The parliamentary committee looking into the disciplinary conduct of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MPs continues with its disciplinary hearing despite the party’s MPs walking out and renouncing the parliamentary process as unfair.
The MPs in question left the inquiry, which started on Tuesday morning, shortly after EFF leader Julius Malema made a representation on behalf of himself and the 19 MPs charged alongside him to the parliamentary powers and privileges committee.
The committee is tasked with determining whether the MPs in chanting “pay back the money” to President Jacob Zuma during question time in the National Assembly on August 21, constituted contempt of Parliament In his 89-point submission on Tuesday.
Malema made a slew of allegations of unfairness and bias against the ruling ANC, saying that the outcome of the process was already pre-determined following numerous calls by senior ANC leaders for Parliament to mete out the harshest sentences against the EFF. He then walked out of the meeting with 18 other EFF MPs shortly after making the submission.
One of the charged MPs, Magdalene Moonsamy, did not attend the hearing.
The committee continued in their absence and when it reconvenes on Wednesday morning, it will have to decide on whether it should consider Malema’s representation or not.
One ANC MP, Richard Mdakane, had already dismissed Malema’s 23-minute representation as a “broad and sweeping political statement; grandstanding that did not respond to the charges”.
Mdakane pointed out that there was no parliamentary rule that provided for a member who has been charged to make a presentation on behalf of himself and other members who are charged on a similar matter.
Speaking to the Mail & Guardian after the meeting, chairperson of the committee, Lemias Mashile of the ANC, said the committee will have to decide whether the EFF document should be taken into consideration. “The mere fact that it has been presented will need the committee to make a decision on the matter but when it comes to its content, it will depend on the legal advice that we get from the legal advisors,” said Mashile.
He said that among the problems with the representation was that it was not done under oath and therefore its legal standing was not clear.
Mashile, like other ANC MPs in the committee claimed that the EFF’s departure from the committee after Malema’s presentation was not a “walk out … but it is some sort of an abscondment”. It was not a walk-out because they left during an adjournment, after he [Mashile] had already announced that there would be a 10-minute adjournment to discuss the EFF presentation, he said.
Mashile said it was disappointing that the EFF MPs chose to leave the hearing instead of staying in and being part of the decision-making process. “Of course, as a committee, we would have loved for them to be in for the hearing to continue during their presence.”
“We would like it if they could think differently and come back and participate in the hearing because it is in their own good that the decisions that are reached are reached with their input and having considered their evidence,” he added.
The rules of the National Assembly provide for the hearing to continue in the charged MPs’ absence. “We will continue as such until they come back, or until we conclude with the hearing,” said Mashile.
Committee there to ‘execute orders’
Malema had also claimed that the ANC MPs, who sit in the committee, were merely there to execute the orders of their leaders – who had deployed them to Parliament and to whom they are indebted for the seats they occupy in Parliament.
He called on the Powers and Privileges Committee to stop the entire process saying it was illegitimate and unconstitutional and was contaminated by the ANC acting as a complainant, judge and possibly witnesses if the case proceeds. He wanted the committee to withdraw all the charges against him and his colleagues.
Malema suggested that the committee should charge National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete instead for the manner in which she chaired the session on August 21 when MPs were posing oral questions to Zuma.
ANC MPs rejected Malema’s accusations saying the committee was a multi-party committee and not an ANC committee. The committee, which generally meets behind closed doors decided to open its proceedings to the media and the public due to the public interest in the EFF disciplinary matter.
The hearing continues on Wednesday in Parliament.