DA: Legal action against armed police entering Parliament

Unidentified people in white shirts and black trousers forcibly removed EFF members from parliament who had not transgressed any rules. (David Harrison, M&G)

Unidentified people in white shirts and black trousers forcibly removed EFF members from parliament who had not transgressed any rules. (David Harrison, M&G)

In a bid to prevent a repeat of the State of the Nation Address chaos in future, the Democratic Alliance (DA) is looking at legal options that could stop armed police from entering the chambers of Parliament unless there is a clear and present danger to life and limb.

DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane and chief whip John Steenhuisen criticised presiding officers for how she handled the volatile situation yesterday, after Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) were ejected from the chamber by security personnel.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday morning, Maimane said they were talking to their legal team to see how they could resolve the matter in court.

‘Never again’
“We have to get an order of the court to ensure that it never takes place again. We are of the view that it was the abuse of the South African Police [Service] (SAPS) taking place. 

“Now the speaker of the National Assembly [Baleka Mbete] is a member of the ANC, and acted in the interest of the ANC. She allowed her executive to work in the manner they did yesterday and protected President Jacob Zuma.

“I think the actions of the EFF were wrong, but if you raise a point of order, it is within the rules.
But if the ruling concludes that your point of order is inappropriate, in my view, parliamentary action says that you need to accept that ruling and if asked to leave the chamber, you need to be able to do that.”

The EFF were violently removed from the chamber last night after they demanded an answer to when the president would pay a portion of the R246-million upgrade to his Nkandla home. The removal resulted in a fist fight with EFF MPs and the security personnel, with EFF members throwing their hard hats at the officials.

Minutes later, DA MPs walked out after the speaker failed to answer Maimane’s question on whether the officers who had evicted the EFF were actually SAPS members.  The party believes this was in violation of parliament rules.

Steenhuisen said another violation was the removal of EFF MPs who were not in violation of the rules. “They had not raised a point of order, they had not violated a single ruling of the speaker and yet they had to endure the indignity of being kicked, punched and beaten and carried like cattle out of the National Assembly, without making a single transgression.”

‘Harshest sanction’

He said that was one of the key charges they planned to use when asking the house to refer both presiding officers to the Powers and Privileges Committee for investigation and sanction. Maimane said they believed the conduct of presiding officers Mbete and National Council of Provinces chairperson Thandi Modise yesterday warranted the harshest sanction.

“They must be removed from office in line with section 12 (5) (e) of the Powers and Privileges Act. There must be accountability for the disgraceful events of last night so they do not see a repeat of them. This process, however, must not detract from Parliament’s role of holding the President accountable for the state of the nation.

“We must make it the number one priority to urgently return Parliament’s business to the crises facing our nation. It is clear from his address that Jacob Zuma is no longer a President. He has completely lost touch with South Africans.”

On Friday the EFF said if given the opportunity, they would do it again.

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