Committee continues in EFF's absence

By Drum Digital
07 October 2014

Parliament's powers and privileges committee proceeded with a disciplinary hearing against 20 EFF members in their absence.

Parliament's powers and privileges committee proceeded with a disciplinary hearing against 20 EFF members in their absence on Tuesday.

Committee chairman Lemias Mashile listened to committee members' suggestions on how to proceed after Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema led his fellow MPs out the venue in song. Before leaving, Malema had read out a statement of 89 points detailing the EFF's representations.

Mashile concluded that before considering the EFF's statement, the committee would need to watch the video of events in the National Assembly on August 21, when EFF members chanted "Pay back the money" at President Jacob Zuma, referring to state funds spent on his Nkandla home.

Mashile believed watching the video would give the committee the "evidence available".

He asked a legal adviser whether Malema was allowed, in terms of parliamentary rules, to submit a document to the committee.

Advocate Frank Jenkins told the committee the law required the disciplinary hearing to be reasonably and procedurally fair.

He said the rules allowed for the accused to call witnesses who could testify under oath and be cross-examined.

"All I want to advise the committee on is that this document cannot go through the latter part, as the author and EFF members have walked out and they haven't submitted this as evidence," Jenkins said.

He believed the document was thus not verifiable testimony and evidence.

"It is between a rock and a hard place, it is neither here nor there but it is something which the committee needs to pay attention to."

The committee planned to watch the video after lunch and then consider the statement.

Earlier, the committee put all the charges to EFF members, which they confirmed and had no objection to. They then refused to plead.

Mashile said the rules empowered him to enter a "not guilty" plea for the members in their absence.

In his statement Malema attacked the legitimacy of the committee and asked instead that Speaker Baleka Mbete be charged for disrupting parliamentary proceedings in August.

The EFF MPs said they would have nothing further to do with the committee's process. They risk being suspended from Parliament for up to 14 working days if found guilty of disrupting the legislature.

EFF spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi told Sapa they would be indifferent to being tried in absentia.

"We don't care," he said as they left the venue singing.

EFF MP Magdalene Moonsamy was absent from the hearing, presumably because she was ill.

Malema had explained she would submit a doctor's note, but committee members took exception to her absence because they had not received a formal apology.

Mashile said he would follow up on Moonsamy's conduct.

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