DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane is facing a parliamentary investigation for referring to President Jacob Zuma as a criminal and members of a parliamentary committee that investigated the security upgrades at Nkandla as accomplices who had been deployed to cover up a crime.
Maimane, is one of three MPs who will be investigated by the National Assembly’s powers and privileges committee for their “unparliamentary remarks” made during plenary sessions of the National Assembly between September and November.
The DA’s deputy chief whip Mike Waters and an ANC MP Bertha Mabe are the other two.
National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete referred the conduct of the three MPs to the powers and privileges committee, which deals with MP disciplinary issues on Tuesday, for it to investigate whether their conduct constituted contempt of Parliament or misconduct by a member in terms of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act.
Parliament papers reveal that Mbete reported Maimane, for an unparliamentary remark he made on November 13 and his subsequent conduct.
Mbete’s letter, dated December 9, addressed to the chairperson of the powers and privileges committee, Lemias Mashile states that despite repeated requests by deputy speaker Lechesa Tsenoli, Maimane refused to withdraw an unparliamentary remark that “the president of the republic is a criminal and members of the ad hoc committee accomplices who had been deployed to cover up a crime”.
“As Maimane had already indicated earlier that particular day that the members of his party would not leave the Chamber, even if ordered to do so for an infraction of the rules, the deputy speaker named the member and reported the incident as required in terms of the rules,” wrote Mbete to Mashile.
She said she decided to refer the matter to the powers and privileges committee after studying the unrevised Hansard.
National Assembly rules state that if a presiding officer is of the opinion that a contravention committed by an MP is of so serious a nature that an order to withdraw from the Chamber for the remainder of the day’s sitting is inadequate, the presiding officer may – if he or she is the Speaker, suspend the member; or if he or she is not the Speaker, name the member, whereupon the Speaker, after consultation with the presiding officer, may take such action as he or she deems necessary.
Waters will also be investigated for an offence which allegedly took place during the same sitting on November 13.
Waters had refused to abide by Mbete’s ruling that a particular matter was no longer open for further discussion.
Mbete writes: “He proceeded to say what he had wanted to say and ended by stating: ‘And what is happening here is you are taking instructions from Luthuli House with your red phone by your seat and we are not going to stand for it’.”
Waters refused to withdraw the remark, take his seat or leave the Chamber when ordered to do so “despite the remark clearly being unparliamentary”.
Instead Maimane declared: “He is going nowhere,” according to Mbete.
She wants the committee to investigate Waters’ remarks and subsequent conduct in accordance with the rules of the National Assembly and applicable provisions of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act.
Mabe is being investigated for remarks she made on two separate occasions – the first on September 16 during a debate on the motion of no confidence against Mbete which was led by the DA.
Mabe could be heard uttering the words “bloody bastards” as she left the podium at the end of her speech, which raised the ire of opposition MPs who consistently objected to her fiery address.
According to the parliamentary papers dated December 10, Mabe had given a personal explanation to Mbete about her remarks. Her personal explanation has also been referred to the committee for consideration.
According to the National Assembly rules, an MP may, with the prior consent of the presiding officer, also explain matters of a personal nature, but such matters may not be debated, and the member shall confine himself or herself strictly to the vindication of his or her own conduct and may not speak for longer than three minutes.
Mbete has also referred audio-visual records, unrevised Hansard, video recordings and minutes of proceedings of the National Assembly as evidence that the committee could refer to in its consideration of her complaints.
The DA is crying foul, however.
Its chief whip, John Steenhuisen, said the party was unfairly targeted to silence its MPs and those of other opposition parties.
“We have asked the hard and necessary questions of the Speaker, the President and the executive and have called for a consistent application of the rules. “Unfortunately the rules are still not being applied equally, and now, yet again, the Powers and Privileges Committee is being used to settle political scores,” he said in a statement.
He complained that “serious offenders” like Mbete, Tsenoli, Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu, among others, have gone scot-free.
He said once the committee begins its deliberations, they will insist that key witnesses and “offenders”, like Mbete, be called before the committee.
The powers and privileges committee was established in 2004 as provided for in the by the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act but the committee has never had to deal with any MP disciplinary issues until September 2014 when Mbete referred a case of 20 EFF MPs who chanted “pay back the money” to President Jacob Zuma after he failed to answer a question on when he would pay a portion of the money spent in upgrading his home in Nkandla.