/ 19 March 2015

Thin blue line between democracy and tyranny – opposition MPs

Opposition parties have expressed outrage at the use of police forces in Parliament and fear that someone will be killed if nothing is done about it.
Opposition parties have expressed outrage at the use of police forces in Parliament and fear that someone will be killed if nothing is done about it.

These days it is safer in a nightclub than within the walls of the National Assembly, and it would be a miracle if no one is killed during this fifth democratic Parliament.

So believes Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema, who today said there was a big problem in Parliament where a speaker could bring unidentifiable individuals to remove members of Parliament.

Addressing a press conference called by opposition parties in Parliament to discuss the use of police in Parliament, Malema said the presence of police in the chamber was a serious matter reminiscent of the apartheid era, where police had made people disappear.

“They take our people underground, where no one can see them. What if one of them [police] had an injection and had injected that person with poison? We are dealing with an Askari here, we are dealing with people who have killed people in exile. [What if] They take our people underground, inject them and three or four months down the line we are told they died of natural causes, only to find out these people were injected here.

“These people are going to kill one of you, in this fifth Parliament. If we don’t lose a member of Parliament at the hands of police harassment, that will be a miracle. They are about to kill. We are going to be subjected to that harassment for quite some time.”

This comes more than a month after EFF MPs were violently ejected from the National Assembly during President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address, after they demanded an answer to when the president would pay a portion of the R246-million upgrade to his Nkandla home.

Malema said MPs should not be treated as criminals, and insisted that at no point should police ever be allowed in the chamber, as the law makers were bound to debate enthusiastically.

In a show of unity, opposition parties including the Democratic Alliance, National Freedom Party, Freedom Front Plus and the EFF, said the fifth Parliament had seen a series of unprecedented events that had left the nation in shock and pushed the country’s Constitution to near breaking point.

In a statement delivered by DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane, the parties said the deployment of the ANC chairperson as the Speaker of the assembly has led to rules, procedures and processes being manipulated.

“We have seen how Speaker Mbete has ruled from her throne with an iron fist and come down hard on the Opposition for demanding consistency in the application of the rules, and that she upholds the Constitution. The use of police, an agency of the executive, to intimidate assault and remove MPs from the chamber is an attack on the separation of powers and Constitution. As opposition parties, we are united in condemning the use of the police in parliamentary affairs.

“We therefore contend that the part of Section 11 of the Act authorising arrest should be declared unconstitutional or be declared not to apply to members of Parliament. We are willing to go all the way to the Constitutional Court to fight this matter. It cannot be that MPs are removed from the chamber or threatened with undue police force in the execution of their duty to hold the Executive to account. This duty is laid down to MPs in terms of the Constitution. MPs cannot talk truth to power if they are threatened with arrest,” Maimane said.

While pledging support for the opposition parties’ fight against the use of police in Parliament, Inkatha Freedom Party MP Sibongile Nkomo however distanced the party from the statement, and said they had not approved it before it was delivered.

The parties said they would be meeting with the Speaker to discuss the use of police in Parliament soon.