After uproar from the opposition and gender activists, ANC MP John Jeffery says the comment made to the DA's Lindiwe Mazibuko was misunderstood.
ANC MP John Jeffery apologised to DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko on Tuesday for a comment he made regarding her weight.
At the parliamentary budget debate last week, Jeffery said: “The leader of the opposition is meant to be the leader of the party; it’s meant to be a person of some stature, the Honourable Mazibuko may be a person of substantial weight, is she a person of some stature?”
These comments drew outrage from the opposition, social media and gender activists. DA chief whip Watty Watson rose on a point of order saying the remarks cast aspersions on Mazibuko.
The ANC issued a statement on Thursday, two days after the event, saying Jeffery’s reference to Mazibuko was a pun – it had to do with her influence and power associated with the position she holds rather than her physical weight.
“Jeffery has carefully reflected on the ambiguity of the statement and accepts that it may have been understood to refer to Mazibuko’s physical outlook.”
The party announced that Jeffery would unconditionally withdraw the statement and apologise to Mazibuko.
Deputy speaker of the National Assembly Nomaindia Mfeketo ruled on Tuesday that the part of the statement that relates to Mazibuko’s weight appeared, on the face of it, to be a reference to her physical appearance.
“Members will remember that in the past, many rulings were made on remarks regarding members’ physical appearance. And these have always been found to be insensitive, offensive and a violation of a member’s dignity,” she said.
“I have no intention to depart from this precedent and accordingly find that [the] remarks were not only insensitive but unparliamentary. It is indeed the responsibility of each and every one of us to ensure that we exercise the right to freedom of speech in a considerate and responsible manner,” said Mfeketo.
She then called upon Jeffery to withdraw his statements.
"I withdraw and I would like to take the opportunity to apologise, the statement wasn't meant to be sexist,” said Jeffery to applause in the House and a nod from Mazibuko.