/ 6 September 2007

DA MPs walk out of National Assembly

The majority of the members of the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) walked out of the National Assembly on Thursday after speaker Baleka Mbete officially suspended one of them for five days.

Health spokesperson Mike Waters upset the speaker on Wednesday when he challenged her ruling that a question directed to Manto Tshabalala Msimang was out of order.

He wanted to know whether the health minister had disclosed her conviction for theft in Botswana to the president when she was first appointed. Though the minister had prepared a response, the speaker decided that the question itself was a slight on her integrity, and under the rules of the house would not allow it.

Waters accused Mbete of ”defending a thief”, and the speaker ordered him out of the house.

At the start of business on Thursday the speaker read a long statement defending her ruling and added that ordering him out of the house ”did not sufficiently vindicate” him. She ordered him to stand and instructed him to leave the house and the precincts of Parliament for five sitting days.

He meekly complied but his chief whip, Ian Davidson, tried to intervene to argue with the speaker. Mbete did not allow him to speak, whereupon the official leader of the opposition, Sandra Botha, packed up her documents and led her members out of the house too.

Only the chief whip, and one or two members who wanted to make statements or propose motions for debate, remained.

Davidson rose and gave notice that he would propose that the house debate the minister’s conviction for theft and whether or not that rendered her inappropriate to hold office. — I-Net Bridge