EFF politicises even parliamentary condolences

Will Parliament have to create yet another interim rule to deal with newcomers Economic Freedom Fighters?

Political parties seem to think so. This after three weeks of the EFF shooting down almost all motions without notice in the National Assembly. And other parties rejecting EFF motions without notice in turn.

Motions without notice are Parliament’s way of paying condolences and praising and recognising achievements in sports and other areas without being political about it. If there are objections to the motion, it falls away.

The idea of the creation of a new rule was first broached in Parliament’s programming committee last week, when Inkatha Freedom Party MP Narend Singh suggested they do away with motions without notice until a rule can be created to govern them.

The parties agreed that motions without notice had become political tools.

Solution required
Parliament’s programming committee chairperson Baleka Mbete said on Thursday that the issue of motions without notice had been referred to the rules subcommittee, which has been mandated to come up with a solution.

Singh suggested the creation of new rules to govern motions without notice in a meeting of the programming committee last week, as the House could not continue the way matters were going.

“What’s been happening in the House in the last few weeks is certainly not something we can be proud of. I think the motions without notice come with their own tradition, they move condolences, congratulations. We’ve got to try to put a procedure in place where we cannot allow just one political party to object to every single motion without notice, the contents of which impact on Parliament and expressing Parliament’s view on families of policemen who have died and things like that.”

Singh, who serves on the rules subcommittee, told the Mail & Guardian on Thursday that a solution had to be found as the matter had become a joke.

“The referral of the matter means we must find a way of dealing with motions without notice in a manner where Parliament does not become a laughing stock, because at the moment it is an embarrassment to us in Parliament. Families out there are watching on television, especially when there are motions of condolences and congratulations and they are rejected by one party in the House. It cannot continue in that way.”

New rule
He said this meant a new rule was on the way. “We will have to craft a new rule that will probably have a threshold, which says two parties or more can object to a motion and only then should it be considered.”

EFF members started rejecting motions in Parliament almost three weeks ago and continued to do so this week when the EFF rejected a motion to send condolences to the families of the 16 train crash victims who lost their lives on Monday, when a taxi plunged off a bridge and landed on a railway track in KwaDukuza. Party members also rejected a motion of condolence after a plane crashed in the Western Cape over the weekend, killing five people.

MPs pleaded with the EFF this week to stop rejecting all motions, especially those of condolences. Democratic Alliance MP Wilmot James pleaded for sanity.

An EFF MP told the House on Wednesday that they had brought this on themselves by voting in a new rule earlier this month that the EFF felt targeted them. Parliament passed a new rule giving the speaker the right to have MPs physically removed if they refuse to stop disrupting the National Assembly when asked.

The rule will see protection services removing MPs from the Parliament precinct to prevent proceedings being adjourned because of disruptions. Anyone who interferes with the removal of the disruptive MP will be removed along with them.

Pay back the money
The rule was passed after EFF MPs disrupted various appearances by President Jacob Zuma by demanding he pay back a portion of the money spent on the upgrades to his Nkandla homestead.

EFF MP Sam Matiase told the House that MPs have undermined and weakened the capacity of Parliament to hold the executive to account [with the adoption of the new rules].

“And the day they consider upholding the constitutional mandate and this House to fulfil its constitutional mandate, that will be the day that sanity will come back and prevail in this House.”

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said motions without notice were the only way for parties to express themselves in a non-partisan way.

House challenge
EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu challenged the House to go ahead and change the rules. 

“If you want to change the rules again for a specific purpose, you can do that. Apartheid used to do that and pass specific rules to target certain individuals.”

The party says the new rules target them specifically.

“You did so before and passed a rule that was targeted at members of the EFF, and unless such a rule is rescinded, we are not going to co-operate with any of you. We are not sent here by you, we are not employed by you.

“The employers of the EFF are the voters, and they are happy with what we are doing. Whatever you are doing, we are not going to agree with more rules for us.”

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