Report on EFF's attack on Gordhan referred to Parliament sub-committee

EFF members leave the chamber while Minister of State Enterprises Pravin Gordhan addressed the House. (Jan Gerber, News24)
EFF members leave the chamber while Minister of State Enterprises Pravin Gordhan addressed the House. (Jan Gerber, News24)

National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise has referred a report on the EFF's attack on Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan to the sub-committee on the physical removal of members from the chamber.

"The referral by the Speaker follows her receipt of a briefing on what transpired during the sitting from House chairperson Matlala Boroto who presided over the debate on July 11," read a statement from Parliament's spokesperson, Moloto Mothapo, which was released on Tuesday shortly after the debate on Parliament's budget vote.

During her speech in the debate, Modise said: "During the induction session, I said we must never have a Parliament that is incoherent, that is the laughing stock of its own people, of Africa and the world.

"We are public representatives. Let's respect the House, let's respect one another, we can have a robust debate as we want - use our freedom of speech but let's do so responsibly.

"From the presiding side, we will do whatever we can to ensure the protection of all the members in the House. We will be referring serious offences to the relevant committees including the committee on powers, privileges and immunities."

The EFF, however, remained defiant.

EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi claimed they acted in protection of the chapter nine institution, the Office of the Public Protector.

"You will never tell us how to conduct our revolution," he said.

"As long as you show contempt to chapter nine institutions, we'll hold you to account the best way we know how."

Ndlozi said what they did to Gordhan was a "legitimate protest".

"We realise your rules are made to hold power comfortably. We are ready for anything. The army. You hooligans, you call security, we are ready for them.

"So that's what happened here: it was a peaceful protest."

He said no one had touched Gordhan.

"It was a proper protest, chief, and he was screaming already," he added, grinning with apparent glee.

Several speakers from the ANC and opposition parties alike condemned the EFF's behaviour.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said a debate by its very nature required both sides of an argument to be put forward.

"Stopping somebody from speaking in this House is not a debate, neither is it an act of accountability, it is an act of thuggery and democratic sabotage that should never ever be tolerated. This House must be an arena of debate where words, arguments and opinions prevail. The only clash should be the clash of ideas, not the clash of fists, the only disruption should be disruptive ideas," Steenhuisen added.

"Let me also be clear, I abhor the socialist Chavez policies that the EFF espouses and the suffering and misery that these policies have caused wherever they have been implemented, but I will fight to make sure that the EFF have the opportunity to espouse them in this Parliament for this is their right."

He compared the EFF's behaviour to when Adolf Hitler's National Socialist German Workers Party - better known as the Nazis - were first represented in the Reichstag of the Weimar Republic, initially as a small party.

"They wore boots and uniforms into the House. Sounds familiar?

"Whenever they disapproved of a speaker they either marched out as a body or marched in to disrupt a speaker from making their argument. Sounds familiar?

"When they couldn't get their way they rendered the sittings incapable of proceeding through spurious parliamentary actions. Sounds familiar?

"We must not allow what was the culmination of that behaviour in Germany, with its awful consequences to happen in our democratic Parliament."

The sub-committee on the physical removal of members from the chamber, which reports to the rules committee, is chaired by Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli.

It is responsible for considering the circumstances of the physical removals of MPs from the chamber as reported to it by the Speaker in terms of House Rule 73 (12).

In terms of this rule, whenever an MP is physically removed from the chamber, the circumstances of such removal must be referred to this subcommittee, which must look into the conduct of the member concerned, the ruling by the presiding officer and the manner in which the member was removed.

The mandate of this committee, however, is not to conduct a disciplinary proceeding against the MP or to review the ruling of the presiding officer.

After considering the referral by the Speaker, the sub-committee must report its findings and recommendations to the rules committee within 10 working days. The rules committee will, based on the report of the subcommittee, determine the appropriate course of action.

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