Parly could get musclemen

2015-01-25 15:00

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Parliament wants to tighten its rules with proposals ranging from employing a parliamentary guard to banning “gestures” and instituting a dress code for MPs.

For the first time, Parliament is considering the establishment of a parliamentary guard – a security body that could enter the House and ­remove an MP or MPs causing trouble.

To avoid a repeat of the chaos that gripped Parliament late last year, a subcommittee of the rules committee met for three days this week and reviewed nine of the 15 chapters of the National Assembly’s rule book.

All parties agreed they never want to see the police or any state law enforcement agency in the House again, as had happened in November.

ANC MP Juli Kilian, who presented her party’s proposed changes, said members who refused to leave when ordered by the Speaker should be removed – but not by police.

Although the shape and form of the proposed parliamentary security service will be finalised by the rules committee, some MPs suggested that Parliament should hire a private security company to remove unruly MPs.

The DA mooted a “parliamentary guard” like the British Royal Guard, while the EFF proposed hiring bouncers.

EFF MP Godrich Gardee said: “Parliament can wake up in the morning and advertise a tender for powerful bouncers who can take care of parliamentary security services, particularly in the chamber. The police can come at the extreme.”

Gardee said bouncers could literally remove an MP who refused to leave the chamber and they would not be as ­dangerous as armed police.

But his proposal was shot down by ANC MP Connie September who said Parliament was not a nightclub and could not be equated with the famous party spots along Cape Town’s Long Street.

The DA’s Natasha Michael said: “I think what we are looking for is something like a parliamentary guard, which most ­parliaments across the world have, to look after them.”

Subcommittee chairperson Richard Mdakane said all ­parties agreed with the ANC proposal for MPs to be removed by protection services, but “not by the police or the army, but by any other body that is created by Parliament either its sergeant-at-arms or bouncers or a private company or another body that Parliament can create”.

Mdakane said because Parliament was a national key point, police would remain deployed in the precinct, but would not become involved in removing errant MPs.

The ANC has come up with a number of other proposals to limit chaos in the house. These include:

»Reducing the time for tabling motions to 20 minutes. Limitless motions were used by the ANC and opposition parties as a filibustering tactic last year;

»Only allowing party whips to raise points of order. Mdakane said the House could “run smoothly if only the whips raised a point of order and not everyone who is angry can stand up and raise a point of order”;

»?MPs having to quote the specific rule or cite the principle they are raising a point of order on; and

»Giving the Speaker the right to switch off an MP’s ­microphone if the latter was not recognised.

Opposition parties reluctantly agreed to this, but said only if the Speaker first informed the House she would switch off the mike and not do so, in Gardee’s words, “abruptly, arbitrarily and without notice”. The ANC rejected this.

The subcommittee also proposed forbidding “offensive, abusive, insulting, disrespectful, unbecoming and unparliamentary expressions or gestures” – reminiscent of the middle finger EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu showed Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Gardee joked that in some countries, showing someone the middle finger was not offensive.

The Freedom Front Plus’ Corne Mulder also protested, saying Parliament shouldn’t be making rules about body language.

He said when he spoke, he usually pointed a finger at the minister he was talking to, which was acceptable in his culture.

“I understood from some of the colleagues that they found this offensive,” he said, adding that he found a raised fist – or black power salute – “very offensive”.

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