Standoff in the chamber: EFF’s indignation and Gordhan’s spunk

Anyone watching the budget votes of Parliament on Thursday afternoon might have suspected for a second that they hopped out of a time machine and travelled back to the year 2016.

Members of Parliament in red overalls stormed the floor of committee room E249, where the budget vote was being delivered. The bone of contention was a Public Protector report.

But the speaker being heckled was not former president Jacob Zuma. It was Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan and the bone of contention was Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's recent report related to the establishment of a “rogue unit” at the South African Revenue Service while Gordhan was SARS commissioner.

EFF MP Sam Matiase rose on a point of order, saying that Gordhan should not be allowed to address Parliament as an executive when he has a Public Protector finding against him. Gordhan has denied allegations and is challenging the report in court.

Chair for the sitting Mmatlala Boroto told Matiase that what the EFF MP was raising constituted a point of debate and not a point of order. Other EFF MPs raised points of order in the minutes that followed, insisting that they would not leave the chamber and Gordhan would not address them.

After Boroto asked all the EFF MPs to leave the chamber if they refused to hear the Minister, the EFF MPs walked over to the podium where Gordhan was standing, waiting to deliver his budget vote.

Matiase was at the head of a group of MPs gathering in front of Gordhan and shouting at him.

Boroto called for parliamentary protection services to enter the chamber. Other staff could be seen guiding Gordhan away from the EFF MPs.

Gordhan could be heard daring the MPs to up the stakes in their "intimidation", saying "don't point fingers" and "they must touch me".

After all EFF MPs had left the room, all remaining MPs at the meeting roundly condemned their conduct as disgraceful and regrettable. Gordhan said the EFF’s conduct was the action of "those defending state capture".

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