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31 Jul 2015 00:00
Juju says even he is not above punishment if he nods off in Parliament. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)
In a dark purple checked shirt with his head against his chair, slumping slightly to his left, eyes closed and his mouth ajar. Emanuel Mtileni, the Economic Freedom Fighters’ member of the National Council of Provinces, was caught on camera apparently fast asleep during an NCOP session.
Inevitably, it was circulated on social media, especially because the EFF has been noisy about ANC MPs who notoriously have catch-up naps during parliamentary sessions.
In a tirade that shocked some EFF members, their commander-in-chief, Julius Malema, last Saturday called Mtileni a clown for sleeping on the job.
“I saw [a] picture of some clown in Parliament claiming to represent the EFF,” Malema told thousands of his supporters in Rustenburg.
But Mtileni insisted this week that he was not sleeping on the job. In fact, the picture was not even taken in the NCOP, he argued.
“We were in the Greater Tubatse Municipality in Burgersfort and it was around lunch time … everybody went out for lunch and I remained in my seat,” Mtileni told the Mail & Guardian.
He believed that anyone could sleep during lunch and that did not constitute sleeping on the job.
So what was Mtileni’s response to Malema’s tirade against him?
“I think my president might have been misled. I was not sleeping during the session,” he said.
Mtileni defended himself, saying it had been a long week visiting various municipalities – and he had put up a strong fight earlier during the session.
“I was hitting hard on funds that were unaccounted for,” he said.
Mtileni, who is from Malamulele in Limpopo, sits on the NCOP select committees on finance and appropriations.
He says the person who took the picture of him sleeping and circulated it was trying to tarnish his name because of the questions he had asked regarding financial unaccountability in that municipality.
A widely circulated meme on social networks of Vusiwana Mtileni (right) sleeping in Parliament.
But Malema remained unmoved, insisting that he would propose docking three months of Mtileni’s salary for sleeping on the job.
During their election campaign last year, Malema accused ANC leaders of sleeping in Parliament. He ridiculed them and promised that the EFF would “wake them up”.
“The fact that it is not punishable by other parties to sleep in Parliament it does not mean that it should not be punishable in the EFF,” Malema said.
It appears that Malema was throwing Mtileni under the bus to make a point. “Through him I was speaking to the rest of them. I was speaking to aspirant EFF councillors … they will be reprimanded in public,” Malema said.
Some EFF members, who are uncomfortable with Malema’s seemingly autocratic leadership style, believe that he purged members he did not like.
“When he is angry you can’t tell him anything,” one EFF MP said, asking not to be named for fear of being expelled. This person claimed that because Malema disagreed with former EFF MPs Mpho Ramakatsa, Khanyisile Litchfield-Tshabalala and Andile Mngxitama, they were expelled from the party.
“I will tell you more but I am scared I will lose my job,” the MP said.
Malema insisted it was a point of principle. “Even me, I am going to court on the 3rd of August,” he said. “If I am found guilty I must leave my position of the EFF and the membership.”
And if he ever nods off in Parliament? “Then Julius Malema must be punished,” Malema said.
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