When the Economic Freedom Fighters were – yet again – evicted from the National Assembly by the infamous white-shirted Parliamentary security guards last week, a single photo of an EFF member poised to strike a security guard went viral. Her name is Mmabatho Mokause.
Prior to the debacle in Parliament on Tuesday, few South Africans would have known who Mokause was. But there are now many Mokause supporters – people who watched the chaos unfold in the National Assembly, and disagree with the security team’s use of force.
A photo that captured the moment depicts her, hand raised, clutching a bag, which she’s about to use to smack a security guard. In reaction to EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi being removed from the house, Mokause says she “needed to do something”.
Mokause (38) is outspoken; she doesn’t mince her words and isn’t afraid to voice her criticism.
“As a woman and as a mother, I thought that they were going to beat him up badly. As a mother, I felt a pain, I felt pain at a brother who’s going to be hurt.”
A founding member of the EFF, she is seen as one of the party’s “mothers”. Mokause is on its central command team, and is part of the social development portfolio.
The bag she swung at the security guards belonged to fellow EFF MP Nazier Paulsen, who had given it to her for safekeeping.
Mokause says she took a swing at the security guards not just for Ndlozi, but for herself too.
“I had to hit, and the hitting was mainly to protect myself because you can see [in the photo] that there’s the hand of a [security guard] behind me. That man was hitting me; I had to use the bag to actually protect myself and fellow commissars,” she explains.
Although the EFF is known for its disruptions in Parliament, Mokause says that the way female MPs are treated by the security guards often goes unnoticed.
“Every time we as women of the EFF are harassed by the bouncers. They touch us … You know when they touch you, they can touch your private parts. When they do that, you can’t move. I’m talking about men, who when they touch you, you feel like you can’t even shake your body,” she says.
“Even as females, we are surrounded by male bouncers. There are female bouncers there, but every time we are being touched and harassed by the male bouncers.”
After the bag met its target’s back, Mokause was removed from the house by another guard, who pinned her arms behind her back. Although she is upset at the guards, she says that the Speaker of the House, Baleka Mbete, is mostly to blame.
“It’s a woman who actually took the decision to get bouncers to come and harass her own counterparts in the National Assembly. I am disappointed in her as a woman leader because she is supposed to know better.
“She is supposed to provide leadership in the National Assembly. The only thing Baleka is doing, is protecting one man – [Jacob] Zuma. Irrespective of what Zuma is doing wrong, she protects him,” Mokause says.
She hails from a conservative village in Kuruman in the Northern Cape, and says she knows what it’s like to live in a community where men are perceived as protectors.
Before joining the EFF, Mokause worked for a NGO in the Northern Cape, where she saw firsthand the effects of alcoholism, poverty, unemployment and illnesses. This is why she is passionate about women empowering themselves and others.
Although her own political party has been accused of being male-dominated, the proud mother of this young political party dismisses the claims, adding that women are treated as equals in the party.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance is calling on the EFF to pay for damages in the wake of Tuesday’s incident, while ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu says that the party must face charges.
Mokause sighs in response to this. She says that the EFF has exhausted all Parliamentary channels in attempts to lay complaints against the president, adding that the party refuses to recognise Zuma as the country’s leader.
Bouncers, Speakers, and forced removals notwithstanding, she’s adamant her party will be heard.