Uneasy truce at National Assembly

2014-11-19 00:00

AN uneasy ceasefire reigned in the National Assembly yesterday after the dramatic scenes last week when MPs were hauled out by riot police.

Addressing the House ­yesterday afternoon, Speaker Baleka Mbete said: “What happened in the House last Thursday is not something we are proud of.

“We must all ensure that it doesn’t happen again.”

She was referring to the summoning of the Public Order Policing Unit after an EFF MP refused to withdraw statements that President Jacob ­Zuma was a “thief” and a “criminal”.

She said she was grateful for yesterday’s meeting between opposition leaders and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

DA members, wearing black as a symbol of protest, refused to stand when she entered the chamber. The party said last week it would no longer recognise her office.

DA MPs twice addressed her as the “honourable chair of the ANC”.

After the ANC objected, Mbete asked that the remark be withdrawn. “Honourable member, as I understand it, that goes against the spirit of the agreement your leader agreed to,” she said.

The remark was then withdrawn.

Mbete was also careful not to step on the opposition’s toes. When the EFF complained that ANC MP Mandla Mandela was making gestures, she said they should resolve the issue in her chambers.

Terri Stander, a DA MP who was injured last week, submitted a motion that the House take notice of the “unheard of violation” of the House by members of the police.

Stander said it was a “dark mark” on South Africa’s democracy and asked that the ­Assembly should ensure the police would never again be allowed into a sitting of the House”.

Further statements by DA MPs about last week’s events led Deputy Justice Minister John Jeffery to defend the decision to summon the police.

He said there was no alternative after an EFF MP refused to leave the House after being asked by the speaker to do so.

By press time, it was still not clear if the debate over Zuma’s fitness for his position would go ahead.

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