Nkandla: ANC is afraid of robust debate – EFF

2014-09-23 21:06

The Economic Freedom Fighters said they would go to court to challenge disciplinary charges against 20 MPs stemming from their heckling of President Jacob Zuma to repay state funds spent on his Nkandla home.

“After careful consideration, the Economic Freedom Fighters has decided to urgently approach the country’s courts to interdict the intention of the ANC to exclude the EFF from Parliament,” said spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.

He said the party would file an application in the Western Cape High Court “by Monday”.

The decision comes five days after Parliament’s powers and privileges committee served charges on the party’s MPs.

Parliamentary spokesperson Luzuko Jacobs confirmed that the notices were served on the members of Parliament at their homes around the country, in some cases by a sheriff, and said this was customary.

“This is a recess period so we used parliamentary protection officers where we could, but we also collaborate with sheriffs in other areas.”

The charge sheets summon the MPs to a collective disciplinary hearing at Parliament’s Good Hope Chamber on September 30, still during recess.

Ndlozi argued that the charges for – creating a disturbance in Parliament – showing contempt for the legislature – were an attempt by the ANC to spare Zuma further political damage over the Nkandla controversy.

He pointed out that suspending EFF MPs for up to 14 working days would exclude them from meetings of the ad hoc committee considering investigative reports on Nkandla, which is due to conclude its work by October 24.

“It is meant to intimidate us,” said Ndlozi.

“It is in actual fact fulfilling an ANC desire to kick the EFF out of Parliament because they are afraid of our kind of robust questioning.

“They know that with our presence on the Nkandla committee we will be pushing for a specific interpretation which will result in Zuma being made to appear and being told to pay back the money,” he added.

EFF leader Julius Malema serves on that committee and has joined forces with opposition leader Mmusi Maimane to demand that it call Zuma to answers questions about the R246 million project.

This is the second time the EFF has threatened legal action over the threat of expulsion arising from the party’s unprecedented protest in the National Assembly during presidential question time last month.

EFF MPs chanted “pay back the money” after Malema asked Zuma when he would heed Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s recommendation that he reimburse the state for luxuries like a swimming pool added to his home in KwaZulu-Natal.

They ignored a threat from Speaker Baleka Mbete to have them physically removed from the House and she adjourned the house with the remainder of Zuma’s questions unanswered.

Mbete referred the matter to Parliament’s powers and privileges committee, but was also widely expected to ask the legislature to suspend them in the interim.

She capitulated however when Malema threatened to seek a high court interdict.

He did so on the basis that Mbete failed to address any individual MP, instead asking “members who are not serious” to leave the chamber.

This did not apply to him or his colleagues, he argued, as they were serious about holding the executive to account.

Ndlozi said this argument would again form part of their legal argument.

He added: “(We) will therefore await the guidance of courts on the question of whether as elected members of Parliament, we should subject ourselves to a quasi-disciplinary process presided over by the ruling party which under circumstances is the judge, the complainant and witness in this same matter.”

After a meeting of the ANC’s National Executive Committee at the weekend, ruling party secretary general Gwede Mantashe said Parliament should allow leaders to answer questions without being insulted.

“Parliament must do its work and not allow deviant behaviour,” Mantashe told reporters.

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