Order! Mbete decision throws Parliament into chaos

A brouhaha ensued in Parliament on Thursday, when National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete announced her decision to unilaterally change the programme of the day. (David Harrison, M&G)

A brouhaha ensued in Parliament on Thursday, when National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete announced her decision to unilaterally change the programme of the day. (David Harrison, M&G)

The National Assembly was again thrown into chaos when MPs objected to National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete’s attempts to change the order of the day’s procedure at the last minute.

The problem started when Mbete announced her decision to unilaterally change the programme of the day because it was a too long.

Besides the political statements that MPs make at the beginning or at the end of each sitting, there were 40 items on Thursday’s programme, starting with the debate on the Nkandla matter.

Shortly after Mbete made her announcement, the deputy chief whip of the Democratic Alliance, Michael Walters rose to object, saying Mbete was misreading the rule she used to come to her decision and that she can’t make such a ruling.

Mbete instructed him to sit down, and when he refused, instructed him to leave the House

Walters refused to leave the chamber, while numerous MPs rose at the same time to raise points of order in the wake of Mbete’s ruling regarding the day’s order paper.

At this point, ANC supporters who had packed the gallery applauded and cheered. According to parliamentary rules, members of the public, guests, journalists and other visitors to Parliament are not allowed to participate in any manner in parliamentary proceedings.

Walters and other DA MPs, on their feet, began chanting: “You must go!”, pointing at Mbete while ignoring her instructions for them to sit down or leave the house.

DA MP John Steenhuisen suggested that Mbete leave her chair and allow one of the House chairpersons, ANC MP Cedric Frolick, to preside over the sitting.

“You wish!” snapped Mbete in response.

DA parliamentary leader, Mmusi Maimane, also remained on his feet and
refused to take his seat until Mbete reversed her ruling.

He said MPs came prepared for a long day, and that they would sit until the early hours of the morning if necessary. Maimane and a number of other opposition MPs said this had been agreed upon in a programme committee on Thursday morning.

“We simply refuse that you can ignore us. I refuse to sit down!” he said as he remained standing.

While the chaos continued, social media was abuzz with users creating memes of Mbete.

When Mbete called on MPs to table a motion, the opposition MPs led, by Maimane, shouted them down.

The stand-off took about 20 minutes until ANC chief whip Stone Sizani suggested to Mbete to revert to the original programme.

Additional reporting by Sthembiso Sithole.

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