MPs lose patience with parliamentary disruptions
At a special rules committee meeting called to discuss the recent disruptions, which led to the cancellation of President Jacob Zuma’s question and answer session in the National Assembly on Thursday last week, parties including the ANC, Democratic Alliance and United Democratic Movement said urgent intervention was needed to continue with the business of Parliament.
But the EFF felt that passing a rule or guidelines to deal with their party members who refuse to leave the chamber was a waste of time as they were not going to stop demanding that Zuma pay back a portion of the money spent of his Nkandla homestead.
In a show of unity, opposition parties and the ANC agreed that disruptions needed to be dealt with, using the example of naughty children needing punishment to get their point across.
The rules committee was considering amendments to existing rules on how to handle disruptions during sittings in Parliament. The amendments were discussed in the rules sub-committee meeting on Tuesday, before being presented to the full committee on Wednesday.
EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu said they rejected the proposed amendments, which include the establishment of a parliamentary guard to remove MPs who refuse to leave the chamber when called to do so.
‘Not going to agree’
“You are saying that for things we say in the National Assembly, we must be assaulted. We are not going to agree with that. We must rise above petty issues and opportunism and reject the proposal. We can’t invite assault on members of Parliament.
“The EFF is merely holding the president accountable in the National Assembly and we demand certain things to be done for us to proceed properly and peacefully. And you are now passing a rule of Parliament to respond to the EFF, that is what you are doing. Let me assure you that even if you can pass a rule, propose there must be guns to shoot members who disagree with President Zuma, we are still going to disagree with him and demand he do what is right for this country.”
Shivambu said the new rules would not solve the problem of disruptions.
“You are wasting your time if you think what you are doing is going to prevent the EFF from demanding that the institutions of democracy must be respected. It is a waste of time because we are still going to demand that Zuma pay back the money as instructed by the public protector. In our rush to try to deal with the EFF, we must now lose rationality. Because you are just going to humiliate yourselves, even the magistrate’s court would dismiss the way you deal with rules process.”
EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said when other parties refused to leave the chamber, they were not assaulted or treated the way EFF members were. He said making rules in a haphazard manner would not solve the problem.
“We will never be stopped by the rules and be undermined by another arm of the state. If the ruling party uses those rules to protect the head of state and allow him to undermine the Constitution, you are not going to get it from the EFF. Even if you are going to approve guns. And that’s the message you must leave here knowing. That’s the message you must get very loud and clear. We will never, for the sake of the rules, compromise the Constitution.”
EFF MP Hlengiwe Maxon said they were often treated like stepchildren in the National Assembly.
The amendments propose the use of minimum force to eject MPs who refuse to leave the chamber, without resorting to violence, and that members of the Parliamentary Protection Services and security should not be armed when entering the chamber on the order of the presiding officers.
The committee resolved to refer the draft of amendments back to the subcommittee to iron out technicalities, while agreeing that their suggestions were the right way to go.
ANC MP Mmamoloko Kubayi suggested a more immediate solution to the problem, which would involve 30 or more police officers being seconded to Parliament to deal with disruptions while the rules committee is ironing out its guidelines.
ANC MP Connie September said they had reached a point where something had to be done urgently and that is why they were focusing on the one rule on disruptions in Parliament. “And that is the right of the rules committee to do that. Every time there is an action, there is a reaction.”
Freedom Front Plus MP Corne Mulder said there was no crisis and the only thing that had happened was that the majority of parties in Parliament had come to a point where they felt they had had enough of the disruptions.
“It not fun anymore. It is not necessary anymore. We all are representing constituencies out there. People expect us to do our work and Parliament is not only about the EFF and the ANC, there are other parties as well who are entitled to be listened to and participate.”