'Repugnant and repulsive': ANC calls for strong sanctions against EFF after standoff with Gordhan

Public Enterprises Ministers Pravin Gordhan. (Gallo Images)
Public Enterprises Ministers Pravin Gordhan. (Gallo Images)

ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina condemned the "hooliganism" of the EFF and praised "comrade Gordhan" for his "restraint in the face of overt provocation".

In a statement released on Friday, Majodina condemned "hooliganism demonstrated by EFF Members of Parliament during the budget vote debate by the Minister of Public Enterprises, comrade Pravin Gordhan in the National Assembly (NA)" the day before.

After Gordhan made his way to the podium EFF MP Sam Matiase said the party refused to be addressed by a "constitutional delinquent".

Matiase referred to Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's reports related to the establishment of a "rogue unit" at the South African Revenue Service (SARS) while Gordhan was its commissioner and the re-appointment of then deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay. 

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

After several EFF MPs raised similar points of order, house chairperson Grace Boroto said they must all leave the chamber.

Matiase then led the charge against Gordhan, literally, by approaching the podium, his fellow fighters in tow, while Boroto called on the parliamentary security services to come in to eject the EFF MPs.

"No, no, no. Don't point fingers… They must touch me. They must touch me!" Gordhan said as ANC MPs helped him away from the podium. DA chief whip John Steenhuisen and ACDP Steve Swart also came to Gordhan's aid. 

With the EFF ejected, Gordhan continued with his speech, saying what had just happened was the "defence of state capture".

He said he would not be intimidated. 

Gordhan said he and many of his colleagues faced the might of the apartheid states' oppression. 

'We'll survive this fascist populism'

"We've survived apartheid, we'll survive this fascist populism," Gordhan said.

Other parties condemned the EFF's antics and called on Parliament to sanction them.

In her statement, Majodina pointed out that this tactic by the EFF was nothing new.

"This uncouth behaviour by EFF Members of Parliament is not only repulsive, but is an insult to South Africans from all walks of life who have entrusted Members of Parliament with the mammoth task of making laws that govern our sovereign republic, and with the immense responsibility of conducting parliamentary oversight, over the executive arm of government," reads her statement.

"We commend all our Members of Parliament, including those of the opposition parties, for averting what nearly became a serious skirmish, and for remaining calm in the face of such blatant provocation."

"We commend Minister Pravin Gordhan for practising restraint in the face of overt provocation. As the ANC in Parliament, we will continue to defend our peoples' hard-won democracy and protect it against forces who are hell-bent on undermining it. 

Call for strong sanctions against EFF

"Furthermore, we call upon the relevant organs of the institution to impose the strongest appropriate sanction against EFF Members of Parliament, to ensure that there isn't a repeat of such repugnant behaviour."

Majodina welcomed the recommendation to Boroto that she refer the EFF's "unacceptable behaviour" to the parliamentary structures for "investigation and strong sanction".

She said the ANC would work with all parties to restore the house's decorum. 

Her predecessor as chief whip, Jackson Mthembu, now Minister in the Presidency, also weighed in on the issue on Friday.

He was speaking at the unveiling of the Ronnie Mamoepa Media Centre at the GCIS headquarters in Pretoria.

He said Mamoepa would be appalled by the EFF's behaviour.

"We would like to tell those who have ill-treated Pravin yesterday, that we stand with him against them, whoever they are," Mthembu said.

"We stand with Pravin. I can tell you why they hate Pravin with passion. It's because he fought corruption in the state-owned enterprises and then stepped on the corrupt toes of the cronies of some EFF people. That's why they're so angry.

"Now, colleagues, I know I said things I should not have said here," Mthembu concluded, with a chuckle.

'A gross violation'

The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC) expressed its alarm about the incident, and described it as a "gross violation of the institution of Parliament as a national forum for public consideration of issues and the right of members to speak". 

"This was exacerbated by their acts of physical intimidation aimed at Minister Gordhan which necessitated the employment of security personnel to protect the minister and ensure the removal of EFF MPs from the chamber," reads the statement from CASAC executive secretary Lawson Naidoo. 

"Such behaviour has no place in a democratic society, and must be condemned in the strongest terms."

He welcomed the calls by other parties for strong action. Several EFF MPs took to Twitter to defend their actions, with EFF MP and national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi sending out several tweets on the matter.

He stated that any minister, even the president will face a tough time in Parliament if they undermine the office of the Public Protector.

Parliament itself said the incident was "in clear contravention of the Rules of the House".

"Furthermore, the unacceptable conduct may have violated the provisions of the Powers Privileges Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act," said a statement condemning it.

"The Act prohibits members of Parliament from, amongst others, improperly interfering with the performance by a Member of his or her functions, creating or taking part in any disturbance within the precincts and failing or refusing to comply with an instruction by a duly authorised staff member."

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