Parliamentary security tops agenda of rules committee amid disruptions

2015-06-20 10:30
National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete. (Nardus Engelbrecht, Sapa)

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete. (Nardus Engelbrecht, Sapa)

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Cape Town - National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete has called an urgent meeting of the rules committee in the wake of the disruptions in Parliament on Thursday that led to her adjourning proceedings. 

The meeting on Wednesday will replace the regular chief whips forum and will be preceded by a sub-committee on Review of the Assembly rules on Tuesday that will “discuss guidelines to manage disruptions”. The draft agenda was circulated yesterday. 

The sub-committee is already overhauling the rule book of Parliament, so the special meetings deal specifically with disruptions. 

President Jacob Zuma did not get to deliver any oral replies or face supplementary questions from MPs in Parliament due to persistent disruptions triggered when EFF members insisted that he first answer when he was going to pay back the money for non-security upgrades at his home in Nkandla. After hours of adjournments and delays Mbete closed the sitting. 

Parliamentary security is set to be a priority issue at the rules meetings, with DA chief whip John Steenhuisen proposing a private parliamentary security service that reports to the Speaker, not the executive, and which is empowered to remove MPs who cause “gross disruption”. 

“Parliament security is not sufficient. Times have changed,” he said yesterday. 

Security members should not be armed, he said, and they should be independent of the SA Police Service and SANDF. 

Describing the EFF conduct as “selfish and spiteful”, he said the EFF had robbed MPs the opportunity of holding Zuma to account. “You can’t have a situation where a 6% party bring the nation’s business to a standstill in Parliament.” 

Steenhuisen denied EFF claims that the DA was colluding with the ANC over Nkandla, and said they would work with any party when constitutional democracy was entrenched. “But Thursday was the antithesis of that.” 

Earlier yesterday, ANC parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said multi-party structures needed to meet to pave the way forward “to restore dignity to the institution of Parliament”. 

“Critical issues need to be discussed by parties to ensure practical mechanisms are put in place … Parties are in agreement that the shenanigans of the EFF deprive other parties the opportunity to hold the executive to account and post critical questions to the president.” 

Amid opposition criticism that Zuma could have taken control of the situation and answered the question on Nkandla, Mothapo said: “When the president comes, he comes to account, not to control parliament. He comes as an invitee, not a member. If there is chaos one cannot expect him to play a role of firefighter.” 

The president, who is due back in the house for oral replies during the next parliamentary term in August, said in a statement he was “disappointed” at the turn of events on Thursday. 

In a statement accusing the DA of “colluding” with the ANC, the EFF remained steadfast.

“The EFF has not disrupted Parliament.” said spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi. “The EFF knows that many post-colonial countries degenerated the day citizens allowed the protection of one individual above the constitution and the rule of law.”

Read more on:    baleka mbete  |  parliament

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