Malema holds a gun to Mbete’s head
EFF leader delivers an ultimatum to the Speaker: convene a special session of Parliament, or the state of the nation speech will be disrupted
E conomic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema says National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete must either convene an early special sitting of the House to allow President Jacob Zuma to conclude a question and answer session that be began five months ago, or his party will disrupt the state of the nation speech.
In a two-page letter to Mbete, Malema calls on her to convene the special sitting before the official opening of Parliament on February 12, or the EFF will disrupt President Zuma during the opening of Parliament.
“We officially ask that you convene Parliament prior to the 12th of February 2015, which will primarily afford the President of the Republic of South Africa [to finish his question session].
“Please note that failure to accommodate our request will give us no other option but to insist that President Jacob Zuma answer the questions [during] the state of the nation address,” Malema wrote.
President Zuma last appeared in Parliament in August when his question and answer session was interrupted by EFF MPs shouting “pay back the money”, a reference to findings of the Public Protector that Zuma was liable for all non-security upgrades at his home in Nkandla.
Pandemonium broke out after EFF MPs accused Zuma of being evasive with his answers. They banged on tables and chairs, and police had to be called in to try to restore order. The sitting was eventually abandoned.
Since then, opposition parties have been trying to get Zuma back to Parliament to answer a number of questions posed by MPs, specifically on the Nkandla matter.
EFF MPs who disrupted Zuma were eventually charged by Parliament and found guilty in absentia. Malema, his deputy, Floyd Shivambu, and national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi were suspended for 20 days and docked of a month’s salary. Six others faced a 14-day suspension without pay.
But the party approached the courts to have the sanction, which was supposed to have been effected in December, halted. The EFF won an interdict preventing Parliament from imposing sanctions on its MPs. The letter to the Speaker is an indication that the battles in Parliament are set to continue this year.
Malema said in the letter that precedence had already been set when a special sitting of the House was convened late in November to adopt the report of the powers and privileges committee, which deals with discipline among MPs.
“Parliament has already set precedence of convening special sittings for specific matters, and this was confirmed when it was convened on November 28 2014 to receive the report of the powers and privileges committee, and to deal with other business of the National Assembly.” He warned that should his request be ignored, his party would have no choice but to use the state of the nation speech to demand answers from the president.
Malema told City Press that he wrote the letter because the rules of Parliament stated clearly that if the president could not finish his question session for any reason, he should be allowed to continue where he left off at the next question and answer session. “President Zuma was not able to finish the last time he came to Parliament to answer questions. We think that he must be afforded the opportunity to conclude this before the opening of Parliament.”
The presidency insists that Zuma, who is not an MP, has fulfilled all his parliamentary responsibilities for 2014 because he is only required to answer questions four times a year. Asked if the EFF was concerned about Parliament possibly beefing up security in anticipation of disruptions during the state of the nation speech, Malema said their request for an earlier special sitting was not in contravention of any rules of Parliament.
He said it was up to the Speaker to decide if she wanted Zuma to conclude his question and answer session earlier, or during the state of the nation speech. “We will abide by all the rules of Parliament, but the Speaker must decide,” he said. Should the EFF carry out its threat, it would be the first time since 1994 that a sitting president’s state of the nation speech gets disrupted.
Parliamentary decorum dictates that the president is afforded the opportunity to deliver the state of the nation speech on a set date. Afew days later, all parties are given an opportunity to debate the speech. The president then responds once this debate is concluded.
Mbete’s spokesperson, Mandlakazi Sigcawu, confirmed receipt of the letter and said it was receiving attention.