The ANC’s Western Cape chief whip Pierre Uys was suspended for two days after the state-of-the-province address had to be adjourned on Friday.
Speaker Sharna Fernandez put the decision of suspension to a vote after the ANC raised points of order, delaying proceedings for around two hours. At one point, premier Helen Zille resorted to reading her speech at a media briefing.
Fernandez called her back to the house a while later, which resulted in more points of order and the speech eventually being tabled without being delivered.
The ANC took issue with the way Fernandez dealt with a ruling made by her deputy speaker at the last provincial sitting in December, regarding provincial ANC chairperson Marius Fransman’s refusal to withdraw a statement claiming Zille was racist.
At the time, Fransman alleged Zille had said that only white contractors were able to build proper roads. This, after she said: “When bridges collapse, when roads collapse, poor people… who are using the road system are the first to suffer. We do not have corruption. We do it properly according to the tender procedures and we run a clean government”.
Zille called Fransman out on his allegation in the December sitting, stating: “That is a complete and deliberate distortion, a complete and deliberate untruth that is told in this House.”
The deputy speaker decided at the time to suspend the instruction for Fransman to withdraw his statement and requested that a judge be appointed to adjudicate on the correctedness of the house’s ruling.
On Friday, Uys criticised the legislature for apparently changing its mind and referring the matter to the legislature’s rules committee. “A rules committee makes rules, not a ruling. We were horrified to hear and you didn’t inform us,” Uys said to jeers from DA members.
Fernandez responded that she had severe reservations about referring an internal dispute to a court before all internal remedies had been considered. “As Speaker, it is incumbent on me to ensure procedures are fair. Any person or party is free to make an application to court.”
Fransman also alleged the live television feed had been cut and that private security guards were waiting to enter the house from a nearby room, allegations that were quickly shot down.
In a media briefing afterwards, Uys said the opening of the legislature was the first and only sitting in which the ANC could raise its concerns. Fransman said the party had not disrupted proceedings as the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) had done at the state of the nation address in Parliament a week ago. He said MPLs raised valid points that did not relate to Zille’s speech or scandals within the province.
Zille condemned the ANC’s “theatrics” in a short statement. “Their strategy of out-dramatising the EFF will fail and cause a serious backlash among the voters,” she said. – Sapa