Could new rules really end robust debate in Parliament?

According to some constitutional experts, some new rules which have been passed at the National Assembly, could potentially end parliamentary robust debates.

In his blog, Professor Pierre de Vos, Claude Leon Foundation Chair in Constitutional Governance at the University of Cape Town (UCT), writes that new rules at the National Assembly target disruptive behaviour and speech which is protected by the Constitution.

Phephelaphi Dube, Director of the Centre for Constitutional Rights, says that there has been a disconnect at the National Assembly in recent times about what is considered to be "unparliamentary behaviour", which is not defined in South African law.

Dube spoke to #NightTalk's Gugs Mhlungu and Sizwe Dhlomo.

Listen to the conversation below:

We've inherited an inherently British style of parliamentary debate, together with British rules

Phephelaphi Dube, Director of the Centre for Constitutional Rights

Up until this moment in South African law, there hasn't been a definition of what the term 'unparliamentary' means

Phephelaphi Dube, Director of the Centre for Constitutional Rights

We should really be interpreting these rules in a manner which is as wide as possible. Where we would ordinarily view certain words or phrases in Parliament as insults, for all intensive purposes, these words should be overlooked in the spirit of encouraging that robust debate

Phephelaphi Dube, Director of the Centre for Constitutional Rights

A balance needs to be struck between allowing Parliamentarians to get on with the business of the day, and at the same time, being able to debate in a manner that all the limits of what is acceptable in ordinary society are tested

Phephelaphi Dube, Director of the Centre for Constitutional Rights

This article first appeared on 702 : Could new rules really end robust debate in Parliament?


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