Parliament’s ‘chaotic circus’ has ‘serious implications’

2014-11-14 10:27

Recent disruptions by opposition parties in Parliament could lead to the institution losing its integrity, the ANC said today.

“Yesterday ... the nation watched with shock and horror as the National Assembly degenerated into a chaotic circus due to the unruly conduct of members,” spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said.

“Despite whatever short-term gains some parties may seem to think they are reaping now, the African National Congress is extremely worried about the more serious long-term implications of our Parliament losing its integrity and respect currently afforded to it by society.

“The dangerous alliance of a racist Democratic Alliance and a fascist Economic Freedom Fighters, driven by a common hatred and disdain for the ANC has once again displayed its contempt for our democratic institutions.”

Yesterday, opposition parties shouted down National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete when she tried to prevent them bringing dozens of motions.

Most of these were related to spending on so-called security upgrades at President Jacob Zuma’s private Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu-Natal, which Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found Zuma to have unduly benefited from.

Tempers flared as African National Congress MPs retaliated by objecting to motions the opposition attempted to bring to delay tabling a report on the upgrades.

Members of the police public order policing unit also entered the National Assembly chamber, causing a scuffle.

The drama unfolded after Economic Freedom Fighters MP Ngwanamakwetle Mashabela refused to leave the podium when she was ordered to do so by house chairperson Cedric Frolick.

Mashabela called Zuma a “thief” during a debate on the Grand Inga Hydro Project in the Democratic Republic of Congo and refused to withdraw her remarks.

Mashabela would not be moved when serjeant-at-arms Regina Mohlomi tried to escort her from the podium.

Police arrived minutes later, and tugged at Mashabela – who could be heard shouting “I don’t want to be touched”.

MPs from opposition benches, expressed outrage, and jumped to Mashabela’s defence.

Meanwhile, Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu was physically restrained after an altercation in the hallways outside the chamber.

Tensions rose when Zulu and EFF MP Godrich Gardee started sparring verbally off microphone inside the chamber.

Zulu signalled to Gardee that they take the matter outside and stormed into the hallway.

Gardee did not emerge from the chamber, but police officers and members of Parliament’s protection services stood alert.

ANC MPs held Zulu back as she shouted: “Where is he?” in her mother tongue.

She was eventually escorted away, and police officers warned those in the hallway to remain calm.

Later, Zulu returned to the chamber, only to be confronted by a motion by DA MP Geordin Hill-Lewis, who asked that she be removed because she “brought shame to the house”.

Zulu was seen shouting the word “liar”, prompting DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard to jump up.

Zulu eventually withdrew her remark unconditionally.

Usually composed deputy speaker Lechesa Tsenoli, who had replaced Mbete, also had to withdraw a remark.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen had called Juli Kilian, who defected from the opposition to the ANC, a “turncoat”.

“Who the hell do you think you are talking to when you use a term like that?” Tsenoli asked, before immediately apologising and withdrawing the remark saying it was a slip of the tongue.

Kodwa today commended the “hard work” of the Nkandla ad hoc committee.

“It has been regrettable that opposition parties chose to walk out of the ad hoc committee for purposes of political expediency and point scoring,” he said.

“By so doing, they lost an important opportunity to add their voices to solving the problems concerning all of us and to play their role in guarding against the misuse of public funds.”

Meanwhile, Parliament’s presiding officers were set to address the media today on the disruptions. The briefing was due to start at Parliament at 9am.

At 10.30am, the opposition DA would hold its own briefing on the matter.

DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane and Steenhuisen will brief the media on “the next steps that will be taken to arrest the constitutional crisis that we face”.

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