/ 20 November 2023

EFF MPs walk out of parliament’s disciplinary hearing citing an unfair process

2023 State Of The Nation Address In South Africa
The Economic Freedom Fighters want to subpoena Ramaphosa to testify about whether he felt threatened when its members jumped onto the stage during his State of the Nation address in February. (Photo by Jeffrey Abrahams/Gallo Images via Getty Images)

Six members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) charged with contempt of parliament laws for their actions during President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation address in February will be taking their fight for fair disciplinary procedures to the Western Cape high court.

This comes after the MPs staged a walkout from a disciplinary hearing on Monday condemning it as a “kangaroo court”, after the committee declined their request for a postponement to finalise their defence.

The EFF senior leaders who have been hauled in for disciplinary action include its president Julius Malema, his deputy Floyd Shivambu, secretary general Marshall Dlamini, spokesperson Sinawo Tambo and former spokespersons Vuyani Pambo and Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.

Malema said the EFF would not be subjected to the ruling which he said was unfair towards them. 

“It’s a problem, this thing; that you hire minorities when you are targeting Africans. You did that with the public protector [Busisiwe Mkhwebane], now you bring a white man here,” he said. 

Malema’s reference to a white man was to the initiator prosecutor, Anton Katz.

“You brought this white man to come and prosecute us and you know that every white man will come for the blood of the EFF.

“I don’t care if my legal counsel says he has respect for him — I don’t have any respect for him; he is a DA [Democratic Alliance] lawyer. No white man will persecute the EFF in this kangaroo court, because its outcome has been determined before by the DA and yourself,” Malema said.

The EFF recused its legal team and they left the meeting. The proceedings continued in their absence.

The hearing, which is meant to establish whether the MPs breached the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act, started in parliament on Monday and is set to continue until Wednesday.

During the State of the Nation address in February, EFF MPs raised several points of order, which led National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to ask that they be removed from the chamber.

As the MPs walked out, some of them stormed onto the stage where Ramaphosa was sitting.

EFF legal representative Tembeka Ngcukaitobi filed for a month-long postponement of the disciplinary proceedings to enable parliament to find an independent judge to preside over the matter, arguing bias against the EFF.

Ngcukaitobi said it was procedurally unfair for the ANC to lay the charges against EFF MPs and be witnesses to the case.

“The problem with this committee is that 61% of members are from the ANC. You are sitting in judgment of your political opponents — the EFF. The ANC, therefore, holds enormous power over their political opponents,” he said.

Ngcukaitobi questioned why parliament had taken 10 months to prosecute the members, arguing that it had not given them enough time to prepare themselves.

“There was undue delay by parliament to lay the charge, therefore, there should be no rush to prosecute the matter and the EFF members should be given enough time to consult and prepare their defence,” he said.

He argued that the case needed time to issue subpoenas to the speaker of parliament and Ramaphosa to confirm that a threat of intimidation could be added to the case because it is a “subjective charge”.

“Should Ramaphosa say he did not feel threatened that day, then the charges fall away, but we need time to do that, because we don’t want to place the committee in a position where they have to subpoena their leaders,” Ngcukaitobi said.

But Katz said that according to rule 155 of parliamentary law, the committee has been capacitated to act and decide on what disciplinary action should be taken. 

He said the postponement should have been filed on time and not two days before the hearing. 

He added that the committee should make its final recommendation, table it in the house, and then let whoever deems it appropriate challenge the validity.

“That is how these things are done,” Katz said. “If the accused are not happy with the verdict of the committee, then they can go to the high court.”

The committee is also investigating other incidents involving the EFF, which will be heard on 4 December in the high court. 

Ngcukaitobi said the six accused members will also be joining next month’s hearing.

Malema said that whatever decision the committee took, the EFF would remain in parliament.