Cheers, jeers at Parliament

2009-05-06 00:00

Cape Town — There were cheers — and a number of jeers — as 400 members of the National Assembly were sworn in to take over as the new guard at Parliament yesterday.

The new members — starting with ANC leader Jacob Zuma — were sworn in and affirmed their loyalty to the country in front of Chief Justice Pius Langa.

The swearing in was preceded with the singing of the national anthem and a moment of silence.

Dressed in a smart black suit, a smiling Zuma was sworn in along with the other top nine members on the ANC list, including Trevor Manuel, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Blade Nzimande.

An upbeat Nzimande, dressed in a black suit, took his seat in the front benches, along with Manuel, Nkosazana Zuma, Lindiwe Sisulu, Naledi Pandor and mining magnate, Tokyo Sexwale.

Madikizela-Mandela, dressed in a lilac outfit, smiled and greeted fellow MPs before taking the oath.

Notably absent from the house were Congress of the People (Cope) president Mosioua Lekota, who is to remain at the party’s headquarters in Johannesburg to build party structures; former Welfare minister Zola Skewyiya, who has withdrawn from Parliament for health reasons; and former deputy Health minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, who resigned earlier this week after being tipped to be the ANC’s caucus chairwoman.

Among others who have withdrawn are Dennis Bloem, who was number 125 on the ANC’s list and who is no longer a member of the party. There was one resignation from the United Christian Democratic Party (UCDP), and while the Independent Democrats claims that Quad-Para director Ari Seirlis resigned, Seirlis is denying this.

Among the new faces was that of former ANC Youth League president Fikile Mbalula and Cope leader Mvume Dandala and his new band of MPs. Cope won 30 seats in the National Assembly. Dandala was accompanied by Cope deputy president Linda Odendaal, who was dressed in a bright yellow outfit.

There was a ripple of jeering from the ANC benches as some of the ANC’s former members went up to be sworn in as Cope members. Among them was former ANC spokesman Smuts Ngonyama.

The smaller opposition parties that did not fare as well as expected in the 2009 elections were squeezed more tightly together than in the past in the opposition benches.

Freedom Front leader Pieter Mulder sat alongside Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille, and the Inkatha Freedom Party’s Koos van der Merwe sat alongside United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa, in earnest conversation.

Van der Merwe, who is in his 32nd year at Parliament, advised new members to “be aware of VIP syndrome” and not to think they are too important.

The swearing-in process was followed by the election of a speaker. Long-serving member Max Sisulu was elected the first male speaker of the National Assembly since the first democratic elections. His deputy is former Cape Town mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo.

Accepting the position, Sisulu joked that members will be forgiven at least once for making the blunder of calling him “Madam Speaker”.

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