the committee following pressure from the EFF, the DA, political pundits and the general public. He has been replaced by Adv Mahlape Sello.

Political analyst Mpumelelo Mkhabela bemoaned how SA seemed to have increasingly "legalised", "lawyered" or judicialised political and policy issues. 

“You might remember the Kevin Wakeford conspiracy claims that the rand was deliberately undermined? [Former president Thabo] Mbeki [in 2002] appointed Adv John Myburg to investigate the matter. This is just another example.

“The person investigating diversity issues after the racist urine incident at Stellenbosch University is justice Sisi Khampepe. Ramaphosa’s fate on Phala Phala is now at the hands of lawyers/judges.

“By refusing to subject himself or the ANC supporting his stance not to fully explain himself in an open political platform, which is the National Assembly, he has given deference to the quasi-judicial process.

“Granted, quasi-judicial process of the committee is part of the rules of parliament, it was triggered by a ConCourt judgment when parliament refused to hold [Jacob] Zuma to account. That refusal meant that lawyers/judges had to come in to tell parliament how to do its work. And parliament accordingly adopted new impeachment rules.

“So, politicians must adopt political rationality. Absent rationality in the conduct of politics, lawyers and judges will remain our political gods,” said Mkhabela.

Another analyst, David Maimela, thought “the Calland teacup storm is truly unfortunate” and pretended that panel members did not hold a view either way on Ramaphosa.

“It shows the poverty of ideas and philosophy in some sections of parliament. A political institution called parliament which ought to be national inclusive house and welcome debate and diverse views, gets itself intimidated by one individual, who incidentally happens to be the only white person on the panel by the way.

“It is illiberal for someone to be excluded in what is essentially a political process from participating merely because they exist and have views. Who doesn't? It is as if Calland must come from Mars. Regrettably, parliament has set a very bad precedent. That's what this is,” said Maimela.

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