/ 2 October 2023

EFF vows to challenge parliamentary cases against its MPs

Opening Of South African Parliament
The suspension prevents party leader Julius Malema and five other MPs from attending this week’s Sona and the budget speech later this month. (Photo by Ashraf Hendricks/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has vowed to defend itself at parliamentary hearings this month into its members’ allegedly disruptive behaviour during President Cyril Ramaphosa’s budget vote speech last year and his oral response to the debate about the speech.

The hearings are centered on incidents in June last year, when EFF MPs objected to being addressed by a “money launderer”. 

The party views the charges against its MPs as a form of persecution for its demand for “accountability from a money-laundering accused president of South Africa”, EFF spokesperson Sinawo Tambo said.

“We will unquestionably oppose the charges against EFF MPs in parliament. This is irrefutable evidence of the tyranny of Ramaphosa, who is a paranoid figure wielding state institutions against those who dare to oppose him,” he said.

Last year’s disruption of Ramaphosa’s speech came when EFF leader Julius Malema called on party members to disrupt all the president’s public appearances, over a controversy about the theft of foreign currency at his Phala Phala game farm in Limpopo.  Malema contended that Ramaphosa had violated his oath of office by being involved in “money laundering”.

“Everywhere and anywhere we find or see Ramaphosa, and we have an opportunity to stop him from speaking in the name of South Africa, we will do so. We call upon all the fighters and the ground forces to start treating Ramaphosa as such,” Malema said at the time.

The South African Reserve Bank has, however, cleared Ramaphosa of wrongdoing.

After raising numerous points of order in parliament to disrupt Ramaphosa’s budget vote speech, all EFF MPs present in the National Assembly were ejected from the chamber,  leading to physical altercations with security officials and delaying Ramaphosa’s speech.

Parliament also charged EFF MPs Nazier Paulsen, Khanya Ceza and Ntombovuyo Mente with disrupting an oral question session with Ramaphosa on 30 August 2022.

The hearing is set to take place next month after advocate Norman Arendse recused himself from it, citing conflict of interest with his new job as chairperson of the University of Cape Town’s council.

“Since my appointment by parliament for this task, I was also appointed as the chairperson of the UCT council, an unpaid role that involves extensive work and interactions with constituencies,” Arendse said, adding that he had sought advice from senior counsels and colleagues at the university before making this decision. Advocate Tanya Golden will be the initiator on the matter.

The EFF said it would argue against the manhandling of its female MPs during the August 2022 incident, in which party EFF members were again thrown out of the chamber, with some allegedly pulled by their hair while others were lifted and carried out. The party says it will open a case of gender-based violence. 

The National Assembly’s power and privileges committee argued that the MPs disobeyed parliamentary laws that regulate the conduct of MPs. 

  • MPs are prohibited from participating in grossly disorderly conduct in the chamber and associated forums. 
  • If an MP refuses to leave the chamber upon a presiding officer’s order, the serjeant-at-arms is responsible for removing the MP from the chamber and parliamentary precincts.
  • If necessary, the presiding officer may call upon the Parliamentary Protection Services (PPS) to assist in escorting the MP out of the chamber and precincts.
  • In cases where an MP resists removal, both the serjeant-at-arms and the PPS may employ reasonable force to overcome resistance.

Last week, Tambo was charged by the powers and privileges of parliament committee for his utterances against Ramaphosa during the June 2022 incident. The charge sheet says his conduct “disrupted the proceedings of the National Assembly and improperly interfered with the performance by the house of its authority and functions”. 

“You also continued to disregard the authority and instruction of the presiding officer when she warned you of the relevant rule which you had breached by calling the president a criminal. Your conduct improperly interfered with the exercise or performance by the House of its authority and functions,” it says.

Tambo’s hearing will take place on 13 October.

If the EFF members are found guilty of these disruptions, they could face suspension without pay for up to 30 days and may incur fines not exceeding the equivalent of one month’s salary, according to the National Assembly’s power and privileges committee.