ANC blasts Cope, DA for walkout

2010-02-16 20:22

Cape Town - The ANC blasted the Congress of the People and the Democratic Alliance on Tuesday for storming out of the National Assembly after a vicious stand-off between an opposition MP and the deputy Speaker.

ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga said the decision by Cope and the DA to walk out of the house had "no place within a distinguished institution such as Parliament.

"The decision by Cope, with the support of the DA, to walk out of today's sitting (on Tuesday) of the National Assembly, in protest against the ruling on Cope MP Mluleki George, is a deplorable conduct that has got no place within a distinguished institution such as Parliament," Motshekga said.

"It is typical of both Cope and the DA, who have anointed themselves as the paragons of morality and good behaviour, to throw toys out of the pram when they are found wanting on issues of proper conduct."

The fight started shortly after President Jacob Zuma's response to the debate on his State of the Nation speech, when deputy Speaker Nomaindia Mfeketo ordered George to withdraw a comment about the government leading the country into lawlessness.

George steadfastly refused until Mfeketo eventually told him to leave.

He walked out as boos and jeers spread around the assembly with opposition MPs pleading for her to debate the issue.


Motshekga said Mfeketo's decision to give George "marching orders" was "well considered and sound" in terms of the rules of Parliament.

"Parliament cannot be turned into a circus where rowdy MPs can impugn on the integrity of the President and hurl insults at fellow MPs just because they disagree with them.

"The allegation by Mluleki George that the President of the Republic is leading the nation into lawlessness is outrageous and cannot be taken lightly. When taking office the President and ministers take an oath or solemn affirmation to obey, observe, uphold and maintain the Constitution and all other laws of the Republic.

"To suggest that the President or his Cabinet have deliberately acted in violation of this constitutional obligation is a serious charge that should be brought before the House through a substantive motion."

Motshekga said the party had been astounded by the conduct of DA MP Dianne Kohler-Barnard, who hurled "an F-word" at ANC MPs and the deputy Speaker as she left the House during the walk out.

"There is absolutely no justification for such unruliness and vulgarity, no matter how much you disagree with your political opponents.

"The Office of the Chief Whip will ask Parliament to consider taking action against this particular MP to ensure that such conduct is not repeated again."

'On review'

The DA's chief whip Ian Davidson said the party joined Cope in the walk out due to Mfeketo's "complete disregard of Section 58 of the Constitution".

"Section 58 affords members of the National Assembly a right to freedom of speech in the Assembly and to remain protected against liability to civil or criminal proceedings for anything said before the Assembly."

Davidson said by allowing the ruling to stand, the deputy Speaker was substantially detracting from the right of MPs to express their views in the house in an uninhibited manner.

"The deputy Speaker must withdraw her decision. If she does not, we will consider taking this matter on review," he said.

George's statement fell "well within the ambit of what is permitted by the Constitution and the rules of Parliament".

Cope's Youth Movement said it was "highly concerned over the levels of arrogance that the ANC demonstrated in Parliament.

"We are thrilled to have unmasked that the level of Ms Mfeketo’s capacity to understand rules of Parliament is found wanting. We are vindicated, we have proved it today (on Tuesday)," a statement from the movement read.

ACDP MP Cheryllyn Dudley said although the party did not necessarily agree with Mfeketo's ruling, it "fully supported" the recommendation that the ruling be reviewed in the interest of freedom of expression in Parliament.