ANC: If EFF tries that again ...

2014-08-24 15:00

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ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said action should have been taken against Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MPs when they disrupted Thursday’s parliamentary question session with President Jacob Zuma.

“Never display the state as weak. I don’t accept that,” he told City Press yesterday.

“When people break rules, you must act decisively. It made the institution look bad. They wanted the president to account, they called him to account, and then disrupted the session,” he said.

The ANC’s national working committee will discuss the incident at a meeting tomorrow, Mantashe said.

There will not be much time to act before Tuesday’s National Assembly plenary, which the EFF will again attend.

ANC leaders and MPs are blaming various people over how the chaos in the National Assembly should have been handled after Speaker Baleka Mbete told the EFF to leave the chamber and the party’s members refused.

Mantashe on Friday told eNCA the Western Cape police under provincial commissioner Arno Lamoer failed to act because they’re based in a DA-run province and had a “divided loyalty”.

But yesterday he told City Press “not only the police, but many people” were to blame.

Two ANC MPs who were in the chamber said the police were understaffed and could not act.

“The service officers [of Parliament] are all women, so the Speaker should have thought of that before she called on them to accompany the EFF out of the chamber,” said one MP.

“It was the first time any MPs failed to leave the chamber when asked to. The police were then called in but there were only a few officers on duty at the time. Parliament should have done an evaluation before making such a call.”

The other MP said the security ministers were being blamed. “There is anger towards security ministers that they allowed this to happen. It was clear that we needed to take precaution.”

But a member of the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) said some in the ANC blamed Mbete for not acting more decisively.

By suspending proceedings, the NEC member said, Mbete handed the EFF a victory. According to him, the thinking in the ANC was that Parliament should bring the president back soon to finish the aborted question session and negate the EFF’s perceived triumph.

He also lamented that Lamoer went to the National Assembly to “negotiate” rather than arrest the EFF MPs.

Other party hacks said national council of provinces chairperson Thandi Modise should have acted more decisively against EFF supporters by expelling them for a week or two when they disrupted proceedings she presided over in June.

“She was distracted by the pig stories [about her North West farm] at the time,” said one.

ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said Parliament should develop tougher rules. “At the moment, you can cause disruptions today and be back in Parliament the following day,” said Kodwa.

Another ANC NEC member, who wasn’t in Parliament, said officials should “throw the book at them”.

ANC MP and former party spokesperson Jackson Mthembu warned that there could be violence if Thursday’s behaviour was repeated.

“I can’t guarantee that if this happened again, the ANC will be able to contain its members,” he said.

But another ANC MP said Mthembu’s statement was “unacceptable”.

Mbete said on Thursday night she would constitute a “powers and privileges committee” that would have a multiparty structure and could decide on parliamentary rules.

DA chief whip Johan Steenhuisen said there was a problem with the way questions were handled in Parliament.

“The Speaker needs to put in place a mechanism to manage the way members of the executive answer questions in the House,” he said.

“Current mechanisms were treated with disdain by the president, who has the constitutional obligation to answer questions in an unscripted manner.”

Although ANC insiders said Zuma looked “tired” this week, and some would like to see him go over the Nkandla matter, the party was unlikely to act against him.

“What I’m hearing is that people are tired of the president, but their hatred for Malema supersedes their dislike for Zuma,” said one insider.

– Additional reporting by Alicestine October 

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