DA to fight Bhisho legislature suspension and fine of one months’ salary of Athol Trollip

The DA is outraged at the finding of the ethics committee of the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature regarding the case of the leader of the opposition, Athol Trollip, that was tabled for consideration in the House yesterday (subs: Thurs, 2 October). The DA formally lodged its objection. The committee found him guilty of contravening the code of ethics of the legislature, for impugning the Premier, Phumullo Masualle’s good name (for allegedly calling him a liar and a cheat) and for refusing to apologise for this.

The sanction handed down is a fifteen day suspension, which bars Athol Trollip from holding any position in the legislature, from attending any legislature activities and from making use of any legislature facilities. This is also coupled to a fine of one months’ salary.

The DA will be opposing this action by the legislature and we will seek an urgent interdict and then challenge the legality of this ruling of the Ethics Committee and the deputy speaker (who is also the chair of the ethics committee) of the legislature.

The report and all other proceedings linked to this report emanated from a straightforward legislature question to the Premier about which official had transferred R250 000 into his personal bank account at the time of the Mandela funeral service; was the transaction lawful; and if not, what steps are to be taken against those responsible for the irregular and unlawful transfer.

The question was amended/modified by the legislature and this led to much controversy. The Premier believed that his good name was impugned by my statements, utterances and actions and demanded an apology.

I indicated at the time that I was prepared to make a conditional apology to the Premier and that I would not apologise before the original question was answered. I could not apologise for doing my work and for holding the executive of the provincial government to account.

I was again asked to apologise yesterday, for an expanded bouquet of alleged infractions. Again I refused to do so, because doing so would be tantamount to self-muzzling or self-emasculation.

I could never accede to the silencing of the official opposition in a constitutional democracy, especially as we are faced with an ever-more paranoid and thin-skinned government that refuses to be held to account by not only the opposition, but Chapter Nine institutions too.