ANC MPs revolt against Cyril Ramaphosa

2014-11-23 19:56
(Werner Beukes, Sapa)

(Werner Beukes, Sapa)

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Johannesburg - ANC parliamentarians last week revolted against Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s peace deal with opposition parties, saying he had stepped on Speaker Baleka Mbete’s turf, City Press reports.

The deal, which Ramaphosa struck with opposition parties on Tuesday, would have, among other things, seen the planned suspension of Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MPs held in abeyance and a motion demanding President Jacob Zuma’s censure for avoiding Parliament held off.

A multiparty committee was also set up to find ways of restoring order and “dignity” to Parliament. The truce was initiated by Ramaphosa after last week’s chaotic scenes in Parliament, which saw riot police enter the National Assembly to evict an EFF parliamentarian.

But when ANC chief whip Stone Sizani presented the deal to the ANC parliamentary caucus on Wednesday morning, his colleagues objected.

Several MPs told City Press Sizani had a hard time selling Ramaphosa’s deal to his caucus. They said MPs objected to the fact it was the deputy president and not the Speaker who had entered into the deal with the opposition.

Former communications minister Yunus Carrim is said to have told the caucus that while he supported such an agreement in principle, such deals should be entered into by the Speaker and not a Cabinet member.

An MP said: “In essence, he said he supports the deal, but that the question that arises was whether the deal shouldn’t have been struck by the Speaker, the deputy Speaker and the chief whip instead of Ramaphosa, who represents the executive.”

Carrim refused to comment when contacted, saying he couldn’t discuss internal caucus matters.

'Violated the Constitution'

City Press understands Mbete was also unhappy that she had not played a role in the structuring of the deal.

“It undermined the authority of the Speaker. In fact, it violated the Constitution. He [Ramaphosa] is a leader of government, but he’s interfering with an act of Parliament.”

In reference to the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament Act - which was used as the basis to charge EFF MPs - an angry senior ANC MP asked: “How do we allow the executive to come and interfere with Parliament like that?”

Another said the feeling in the caucus was that Ramaphosa “misunderstands his role as leader of government business” in Parliament.

“His role is to facilitate interaction between the executive and Parliament, not to usurp the powers of the Speaker and parliamentary committees,” said a caucus insider.

A senior MP said “extra parliamentary agreements” on matters that involve discipline would embolden EFF leader Julius Malema and his MPs to “continue with their anarchy”.

The MP added: “Malema walked out of the [ad hoc] committee. How do you reach an extra parliamentary agreement with his party when he’s already indicated he doesn’t recognise the committee?”

ANC caucus spokesperson Moloto Mothapo refused to comment, saying caucus deliberations were confidential.

ANC parliamentary sources said the hand of those who were opposed to Ramaphosa’s deal was strengthened by the fact that the DA reneged on its commitment to remove the motion of censure against Zuma.

DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane had faced his own revolt from caucus members who insisted the party proceed with a motion to censure President Zuma.

Opposition to the deal was led by senior MPs, who are said to have had the support of party leader Helen Zille.

ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said Zille, who is also Western Cape premier, had initially wanted to lead the DA team to Ramaphosa’s meeting, but was told she could not because she was not an MP.

DA divisions collapsed the deal

Although Maimane claimed after the deal’s collapse that he had never promised to defer the motion, Kodwa said it was the divisions in the DA that collapsed the deal and made it difficult for Ramaphosa.

He said the deputy president was no longer sure he should deal with Maimane or Zille.

But Zille denied this, saying it was the ANC that misunderstood the agreement.

Mbete’s spokesperson, Mandlakazi Sigcawu, said she was not aware of the Speaker being unhappy about the deal or Ramaphosa’s role in broking it.

“She didn’t express that unhappiness to me,” she said.

Sources who were present at the Wednesday meeting of the parliamentary oversight authority said Johannes Tau, the deputy chairperson of the national council of provinces, suggested the issue of riot police being deployed to Parliament should be discussed and included in Ramaphosa’s deal.

Ramaphosa is meeting opposition parties tomorrow morning at the presidential guesthouse in Pretoria in a bid to revive the deal.

His spokesperson, Ronnie Mamoepa, said opposition parties - including the DA - had requested the meeting.

City Press has been told that opposition parties will continue to demand that a member of the opposition be appointed as one of the National Assembly’s alternate chairpersons.

The chairpersons assist the Speaker and deputy Speaker in the running of the House.

Three sources with knowledge of the negotiations between Ramaphosa and opposition parties said the matter of appointing a member of the opposition was first raised at the meeting on Tuesday.

An opposition source, who was present at the meeting, said Ramaphosa had responded by saying “it was an interesting thought, but that it would also be difficult”.

The source added: “He said other people had already been appointed to the positions of Speaker, deputy Speaker and chairpersons.

“He also said it was something he would keep in mind.”

Ramaphosa can't interfere with Parliament

Ramaphosa’s parliamentary adviser, Gerhard Koornhof, who was present at the negotiations, said it was not possible because presiding officers were appointed by Parliament and Ramaphosa could not interfere with the process.

Mabine Seabe, Maimane’s spokesperson, confirmed the issue of appointing an opposition MP as a presiding officer would be something that would be on the agenda again in tomorrow’s meeting with Ramaphosa.

Opposition parties claim the current Parliament is the first one in which a member of the opposition has not been appointed as one of the presiding officers.

IFP MPs Ben Skosana and Farouk Cassim, as well as the DA’s Sandra Botha, have all served as presiding officers in previous Parliaments.

Kodwa denied the ANC was divided over Ramaphosa’s deal, saying it was “the intraparty issues of the opposition” that were causing such a crisis in Parliament.

“The ANC is still pursuing the spirit of the deal.

“We have worked hard to bring all parties on board, regardless of their size,” he said.

He added the ANC’s national working committee’s regular Monday meeting had endorsed Ramaphosa’s plan to intervene in “the deteriorating situation in Parliament”.

Kodwa said the NWC had told the deputy president to “do whatever is possible to make it a working Parliament because it is currently degenerating”.

EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi blamed the ANC, particularly its secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, for the collapse of the deal.

“We predicted that Luthuli House would make this decision because of the pronouncements of Mantashe, who called for the harshest possible sentence to be given to EFF members.

“Mantashe is like that – vindictive,” he said.

Ndlozi said his party would continue to push for a “political solution” at this week’s meeting with Ramaphosa.

Read more on:    da  |  anc  |  eff  |  cyril ramaphosa  |  politics

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