Politicians debate weighty issues

2013-06-14 00:00

PARLIAMENT is known for debating weighty issues.

But the DA feels the ANC has taken this too far in literally commenting on the size of its parliamentary leader, Lindiwe Mazibuko.

Yesterday, the ANC indicated that MP John Jeffrey would apologise for comments made about Mazibuko.

DA chief whip Sandy Kalyan yesterday wrote to her ANC counterpart, Mathole Motshekga, to request that Jeffrey and fellow ANC MP Buti Manamela be disciplined for sexist and chauvinist comments directed at Mazibuko.

During a parliamentary budget vote on Wednesday, Jeffrey said: “While the honourable Mazibuko may be a person of substantial weight, her stature is questionable”.

Manamela’s comment was a reference to Mazibuko’s dress sense, saying that if she was arrested by the fashion police, the DA would blame President Jacob Zuma.

The DA was livid at Jeffrey and Manamela’s comments, saying they were “unparliamentary” and “a direct attack on the integrity of a fellow member”.

“Dr Motshekga, who has rightfully called for more decorum in the house, should hang his head in shame at this disgraceful display by his colleagues. He must now do everything possible to bring these two MPs to book,” said Kalyan.

In a statement, Motshekga claimed Jeffrey’s comment was meant as a pun and “had more to do with her influence and power associated with the position she holds than her physical weight”.

“Jeffery has carefully reflected on the ambiguity of the statement and accepts that they may have been understood to refer to Mazibuko’s physical outlook.

“In this regard, he will unconditionally withdraw the statement when the presiding officer gives him an opportunity to do so in the House and apologise to Mazibuko,” said Motshekga.

He rejected the claim that Manamela’s reference to Mazibuko’s dress style was sexist or chauvinistic, saying that she was dressed inappropriately, showing a lack of respect to the debate and the decorum of the House.

However, while the ANC Women’s League said Parliament was no place for tit-for-tat games, it said the DA had done it first and had not yet apologised.

“We commend Jeffrey for acknowledging that his comments may have been misunderstood and for apologising,” said ANCWL spokesperson Troy Martens.

She said that DA leader and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille was yet to apologise for reportedly calling ANC MPL Zodwa Magwaza an elephant, neither had Theuns Botha, who likened Lynne Brown to a hippopotamus.

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