ANC’s filibuster strategy backfires

2014-11-20 16:14

The National Assembly was in disarray for the third day running today as the ANC moved to prevent a filibuster before a likely decision to suspend EFF MPs from the legislature.

Opposition parties, with the Economic Freedom Fighters in the lead, rose to object bitterly to a proposal by ANC Chief Whip Stone Sizani to break with convention and move motions down on the order of business.

This would mean the opposition could not use motions to delay consideration of a report by Parliament’s powers and privileges committee finding 20 EFF MPs guilty on contempt charges for heckling President Jacob Zuma in August.

The EFF was having none of it. Chief Whip Floyd Shivambu protested that any such proposal should have gone to the National Assembly programming committee.

“It is wrong for the programme to be foisted on us. It is not tradition that this be done... We should have agreed on this programme before it comes here.”

As insults and interjections flew across the floor, Shivambu found support from the Freedom Front Plus’ Pieter Mulder.

“It is not correct when the Chief Whip of the ruling party says we won’t entertain a motion,” he said.

Mulder added that it was disingenuous for Sizani to claim he was merely making a proposal on which the Chamber could decide, as he knew the ANC would outvote any objections.

“What he is actually saying is that the majority will decide. All the structures of Parliament are falling by the wayside.”

Though the ANC had warned the opposition of its proposal, it had unilaterally put the report calling for the censure of EFF MPs on the agenda, he said.

At this point, EFF MP Sipho Mbatha rose to warn Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli that ANC MP Nocawe Mafu had shouted “Orania” while Mulder spoke and demanded that she be made to withdraw because it had been intended as a racist slur.

With difficulty, Tsenoli drew a qualified retraction from her but not before Mulder’s colleague Pieter Groenewald announced he was leaving the sitting in protest at the lack of decorum in the Chamber.

“It is beneath my dignity to remain here. This is a low point in my career. If MPs throw about the f-word and racist slurs, throw them out please.”

Tsenoli eventually adjourned the sitting to give party whips a chance to consult, after telling MPs: “You are making the job of the chair difficult.”

The ANC put the report on the EFF back on the order paper after accusing the opposition of reneging on an agreement with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

According to the agreement, struck on Tuesday, disciplinary proceedings against the EFF would be held in abeyance while parties looked for “political solutions” to the tension that has beset Parliament for months.

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