Parliament: Opposition promise boycott, disruptions

2014-11-16 15:00

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EFF says President Zuma’s state of the nation address will be disrupted

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema this week warned of a “loss of life caused by police” after riot police removed one of the party’s MPs, Reneilwe Mashabela, from the House for refusing to obey an order by House chairperson Cedric Frolick to withdraw a remark that President Jacob Zuma was a thief.

Malema also said Zuma would not “present anything in Parliament, particularly the state of the nation [address], without facing protest action from the EFF benches”.

“We shall make sure that life in Parliament for him does not become business as usual when he has squandered public funds [on security improvements on his Nkandla home].”

The EFF leader told reporters this week his party would embark on a mass programme of action against President Zuma and Mbete next year, following the party’s congress, or “people’s assembly”.

He said further his party would go to the courts to “seek an urgent and permanent interdict against police officers who enter the chambers of Parliament to remove democratically elected members”.

According to him, it wasn’t right for the police to “interfere with the proceedings of Parliament because elected members of Parliament will always be in fear that whatever they say and do in Parliament will be subjected to the police”.

The EFF would go to court to force Zuma to pay back the money on Nkandla, as Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has ordered, Malema said.

President Zuma has asked Police Minister Nathi Nhleko to calculate the costs involved, but the minister hasn’t reported back yet.

Malema also said it was clear that Parliament’s presiding officers had lost control.

“They have to be briefed by junior staff members who do not see anything wrong with calling police in a matter that represents political disagreement,” he told reporters on Friday.

“There was no threat of life, no physical engagement among MPs. An MP was just refusing to comply with an illegal ruling,” he said, referring to the removal of Mashabela.

DA leader in Parliament vows to boycott Speaker, and imbizos could be disrupted

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said his party was considering options such as heckling during President Zuma’s speeches and going to his imbizos outside Parliament to ask pressing questions.

He said although he hoped no blood would flow in the chamber, DA MPs no longer felt safe after one of them was injured in Thursday’s scuffle.

“You grow up thinking the SAPS [SA Police Service] will protect you, but the last thing you expect them to do is march into your workplace.”

The DA has also called for Mbete to be replaced and the party will be staging partial stayaways from debates until that happens.

DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane told City Press Mbete was “consistent in her bias”.

He added: “She was sent with the sole mandate of protecting President Jacob Zuma.”

According to him, when Mbete is presiding, his party would only send its chief whip, Steenhuisen; his deputy, Mike Waters; and other DA members participating in the debate.

“President Zuma and Baleka Mbete have taken us to the verge of a constitutional crisis. Parliament cannot effectively scrutinise the actions of the executive,” he said.

According to him, the parliamentary rules stipulate that President Zuma come to the House once a term to answer questions.

Maimane also accused Mbete of having abused her position to shut down debate. He wrote a letter to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is the leader of government business in Parliament, to intervene and to see to it that a member of the opposition was elected as one of the presiding officers.

Late IFP MP Ben Skosana was a presiding officer in the previous term.

But Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Ronnie Mamoepa, said yesterday that Maimane had retracted the letter. Regarding this, Maimane could not be contacted for comment at the time of going to press.

Steenhuisen said matters could deteriorate to an extent where the police removed MPs who asked difficult questions in future.

ANC says Speaker is going nowhere and sees nothing wrong with police in the House

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe has stood firm, vowing there was no way Mbete would be removed.

Opposition MPs have accused her of being partial because of the position she holds in the party.

Mantashe said the parliamentary system allowed parties to choose among themselves who will lead them.

“It is a parliamentary system of parties. We go to Parliament as parties. Do you want us to give it [Speaker’s position] to the DA? Next time they will say the president of the country must not be the president of South Africa,” he said.

On Thursday afternoon, Mbete rejected opposition requests to return to the original agenda that had been agreed to by the programming committee earlier in the day. But then she changed her mind after ANC chief whip Stone Sizani agreed with the opposition.

“The chief whip is the custodian of the parliamentary programme. He signs the order paper and if they are in agreement with other opposition parties regarding the programme, the Speaker cannot rule otherwise,” said an ANC caucus insider who did not want to be named.

An ANC MP, who preferred to remain anonymous, also expressed fear that blood could spill if the drama in Parliament was allowed to continue.

The MP blamed the DA for following the EFF’s example of breaking parliamentary rules and provoking ANC MPs.

Ramaphosa is set to meet with party leaders on Tuesday in a meeting that was scheduled before Thursday’s chaos. He is also scheduled to respond to questions in the House the next day.

On Friday, Mbete told a press conference Parliament acted within the law by asking police to intervene. But City Press understands not all ANC MPs agree with this approach.

Another insider said Sizani was very strict when it came to discipline and was known to call ANC MPs to order.

Those who are in for a tongue-lashing from Sizani include Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, who was involved in a scuffle outside the chamber with EFF MPs. The incident was filmed.

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