MPs who were filling in their own registration forms abandoned them to greet the leader of the fledgling Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Julius Malema as he arrived at Parliament to register on Tuesday.
For months now Malema has been fighting threats to his parliamentary seat, which he would lose if he is sequestrated or found guilty of the many charges he faces in court.
On Tuesday, he arrived in Parliament to register his details as the newly-elected member of the National Assembly.
While a number of MPs, including Cabinet ministers, approached Malema and shook hands with him, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande completely snubbed Malema as they came face to face in the corridor outside the Old Assembly chamber. Malema also ignored Nzimande as they passed one another.
Malema and Nzimande have been at each other’s throats for years, including when Malema was still a member of the ANC. Last month, Nzimande told an elections rally that Malema’s EFF was a party full of “corrupt tenderpreneurs”.
“If you owe the SA Revenue Services [Sars] R16-million, do you know how many millions you’ve chowed? They chowed more than R100-million,” said Nzimande. “Some people wear expensive watches and clothes but have never worked a day in their lives.”
Handshakes and hugs
Parliament had set aside Monday and Tuesday for the MPs’ registration, but only a few showed up on Monday. Most appeared on the second day, where old and newly elected representatives waited in queues and chatted. The swearing in of MPs, election of the new National Assembly speaker, his or her deputy and the president will be held in Parliament on Wednesday.
Former ANC Eastern Cape premier, and now a Democratic Alliance MP, Nosimo Balindlela was the first to greet Malema. Leaving her seat and registration forms, Balindlela tapped Malema on the shoulder, shook his hand and hugged him.
Malema, who arrived with EFF spokesperson, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, who will also be sworn in as an MP on Wednesday, looked subdued and tired, but answered a few questions from the gathered media. “I am not excited, I am ready to work,” he said when asked if he was excited to have finally made it into Parliament.
Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu was among the first senior ANC MPs to greet Malema. Sisulu waited patiently as journalists spoke to and took pictures of Malema and when everyone had cleared, she walked up to him, shook his hand, embraced him and had a short chat.
‘Parliament was for old people‘
In 2009, while still in the ANC, Malema turned down a nomination to be an MP, saying among other things that “Parliament was for old people”.
Meanwhile, parliament’s spokesperson Luzuko Jacobs confirmed that while MPs can wear any colours they like, political party insignia is prohibited inside the National Assembly chamber.
On Wednesday, the National Assembly will meet for the first time since the May 7 elections, a sitting which will be presided over by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.
Incumbent president, Jacob Zuma, is expected to be re-elected as the ANC hold a 249-member majority in the National Assembly.