Parliament vs EFF: What do the rules say?

2015-02-12 10:00

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Economic Freedom Fighters parliamentarians are determined to disrupt President Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address tonight, but may they?

Here’s what the official rules of a joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces say, and how things might play out between the EFF and the Speaker of Parliament, Baleka Mbete.

The rules according to the EFF:

The EFF, according to its leader, Julius Malema, will rely on one of the rules for a joint sitting of Parliament, which makes provision for a member of Parliament to raise points of order.

This rule states that “no member of Parliament may interrupt another, expect to bring attention to a point of order or a point of privilege”.

In terms of this rule, the EFF may not interrupt the president to ask him a question, but to raise a point of order.

A point of order is usually used by an MP to appeal that the rules aren’t being followed.

The EFF will thus say that, during the “pay back the money” debacle on August 21, Zuma didn’t answer the EFF’s questions about when he would pay back a portion of the money spent on his Nkandla homestead.

The party will argue that Zuma must answer the questions now because he didn’t do it before, and also hasn’t appeared again in the National Assembly.

EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi insinuated on Twitter yesterday that the EFF could also make use of their Constitutional right to protest.

According to the speaker:

Mbete has previously indicated that the rules of the National Assembly are not applicable when there is a joint sitting of the house.

An issue before the National Assembly, such as the “pay back the money” incident, can thus not be brought up before a joint sitting of both houses of Parliament.

Thandi Modise, the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, earlier this week suggested that she and Mbete could use a rule that empowers them to create a new rule under certain circumstances.

This rule says that “the speaker and the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, acting together, may make a decision or create a rule in connection with any issue for which the rules don’t make provision”.

In connection with this, Modise said earlier this week that Zuma “will be under the guidance of the speaker and the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces. We will not just give guidance; we will strictly follow the rules”.

Mbete and Modise also said they had precedence on their side. A state of the nation address by a president has never been interrupted in a democratic South Africa, not for a question or a point of order.

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