During the monthly meeting of student parliament, which took place on May 11, it came to the attention of parliamentarians and the Student Representative Council (SRC) that both the Speaker and Deputy Speaker’s positions in parliament were unconstitutionally voted for.
Chaos broke out in parliament as parliamentarians disregarded the authority of the Speaker, Peter Sleeman. Some very upset parliamentarians even accused Sleeman of being a “criminal”.
The case has now been brought before the Constitutional Tribunal of the University of Pretoria for adjudication. Deputy Justice of the Constitutional Tribunal, Katherine Harding, stated that the tribunal can unfortunately not comment on cases that are still pending.
“I can’t confirm the date of the hearing until the parties themselves have been notified,” she added. “Probably two weeks.”Sleeman states that he was unaware of the fact that his position as Speaker was unconstitutionally filled.
“I am frankly surprised that this matter has not been brought up before, by the political interest in parliament to see me removed,” he explains. “However, the fault lies with the constitutional tribunal who ran the meeting of 4 October 2010.”
According to other parliamentarians, including Deputy Speaker Francois Cloete, some individuals were well aware of the fact that the positions were unconstitutionally filled as early as January this year.
According to Cloete, this is the first time parliament spoke about their unhappiness with Sleeman’s performance as Speaker.
“Many feel that he does not do his job,” Cloete explained. Cloete added that the move was not politically motivated but purely out of concern for students.SRC member, Mark Vorster, says that Sleeman does not know the constitution well enough which affects his competence as Speaker. “This bad leadership is costing students and parliament,” Vorster explains.
Head of Justice and Constitutions on the SRC, Michael Matlapeng, stated that Sleeman does not know his duties and powers. “A lot of the time he does not know what he is doing,” Matlapeng explains. “Reporting back is a nightmare although we are doing our (the SRC’s) job.”
Sleeman’s answer to these accusations is simple: “If this is believed then why has there not been a motion of no confidence in myself as Speaker?” Sleeman argues. “I will not enter a mudslinging event with members of the parliament. I am there to serve their needs and only that.”
The case was brought before the tribunal by parliamentarian Johan Conradie, who is a post-graduate engineering student. “I would like to see a better candidate be chosen for the position of Speaker,” Conradie explains.