EFF MPs to face Parliament conduct committee after SONA disruption

ulius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters at the State of the Nation Address on February 13, 2020 in Cape Town. (Photo by Gallo Images/Jeffrey Abrahams)
ulius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters at the State of the Nation Address on February 13, 2020 in Cape Town. (Photo by Gallo Images/Jeffrey Abrahams)

EFF MPs' conduct during Thursday evening's State of the Nation Address (SONA) will land them a date with Parliament's Powers and Privileges Committee.

However, by leaving on their own accord rather than "with the assistance" of the parliamentary chamber support services, the EFF MPs sidestepped an immediate suspension which would have seen them miss next week's debate on President Cyril Ramaphosa's speech.

Several EFF MPs, including leader Julius Malema, raised several points of order – first insisting that former deputy president and last apartheid-era president FW de Klerk leave the public gallery, and then insisting that Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan be fired.

National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise on several occasions asked them to stop raising the same points of order and not to stand up and speak without being recognised.

After Modise suspended proceedings, she allowed Malema a short speech, after which he and his colleagues left the chamber, with some of the EFF MPs throwing water bottles at other MPs.

'Touching the pockets' of errant members

The other parties condemned the EFF's conduct, with a suggestion from DA interim leader John Steenhuisen that the EFF MPs should be referred to the Powers and Privileges Committee. There was also a suggestion that the presiding officers look at docking the EFF MPs' pay.

"We agree with all the parties who are saying that the matters are grave and that the conduct of all the members who have left the House must be referred to the Powers and Privileges Committee," Modise said.

READ: SONA 2020 | Groans, delays, an EFF walkout and a surprise vacant seat

She also said both houses should look at a system of "touching the pockets" of errant members and refining the joint rules – the rules which govern joint sittings like SONA – to deal with MPs who don't subject themselves to the presiding officers' rulings.

In 2014, the Powers and Privileges Committee suspended some EFF members without pay and docked other EFF MPs' pay after they chanted "Pay back the money!" during a question session with former president Jacob Zuma. This session was suspended and set the National Assembly on a tumultuous course.

The EFF challenged the committee's sanctions in court, but the court ruled in Parliament's favour.

READ | #SONA2020 | From 'our perfect wedding' to 'sit down president' - All the lines tweeps were not ready to hear

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