White shirts will be ready again

2015-02-17 00:00

CAPE TOWN — As political parties start to debate President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address (Sona) today, MPs will worry that his presidential guard are again lined up outside the doors, ready to force out any MP who dares ask unwelcome questions.

Despite this fear Zuma will likely face another barrage of questions on what portion of the money spent to improve his private estate at Nkandla he will pay back, as recommended by the public ­protector.

This time, however, order may prevail after the ANC yesterday called an urgent meeting with opposition parties in ­Parliament in an effort to prevent a repeat of the violence for which Zuma’s 2015 Sona will be remembered.

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MPs were conspicuous in their absence from the meeting. They said they are still gathering legal advice.

But General Bantu Holomisa’s United Democratic Movement (UDM) noted it would not be clever if the EFF disrupted Parliament again.

The Democratic Alliance is meanwhile preparing a court application for an interdict to prevent more police officers from being deployed in the ­National Assembly.

DA MP James Selfe said their legal team had been working night and day to prepare court papers against the deployment of police in the Assembly.

He said the case will probably be heard next Wednesday in the Western Cape High Court.

“The aim of the interdict is to test the Powers, Privileges and Immunities Act in court. It contains provisions that are ambiguous.

“Currently article 11 states persons who cause a disturbance in Parliament can be arrested on order of the speaker, or removed from the parliamentary premises. It is uncertain whether this ‘person’ can be applied to MPs,” Selfe explained.

On Thursday the DA and the UDM left Zuma’s Sona in protest against the deployment of police officers in the special joint sitting.

The EFF yesterday did not want to ­reveal too much about their plan for ­today’s debate, only stating they will take part in the debate.

EFF MP Reneilwe Mashabela, who was allegedly hit in the face with a shoe during Thursday night’s violence in Parliament, yesterday said she will open a charge of assault against the police.

She said her jaw and nose were broken in the alleged assault.

ANC parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said all the parties who attended yesterday’s urgent meeting had agreed to avoid anarchy, restore order and respect the sanctity of the rules and laws of Parliament and the dignity and decorum of the institution.

On inquiry, some opposition parties, however, said they had not agreed on these issues.

Earlier Mothapo said if anyone ­disrupts today’s debate or does not adhere to Parliament’s rules the chair can and will use article 11 again “so that ­Parliament can continue with its work”.

Mothapo said if the ANC saw a repeat of Thursday night’s events, the same ­action will be applied in a consistent manner.

The minister of Police yesterday ­refused to answer questions on whether the plain clothes officers who forcibly­ ­removed EFF MPs who had been asking questions within the rules of Parliament, were police officers.

Members of the public order policing unit, including Captain Walter Prins, have been identified as having taken part in the forced removal of MPs.

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