/ 17 November 2014

EFF MP will challenge ‘Zuma the thief’ again

President Jacob Zuma at his rape trial
President Jacob Zuma at his rape trial

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MP Reneilwe Mashabela is still traumatised by riot police removing her from Parliament, she told the Mail & Guardian in a telephonic interview.

But, she will go back to the National Assembly and challenge President Jacob Zuma again.

Mashabela, who called Zuma a thief for refusing to pay back the money spent on upgrades at his private homestead in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal, said she is not afraid to represent the views of those who democratically elected her. 

“I am going back there. Nothing is going to keep me away,” she told the Mail & Guardian on Monday.

Mashabela was at the centre of a fist fight in the National Assembly chambers, after attempts to remove her turned violent. “I was so disturbed. I was so confused. The police … they were armed with guns. I am so traumatised,” she said.

On Thursday night last week, Mashabela repeatedly referred to Zuma as a thief during her input in a debate on the treaty of the Grand Inga Hydropower project.

“President Zuma is a thief. He is a criminal. He is the greatest thief in the world,” she said.

This garnered the ire of a visibly irate chairperson, Cedric Frolick, who was presiding over the parliamentary session, and asked her to withdraw the remarks. 

Mashabela refused – and also refused to leave the chambers when ordered to do so Frolick.

Despite the heavy-handed action by riot police, Mashabela remains unrepentant. “Nothing will stop me from going there, and calling Zuma a thief. That is what he is,” she said.

“Many people do not have houses or electricity, while these people are stealing our money. I will not withdraw. Truly speaking, he is a thief.”

Accusations fly back and forth
Public protector Thuli Madonsela’s report into the Nkandla upgrades found that Zuma and his family unduly benefited from the upgrades, and that he must pay back a portion of the money.

The EFF is forging ahead with court action against the riot police who entered the National Assembly.

“It can never, and will never be, correct for the police to interfere with the proceedings of Parliament, because elected members of Parliament will always be in fear that whatever they say and do in Parliament will be subjected to the police,” the party’s leader Julius Malema said on Friday. 

Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance (DA) on Monday laid four charges of assault, after its members clashed with police when they tried to intervene in Mashebela’s removal from Parliament. 

“Three MPs laid charges against the police for assault, and a fourth MP has laid charges against Deputy Minister for Higher Education and Training Mduduzi Manana, after he manhandled DA MP Juanita Terblanche,” said DA chief whip John Steenhuisen.

The ANC hit back in Parliament, saying it was “not surprised by the DA’s opportunism and grandstanding”.

“The members of the police service entered the House with the sole purpose to remove an unruly EFF MP, but several DA MPs jumped out of their benches, charged at them and aggressively engaged in a scuffle with them in an attempt to prevent them from removing the MP,” said ANC parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo.

He accused DA MPs of attacking the police officers, who were at the centre of the conflict.

Motapo denied Steenhuisen’s allegation that Manana attacked a DA MP. “Deputy minister Manana intervened in the process, gently shoved the DA MP, and advised her to go back to her bench as she was clearly being provocative. It is ludicrous for the DA MPs to claim they were attacked or assaulted.”