All-round condemnation of intimidation of Pravin Gordhan
Parliament will await a comprehensive report from the House chairperson Grace Boroto on the physical intimidation by EFF members of Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan last week before pronouncing on the appropriate sanction for the red beret MPs.
Should they be hauled before Parliament’s ethics or disciplinary committees, the range of punishment that the offending EFF members could face includes suspension, docking of pay and a loss of certain privileges during their suspension.
Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said although he suspected that the EFF members contravened the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliaments and Provincial Legislatures Act, National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise would wait for a “detailed report” from Boroto who was presiding over the proceedings.
“Once the report is received, a determination will be made with regard to what appropriate action should follow,” said Mothapo.
He added that during the fifth administration, when former president Jacob Zuma was interrupted, “there was a full disciplinary process that was undertaken because [similar to this incident] it amounted to the violation of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliaments and Provincial Legislatures Act”.
DA chief whip John Steenhuisen echoed similar sentiments and called on Parliament’s disciplinary committee to investigate the incident.
“We certainly got up after the incident on a point of order and indicated that the matter be sent to the disciplinary committee of Parliament for investigation of the behaviour of the members. There are rules stipulating how to deal with what is called gross disorderly conduct in the House and I think what we saw was exactly that,” said Steenhuisen.
“If you read that rule [which makes provision for how to deal with gross disorderly conduct] and what happened on the day, you [will] see that the behaviour [of the EFF members] and what happened ticks every single one of the boxes [of the stipulations],” he said.
He described the entire debacle as “the worst violation of the Parliaments Privilege Act” since he became a member of Parliament.
“It’s the exact antithesis of what we should be doing in Parliament. It [Parliament] should be an arena of debate not an area where people should deal in violence,” said Steenhuisen.
In a bid to prevent Gordhan from presenting his budget speech on Thursday, members of the EFF labelled the minister a “constitutional delinquent” and approached him at the podium, a move roundly condemned by all the other parties in the House.
EFF deputy president, Floyd Shivambu, in his response in Parliament to Gordhan and the Treasury, defended his party members saying he saluted their courage.
“It was a courageous deed for them to stand up to Mr ‘rouge unit’. When we did that against the fifth parliament, particularly against Jacob Zuma, a lot of people reacted in the same manner in which society is reacting now, and said the EFF was reckless.
“Zuma was later removed as president because of these actions of the EFF. The party single-handedly forced him out. And when we raised concerns against [former finance minister] Nhlanhla Nene, the same issues were raised against the EFF. We told him in this room that he would not be finance minister for a very long time and he later fell on his own sword. Gordhan will also fall on his own sword,” said Shivambu.
ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe described the actions of the EFF as “unacceptable” and contrary to the “culture and ethos of this country”.
“The actions of the EFF fly in the face of the democratic culture and ethos of our country, of which Parliament is its highest embodiment,” said Mabe.
He urged the EFF to use the parliamentary platform to win support for its views through debate or deliberations, instead of using physical intimidation.
The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution also expressed alarm at the EFF’s disruptive tactics in Parliament.
“Such behaviour has no place in a democratic society and must be condemned in the strongest terms. That is a repetition of previous unruly, disruptive and violent conduct by members of the EFF in the precinct of Parliament,” the council said.
Having stood his ground throughout the fracas and even dared the EFF members to lay their hands on him, Gordhan said he remained unshaken by the EFF’s efforts.
“What you’ve witnessed is a defence of state capture because one must ask what [it is] that motivates ordinary members of Parliament to engage in such intimidatory tactics. And the question you, ourselves and the public must ask, is: ‘What do they have to hide?’” asked Gordhan.
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