Opposition parties filibuster Nkandla report

2014-11-13 18:49
(Dan Calderwood, News24)

(Dan Calderwood, News24)

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Chaos in Parliament as DA, EFF stall Nkandla debate

2014-11-13 17:39

In what seems to be a bid to stall the exoneration of President Zuma of liability for Nkandla spending by Parliament's ad hoc committee, opposition MPs lodged a stream of motions in the National Assembly. Watch.WATCH

Cape Town - Opposition parties on Thursday delayed Parliament's adoption of a report exonerating President Jacob Zuma in the Nkandla saga with a noisy filibuster which dragged on for hours.

The Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters shouted down an attempt by Speaker Baleka Mbete to ban MPs from bringing motions, before rising to call for debates on anything from the presidential swimming pool at Nkandla to Morocco's refusal to host the Cup of Nations.

"She must go," the DA's chief whip John Steenhuisen and DA's Parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane chanted.

Baleka tried to remain calm amid the outcry, telling MPs: "I'm amazed by your excitement, I just don't understand it," and later, as several clamoured at once to speak: "I don't want to recognise anybody."

She insisted that she would not allow unscheduled items, and therefore motions.

Maimane demanded: "Reverse your ruling," and ignored her when she told him to sit down, as his colleague Mike Waters did when she ordered him out of the Chamber.

Steenhuisen reminded the Speaker that the opposition had given warning of its plans in the scheduling committee earlier on Thursday, and said she could therefore not claim the motions were unforeseen.

Steenhuisen told her: "I would ask with respect that you surrender your chair to the honourable [House chairperson Cedric] Frolick. You have lost control of the House for the second time," he said, referring to 21 August, when she called security after the EFF heckled Zuma about Nkandla.

'Abusing your powers'

"You have pushed us to the brink of a constitutional crisis. You are abusing your powers. I only hope that you are doing this because [African National Congress secretary general] Gwede [Mantashe] told you to."

After almost an hour of debate, Mbete relented and MPs began reading their motions from white pages they waved in the air.

Many targeted Zuma, mentioning luxuries included in the security upgrade of Nkandla, other controversies embroiling the president and perceived failures of his administration.

DA MP James Selfe moved that "this House debates the cost of defending President Jacob Zuma in the spy tapes saga".

The Inkatha Freedom Party's Narend Singh called for an investigation into the corporate disarray at South African Airways, asking "are there other forces at play" in a plain reference to news reports of a relationship between Zuma and chairperson Dudu Myeni.

Waters moved for a debate on why Zuma's diary was "too full" to allow him to spend adequate time answering questions in Parliament.

And fellow DA member Dianne Kohler Barnard called for a debate on the "unwillingness of the ANC" to discipline party members who undermined the authority of the Public Protector.

Campaign to drive Zuma from office

This was another reference to the Nkandla saga, in which the president and the parliamentary ad hoc committee that weighed the outcome of investigations in to the project have rejected Thuli Madonsela's findings.

The committee's final report, which was due to be debated on Thursday, sought to overturn her finding that Zuma was enriched by the R246m refurbishment of his rural home and should repay a portion of the cost to the state.

Seven opposition parties on Wednesday rejected the report as a whitewash.

They vowed to go to court to force Zuma to reimburse the state and said they would step up a campaign to drive him from office.

The filibuster meant to stymie the almost certain adoption of the report by the ANC majority lasted some four hours, and saw tempers flare.

At one point the EFF's Godrich Gardee rose and teased: "I've got about 50 motions. Can I move them all or should I come back?"

Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli, who had by then replaced Mbete, said he could not. Shortly afterwards, he snapped when Steenhuisen called Juli Killian, who defected from the opposition to the ANC, a "turncoat".

"Who the hell do you think you are talking to when you use a term like that?" Tsenoli asked, before apologising and withdrawing the remark.

When Gardee got another turn, he proposed: "I move that this House congratulates President Zuma on being exonerated on Nkandla."

Several ANC MPs mocked the opposition strategy as desperate, and small business development Minister Lindiwe Zulu nearly came to blows with EFF members outside the Chamber.

A police source later told Sapa that parliamentary officials had ordered that officers be placed outside the various entrances to the Chamber. About 15 were deployed there.

Read more on:    local government  |  politics  |  nkandla upgrade

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