Opposition unite in a historic marathon filibuster

2014-11-14 00:00

IN an attempt to wear down sufficient ANC members to prevent a quorum to vote on the Nkandla report by parliament’s ad hoc committee, the opposition yesterday united in a historic marathon filibuster, reading more than 100 absurd motions.

The committee’s final report, which was due to be debated yesterday, sought to overturn the Public Protector’s finding that Zuma was enriched by the R246 million 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.

Earlier the day tempers flared and chaotic chants and shouts led to the opposition MPs shouting down an attempt by speaker Baleka Mbete to ban MPs from bringing the motions.

“She must go,” the DA’s chief whip John Steenhuisen and parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane chanted.

Baleka tried to remain calm amid the outcry.

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 yesterday 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 August 21, when she called security after the EFF heckled Zuma about Nkandla.

“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.

Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli replaced Mbete but was soon worn down by the fillibustering. When Steenhuisen called Juli Killian, who had defected from the opposition to the ANC, a “turncoat”, Tsenoli snapped: “Who the hell do you think you are talking to when you use a term like that?”, before apologising and withdrawing the remark.

While several ANC MPs yesterday afternoon mocked the opposition strategy as desperate, small business development minister Lindiwe Zulu nearly wanted the EFF members to “step outside” the Chamber to take the debate further.

Zulu’s temperature rose when EFF MP Godrich Gardee started sparring verbally with her off microphone inside the Chamber. Zulu signalled to Gardee that they take the matter outside the Chamber and stormed into the hallway, headed to the doors leading to the side of the House where opposition party members are seated.

Gardee did not emerge from the Chamber, but police officers and members of Parliament’s protection services stood alert as ANC MPs held Zulu back as she could be heard shouting: “Where is he!?” in her mother tongue. She was eventually escorted away, and police officers warned those in the hallway to remain calm.

As the voting on accepting amendments to the Nklandla report began last nigth, it was the turn of ANC MP to start singing as they could scent an automatic victory from their majority. The first round of votes saw 91 MPs vote to accept the amendments proposed to the report, 211 votes against and seven abstaining.

Parliament accepted the Nkandla report just before nine, with 210 for and 103 against. None abstained.

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