EFF 'kangaroo court' may draw back the curtain on democracy

A loophole in the rules of Parliament allows the disciplinary hearing of the "Pay back the money" EFF MPs to be held in public, if all involved agree. (David Harrison, M&G)

A loophole in the rules of Parliament allows the disciplinary hearing of the "Pay back the money" EFF MPs to be held in public, if all involved agree. (David Harrison, M&G)

Parliament’s disciplinary hearing into whether the Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) members of Parliament undermined the legislature in August may be open to the media and the public.

Parliament announced on Sunday that the powers and privileges committee will commence on Tuesday October 7, with the disciplinary proceedings against the 20 EFF MPs who have been charged of the disruption of a sitting of the National Assembly during a question and answer session with President Jacob Zuma on August 21.

The committee said that although the rules of the National Assembly require the committee to conduct its work behind closed doors, there is a sub-rule that makes provision for the committee to open the proceedings should all parties agree to it.

Committee chairperson Lemias Mashile said the decision on whether to open the inquiry to the public would be taken when the committee meets on Tuesday.

“The sub-rule will be interrogated at the meeting tomorrow [Tuesday]. If the members want it to be open or don’t have a problem with it being open … the committee will consider that when it meets,” said Mashile.

No objection to meeting media
The EFF has indicated that it will not object to the opening of the meeting to the media. “The media must be there.
Why not?” said the EFF’s national spokesperson, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.

Ndlozi said EFF MPs would attend the inquiry, but declined to say whether they would challenge the charges.

The high court in Cape Town rejected an urgent application by the party, which sought to stop Parliament from holding an inquiry into its MPs’ behaviour.

The EFF charged that the process to be conducted by Parliament’s powers and privileges committee, which deals with MPs’ disciplinary matters, would be unfair and labelled it a “kangaroo court”.

The party wanted the court to interdict “the intention of the ANC to exclude the EFF from Parliament”.

“It can never be correct that a political party, which was elected by more than one million people should be subjected to a quasi-disciplinary process that is dominated and controlled by the political enemy, the ruling party,” said the EFF’s party whip, Floyd Shivambu, at the time. He said that the ANC “is the judge, the complainant and witness in this same matter”.

Unhappy with Zuma’s reponse
The inquiry is set to begin on Tuesday and scheduled to sit for five days to determine whether the behaviour of 20 EFF MPs who chanted “pay back the money” to Zuma during question time in the National Assembly on August 21 constituted contempt of Parliament in terms of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act.

The MPs in question had been unhappy with Zuma’s reply to a question about when he was going to “pay back” part of the money spent on the R246-million security upgrades to his private Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu-Natal. Their conduct prompted National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete to instruct them to leave the house because they were “not serious” about proceedings.

The EFF MPs each face a range of different charges, but the charge common to all of them is that of refusing to leave the National Assembly chamber when ordered to do so by Mbete.

Mashile said some MPs face extra charges for disturbing the proceedings and for defying the speaker by refusing to take their seat when instructed to do so.

The cross examination of Mthethwa will continue on Tuesday.

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