YOU WISH!

Op­po­si­tion MPs unite against Speaker Baleka Mbete, who snaps...

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - MAR­I­ANNE MERTEN

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.

Lindiwe Zulu

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