Publication: Independent Online Issued: Date: 2004-10-13 Reporter: Sapa

MPs Need Permission to Testify at Shaik Trial



Independent Online

Date 2004-10-13



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National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete has warned two parliamentarians they will need parliament's permission to give evidence in the Schabir Shaik trial, which is currently under way in Durban.

Mbete said on Wednesday that it had been reported that former public accounts committee chairman Gavin Woods of the Inkatha Freedom Party and Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille might be called as state witnesses in Shaik's trial.

In general, MPs were not prohibited in law from giving evidence before a court or administrative tribunal, she said.

However, if they gave evidence on the records of proceedings, or the evidence given before, or any document submitted to parliament, or any of its committees, certain legislative provisions came into effect.

Section 10 of the Powers, Privileges, and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act provided that such members first obtain the permission of the House of Parliament concerned.

If the relevant House was not sitting, the Speaker of the National Assembly or the chair of the National Council of Provinces, as the case might be, or a person delegated by them, could grant such permission.

"Failure to obtain permission may render a member guilty of contempt of parliament in terms of the above act."

"The purpose of this provision is to ensure that parliament is in control of its internal arrangements, proceedings, and procedures, and the manner in which members and staff communicate these outside of parliament, as provided in the Constitution," Mbete said.

With acknowledgements to Sapa and Independent Online.