/ 5 November 2014

EFF MPs found guilty of contempt of Parliament

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MPs, including party leader Julius Malema, have been found guilty of contempt of Parliament, according to parliamentary sources.

The powers and privileges committee sat for about 12 hours on Monday deliberating on the charges against 20 EFF MPs. It came down to a vote in the end, with the ANC MPs voting guilty on all charges while opposition MPs on the committee had reservations.

Committee chairperson Lemias Mashile, who is the only person authorised to speak to the media about the committee’s work, has gone to ground and several attempts to get comment from him have failed.

MPs on the committee spoke to the Mail & Guardian on condition they were not named. They were not happy with the process followed in the inquiry, including the failure of the committee to call in key witnesses such as Speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete and ministers Siyabonga Cwele and David Mahlobo. They did not avail themselves for cross-examination, sending affidavits to the committee instead.

Not all agreed
One MP said that following a long discussion, the committee had sufficient consensus on the guilty verdict, meaning that they were not in agreement.

On small charges such as EFF MPs ignoring Mbete’s instruction to take their seats, the MP said all parties agreed on a guilty verdict. But on most charges, the opposition MPs did not agree with the guilty verdict.

Another MP said there was a lot of evidence the committee did not process. “For starters, Malema’s statement was completely ignored because the ANC MPs and one legal adviser said it had no standing and that the committee was doing Malema a favour by listening to his submission.”

The MP said this went against a National Assembly rule that mandates the committee to take submissions from any interested body.

The MPs said the committee had agreed on Monday night that it would inform the EFF MPs of the outcome and that they would be given an opportunity to argue in mitigation of the sentence.

No idea of the outcome
EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi told the M&G on Tuesday night that they had no idea of the outcome and had not been informed of any developments regarding the case.

If the EFF MPs do not appear for mitigation of the sentence, MPs in the committee can argue on their behalf.

The powers and privileges committee charged 20 EFF MPs in September for refusing to leave the National Assembly chamber when ordered to do so. This was after the MPs chanted “pay back the money” at President Jacob Zuma during a plenary session of the National Assembly in August.

Several ANC leaders and its powerful decision-making body, the national executive committee (NEC), called for Parliament to mete out its harshest punishment for transgressing MPs.

EFF MPs only attended the first day of the disciplinary hearing. They walked out after Malema read out a submission on behalf of the charged MPs and after demanding that the charges be dropped, saying the ANC had contaminated the process.