Opposition MPs unite against Speaker Baleka Mbete, who snaps...
THE DA-EFF filibuster in Parliament yesterday starkly highlighted tensions in the House as the two opposition parties firmly had Speaker Baleka Mbete in their crosshairs.
But analysts say the ensuing pandemonium again brought to the fore questions over the national legislature’s leadership.
“If citizens don’t like a politician, it’s not a problem. If they don’t like Parliament, it’s a serious problem,” said Steven Friedman, director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, adding that everyone was behaving badly.
“Obviously it’s bad for Parliament… As things stand, it’s not really damaging the legislative cycle. The real problem is that it is damaging the standing of Parliament in the eyes of (South Africans). The core of the issue is you have a Speaker who’s not ready to resolve issues.”
Friedman said he did not foresee a change for as long as Mbete, who is also the ANC national chairwoman, remained in place.
While not commenting specifically on yesterday’s mayhem, Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution executive secretary Lawson Naidoo said there was a general concern about how the orderly business of the House had degenerated over time. “This displays a singular lack of leadership in the institution.”
Yesterday’s chaos started after the latest of a series of controversial decisions, when Mbete ruled to limit the slot for motions to 45 minutes to prevent the sitting going on “possibly to midnight” by invoking Rule 2’s “unforeseen circumstances” provision.
Her ruling came just hours after the ANC unsuccessfully requested the multiparty parliamentary programming committee to change an already consulted on programme to delay motions and members’ state-
You have lost control. Your are pushing us towards a constitutional crisis
ments until the end of the day. It was packed with an 84-minute debate on the Nkandla ad hoc committee report, two other debates and 38 committee budget review and recommendation reports.
It is understood the DA and EFF filibuster, sparked by a curious
toenadering (cosying) of political parties whose policies have nothing in common, was finalised in the party political caucuses following the programming committee meeting.
The filibuster centred on bring- ing a flurry of motions on matters they were previously frustrated about before the House.
It’s believed that not all opposition parties agreed with this filibuster strategy, but, given what was seen as the blatantness of Mbete’s ruling, they came out to support the call for it to be reversed.
Freedom Front Plus MP Pieter Groenewald appealed to Mbete to retract a ruling against the rules. “You are busy trying to bully the opposition,” he said. ACDP leader Reverend Kenneth Meshoe agreed.
But the ANC chief whip’s office later sharply criticised the “degeneration” after an “appropriate” and “noble” intervention by the Speaker to prevent the “blatant abuse” that unfolded.
Professor Susan Booysen of the Wits University Graduate School of Public and Development Management said the chaos in the National Assembly was “unbelievable”.
“Mbete has embarrassed Parliament… and she has even embarrassed the ANC. It is an unbelievable situation. She is a serially failing Speaker. She does absolutely nothing that is expected of that post.”
It was a point of order from IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa calling for Mbete’s controversial ruling to be referred to another forum for discussion that finally provided ANC chief whip Stone Sizani a face-sav- ing opening that he picked up by supporting it.
And Mbete agreed: “We are proceeding with the programme as consulted and as adopted this morning. And the content of the ruling is referred for further consultation.”
Before that, DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said Mbete had lost control of the sitting for the second time. “You are pushing us towards a constitutional crisis,” he said.
Responding to Steenhuisen’s call for ANC MP Cedric Frolick to replace her as the presiding officer, Mbete’s response was: “You wish!”.
Steenhuisen said the events of yesterday “proves once and for all that Baleka Mbete can no longer be Speaker”.
Since the arrival of the EFF in Parliament, the ANC has struggled to deal with the dynamics of an opposition party, which by Friedman’s description is pursuing headlines. For the past six months, the ANC frequently failed not to rise to provocation and resorted to trading political barbs across the floor in continuously escalating tension.
As the disorder unfolded, ANC MPs appeared gobsmacked, and the ministers in the front benches stared stonefaced across the floor. It was left to Deputy Justice and Constitutional Development Minister John Jeffery, a senior ANC parliamentarian and one time presidential parliamentary counsellor, to voice concern over the conduct of “smaller parties which represent a fraction of the electorate”.
ANC chief whip office spokesman Moloto Mothapo said the “unwarranted and unnecessary delay” sparked by the filibuster was to frustrate the critical debate on the Nkandla ad hoc committee report.
The Nkandla debate eventually got under way after the 45-minute disorder of shouting, banging of tables and waving of hands from the DA and EFF benches, sprinkled with shouts for Mbete to “leave, leave, leave”. But Mbete sat tight.
MEMBERS of Parliament’s protection services had their hands full keeping angry MPs in check outside the National Assembly chamber yesterday.
An irate Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu was physically restrained after an altercation in the hallways outside the chamber.
Tension rose when Zulu and EFF MP Godrich Gardee started sparring verbally off microphone inside the House. Zulu signalled to Gardee that they take the matter outside the chamber.
Zulu stormed into the hallway and headed to the doors leading to the side of the House where opposition party members were seated. She was followed by Social Deve lo p m e n t Minister Bathabile Dlamini.
Gardee did not emerge from the chamber, but police officers and members of Parliament’s protection services were on full alert.
ANC MPs held Zulu back as she shouted “where is he?” in her mother tongue. She was eventually escorted away, and police officers warned those in the hallway to remain calm.
Later, Zulu returned to the chamber, only to be confronted by a motion by DA MP Geordin HillLewis, who asked that she be removed because she had “brought shame to the House”.
Zulu was seen shouting the word “liar”, prompting DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard to jump up. “The honourable Minister Zulu has been seen referring to honourable Hill-Lewis as a liar. The evidence is all over YouTube,” Kohler Barnard said, referring to a clip of the hallway incident that was uploaded to the social media website.
Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli ordered that Zulu withdraw her remark, but added: “We do not use YouTube as a basis for making rulings in the House.”
Zulu later withdrew her remark. – Sapa
Remove her, she has brought shame
to the House
UNDER FIRE: Speaker Baleka Mbete responds to MPs heckling her in Parliament yesterday.