27 September 2008
Honourable dishnounarables or honourables!
By Fanyana Mabuza
The country’s Constitution is silent about electing winners who still have court cases pending against them.
Hence, a number of people who won the recent secondary elections, which effectively gives them a ticket to Parliament, at least as MPs, will be going to the Honourable House with the proverbial ‘Sword of Damocles’ hanging above their heads.
Sword of Damocles is being used advisedly here, as they can be cleared by the courts of law or also be found guilty, something that can seriously dent their newly-found honourable status.
It is clear by now that, as a result of the ever so slow-grinding wheels of our judiciary system, by the time these people have had their day in court they would have already been sworn in as MPs, and if they are indeed found guilty, it would mean the August House would have accommodated a number of ‘honourable dishonourables’ wittingly, because such people made their intentions of contesting the elections clear, long before the race to Parliament begun.
Worse still, there is no law stopping people with pending court cases to contest an election. After all, everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a competent court of law, so discriminating against them entering the election fray would be against this hallowed and revered judiciary clause.
But what happens if that person is found guilty while in the middle of his term, having signed some important national documents or having represented the country in a number of international forums?
Needless to say, his incarceration, that is if he could be denied bail or lose on appeal, would greatly affect the work of Parliament, which then brings us back to the fact that a law is needed to clear this hurdle.
It is a known fact that a number of MPs in the last Parliament had similar challenges, where they were at times called to court when the House was in session.
It is today history that almost all of them finished their terms while their cases in court were still pending, and it shall be hoped or prayed by the new lot along with their families, that the same scenario plays itself out and their cases are not expedited by the courts while they are still carrying the honourable status. Veteran politician and former Prime Minister Obed Dlamini slammed such, saying it is dangerous for the country.
He continued that it would be much better that such people are not allowed to join the race to Parliament at all until they are fully cleared. “Even though it has not happened before that a politician is dragged out of chambers and thrown into a jail cell, we cannot keep on hoping that it cannot happen. To avoid the embarrassment it can cause us, we just have to stop such people from entering the race to Parliament.
“This can be done by tightening the qualifying rules, and make them state clearly that people with pending court cases are not eligible. In this manner, we can avoid contravening the golden chalice of the legal fraternity that of not being guilty until found so by any competent court of law.
“Naturally, Parliament is a place for people with integrity and without the slightest trace of wrongdoing. I see no problem in calling for people to wait for the following election that would come after their names had been cleared. They would go there without having to occasionally cast glances over their shoulder to see whether the court roll is calling their names or not,” Dlamini said.
He mentioned that this could save the country the blushes, while also saving those concerned the emotional stress of having to vacate that honourable seat and all that goes with it before their term is over.
One of the affected, former police officer and gospel singer Frans ‘Magwinyagwinya’ Dlamini, who is embroiled in a fraud case, flatly refused to entertain queries pertaining to this issue, when called for comment on Thursday.
“My brother, I would prefer not to discuss such an issue right now,“ he said curtly.
When further pressed if he was withholding his comment, he said he was doing just that, further stating that he would rather not discuss the issue, although he did not mention anything about it being subjudice. Dlamini will represent the Nhlambeni constituency.
Another former police officer, Charles Myeza, is also implicated in a fraud case which is also pending in court.
He will represent the Khubuta constituency.
Both Dlamini and Myeza were suspended from the service, and the former later resigned whilst the latter is still on suspension.
The Chairman of the EBC, Chief Gija, stated that as a Commission, they had no power to block people with pending cases from contesting elections.
“It would not be proper for us. What could happen if that person would win the case, won’t he then blame us for unfairly denying him the right to partake?”
He stated that if the courts could find a legislator guilty of any felony, there are Parliament laws to deal with that, and it is outside their ambit.