Parliament 2016: Same politics, different brawls, new slogans and interesting insults

Another year, and there were new rules, some brawls, a few new slogans, insults and old politics which dominated the 2016 year in Parliament.

The year started much like it did in 2015, with the Economic Freedom Fighters being thrown out within the first hour of President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address in February.

But this time, the party had moved on from “pay back the money”, to “Zupta must fall”, referring to the president’s relationship with the controversial Gupta family.

And this set the theme for the year, with the EFF refusing to be in Zuma’s presence in Parliament, as they did not recognise his authority.

The party was thrown out numerous times during Zuma’s question and answer sessions in Parliament until they decided in December to boycott the president’s last appearance.

This, the party said, was because he was not their president.

“Jacob Zuma was found by the Constitutional court to have violated his oath of office, and thereby undermining the Constitution in that he failed to uphold and protect it,” the party’s spokesperson said Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said at the time.

Motions of no confidence

Perhaps working to prove Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity, opposition parties failed, twice, to remove ANC president Jacob Zuma from office, but when the ruling party banded together.

In March, the Democratic Alliance tabled a motion of no confidence in Zuma which failed when 225 MPs voted against the motion, while 99 voted for, and 22 MPs abstained.

They were just fresh from their Nkandla victory against Zuma in the constitutional court.

But the party tried again in November, following the release of the public protector’s report into allegations of state capture.

Zuma again survived when the motion again failed 214 MPs voted against it and 126 voted in its favour.

Changes in ANC benches

Former ANC chief whip Stone Sizani resigned from Parliament in March and was replaced with former party spokesperson Jackson Mthembu, who has had the enormous task of cracking the whip amidst a divided party.

Mthembu has taken no prisoners in his quest to get MPs working, promising to take truant MPs to task.

This has led to MPs facing disciplinary for missing crucial votes in Parliament this year.

Mthembu has been swimming against the tide since he took office, barely towing the party line.

The chief whip called for the whole ANC NEC, including Jacob Zuma, to step down following the party’s performance in the local government elections.

The calls were also made during the time when finance minister Pravin Gordhan faced criminal charges.

But despite that view, he led the party caucus in ensuring that Zuma survives the November motion.

Tough year for Zuma

For Zuma, 2016 in Parliament was no walk in the park.

From February to December, he endured many a strenuous sitting, fielding insults from opposition MPs, ranging from the usual “thief, corrupt, captured Gupta puppet” to the DA’s new “Zuma prison number, JZ783”, which referred to the 783 corruption charges which were in the spotlight in court this year.

At some point, he lamented the abuse hurled at him by MPs and appealed to speaker Baleka Mbethe to put an end to the hostility.

“Each time when I come here, I am abused by members of your house. Instead of answering questions, I sit here being called a criminal, a thief,” he told the speaker in September.

“I have to sit here and wait for these discussions. Your house must do something. If this house is not interested in me answering questions, you must say so, then don’t call me,” he continued after yet another gruelling question session where the EFF had walked out during his session.

Agang MP learns to throw shade

But 2016 was not all doom and gloom. It was also the year that Agang MP Andries Tloumma learnt to throw shade, and did it very well.

He went from slamming the EFF in February for “stunts that show sights of Nyaope side effects, to showing extreme contempt for Zuma and Parliament.

According to Tloumma’s version 2016, Parliament was a corrupt cave where vampires flourished.

Listening to Zuma every year was traumatising, he said when the National Assembly was debating a motion to let former public protector Thuli Madonsela address the house.

This year, he has referred to Zuma as an incubator of poverty, a punishment to the nations and a false messiah who has become a monster.

But his best zingers were thrown the day MPs were debating a motion of no confidence when he used the bible to describe Zuma’s presidency.

“Our President has brought us Sodoma and Gomora. He’s our Nebkadinezar.”

Business of Parliament

It has also been business unusual in Parliament this year. The institution was hammered by the courts this year.

In March, a Constitutional Court ruling ensured that the Speaker of the National Assembly will no longer be able to direct the arrest or use police to eject Members of Parliament from debates.

The court declared section 11 of the Powers and Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act is unconstitutional.

In September, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) has ruled that the signal jamming during last year’s State of the Nation Address was unconstitutional and unlawful.

Between July and September, the embattled Parliament was also faced with strike action from its employees, who bemoaned secretary Gengezi Mgidlana’s management style.

The Nehawu affiliated workers downed tools calling for Mgidlana to resign.

But the business of Parliament continued, starting with the appointment of the public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to the inquiry into the SABC board’s fitness to hold office.

Mkhwebane was appointed to succeed Thuli Madonsela in a transparent, public participatory forum in Parliament, where CVs were posted online for members of the public to comment on or lodge objections.

This is now the method that is being used for all appointments done by Parliament.

After almost two years, three interview processes, national assembly finally voted for Inspector General of Intelligence candidate Setlhomamaru Dintwe.

Parliament also adopted its new rules this year, allowing for more clarity on motions as well as the removal of MPs from the National Assembly.

In total, Parliament this year passed 18 Bills. There are currently 27 Bills before both the committees of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces. – News24

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