Can parly stop EFF from questioning Zuma?

2015-01-14 20:03

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

No one has ever asked a question during the state of the nation address in the past 20 years.

This “convention” is all that Parliament has in its arsenal to prevent Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MPs from asking questions at next month’s state of the nation address.

Parliamentary officials have admitted there was a vacuum in the express rules on this point.

However, it was pointed out that no one could rise to ask a question without the presiding officer’s permission under Rule 13 of the joint rules of Parliament, which apply to joint sittings of both Houses.

The rule also states that no one other than the presiding officer may speak “without having obtained the permission of the Speaker or the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces”.

The exact meaning and impact of this stipulation was left unclear – MPs rise on points of order, make interjections and address the presiding officers frequently as sittings unfold without having obtained clearance before the start of the sitting.

“There are no rules in the rules dealing with questions to the president [at a state of the nation address],” explained Masibulele Xaso, secretary to the National Assembly.

He added that the matter was dealt with by convention.

“There has never been an occasion where there were questions in a joint sitting or where there were points of order in the joint sitting,” he said.

This means the ball will be firmly in the hands of Speaker Baleka Mbete, or possibly National Council of Provinces (NCOP) chairperson Thandi Modise, on how to handle EFF questions.

The rules, however, allow for points of order to be raised by MPs.

But Xaso warned that these should relate to a point of procedure and relate to the current proceedings.

His colleague Advocate Eric Phindela, who is the secretary of the NCOP, added that an MP could not bring a matter of the National Assembly to a joint sitting.

EFF leader Julius Malema wrote to Mbete at the weekend asking her to convene a special sitting of the National Assembly before the February 12 state of the nation address.

Malema said the special sitting will afford President Jacob Zuma an opportunity to complete the question and answer session which was abandoned in August last year when EFF MPs demanded that he pay back the money.

In his letter, Malema wrote: “Please note that failure to accommodate our request will give us no other option but to insist that President Jacob Zuma answers these questions at the state of the nation address on 12 February.”

Read: Julius Malema holds a gun to Baleka Mbete’s head

In her response, Mbete told Malema that the state of the nation address was not the appropriate forum or occasion for a question session of the National Assembly.

She advised Malema that his threat to pose questions to Zuma during his annual address constituted intimidation.

Read: Mbete says ‘no’ to Malema on Zuma Q&A

Pressed by journalists to state what Parliament would do if Malema delivered on his threat to question Zuma, Xaso said there was no provision on the day of the state of the nation address for questions to be posed to the president.

“That is a sitting called by the president for him to address the House and the nation specifically. So, there is no provision in terms of convention, practice ... I don’t even think that the rules envisaged a situation where you would have questions to the president on that day, because there is another opportunity provided for members to interact with the address provided by the president,” he said.

He said practices and conventions were taken as an authoritative basis for parliamentary procedure as the rules can never provide for all eventualities.

“There will always be rulings that establish precedent; there will always be standing orders that establish precedent,” he said.

He said it was the duty of the presiding officer to implement the rules, including maintaining order in a sitting.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.