Opposition heckles Ramaphosa amid ‘ceasefire’

2014-11-19 18:00

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The political detente Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa forged with opposition parties faltered as the ANC accused the DA of reneging on its part of the deal.

Ruling party chief whip Stone Sizani today said the Democratic Alliance had betrayed his office’s trust by pushing ahead with a motion calling for the National Assembly to censure President Jacob Zuma for breaching the rules of the legislature.

“The decision to force through the motion into today’s agenda of the House is in direct violation of the consensus reached by all parties that other processes be held in abeyance to enable a process of engagement amongst parties,” said Sizani.

His office said it had expected DA chief whip John Steenhuisen to persuade his party to shelve the debate in return for a reprieve granted to Economic Freedom Fighters MPs facing expulsion from Parliament.

Steenhuisen denied it had deviated from any agreement, saying of the debate that “it was agreed to stand over today”.

He suggested that it was rather Sizani who had failed to bring around the ANC caucus.

“They asked for 24 hours to engage their caucus and now this?”

Ramaphosa yesterday held crisis talks with opposition parties about last week’s upheaval in Parliament which saw riot police rushed into the National Assembly to remove from the podium a member of the EFF who had called Zuma a thief.

Afterwards, he announced that the parliamentary report finding the EFF MPs guilty of contempt would be held in abeyance as parties looked for political solutions to restore calm and cordiality to Parliament.

This afternoon, as he began answering questions in the National Assembly, Ramaphosa heralded the accord, saying it had been widely welcomed by people in and outside the legislature.

Speaker Baleka Mbete then announced that DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane had withdrawn a question about Zuma’s failure to reply to questions in the chamber.

“Honourable Members, I have been informed that question number 10 has been withdrawn, at the request of the Honourable Leader of the Opposition.”

But the mood soon soured as Ramaphosa had to contend with numerous interjections from opposition parties as he proceeded to answer a question by IFP MP Sibongile Nkomo on what sanctions he would consider appropriate for ministers who failed parliamentary questions.

“I’m required to stand here and answer questions. I’m not engaging in a debate,” he said impatiently.

“This is precisely what we sought to address yesterday [Tuesday]. That members of the executive ought to be given an opportunity to answer questions. And they must do so in a climate that enables them to answer questions.”

Complaining that he was being heckled, Ramaphosa said the opposition’s conduct filled him “with great regret” as it undermined the accord reached with party leaders.

“What it means is that what we struck yesterday, does not hold. It doesn’t hold. If I was engaged in a debate, I could understand heckling and interjections. I have been asked to come here and answer questions.

“If I am impeded... to answer those questions... then what is the point of having me here?”

He warned that the agreement struck with opposition leaders was “in my view, about to lie in tatters”.

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