The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) is demanding that the disciplinary hearings against six of its members be heard by a judge or advocate. This follows the disruption of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) in February when the EFF stormed the stage in protest over the Phala Phala matter.
The Powers and Privileges Committee met on Monday morning to begin the hearings.
But the EFF sought a postponement.
Six EFF MPs are now being charged with contempt of Parliament for their actions in the National Assembly in February as the EFF moved to demand Ramaphosa be held accountable even despite various agencies clearing the President of wrongdoing.
They include EFF leader Julius Malema, Floyd Shivambu, Marshall Dlamini, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, Vuyani Pambo and Sinawo Thambo.
The EFF has indicated that it has approached the high court in Cape Town to halt the disciplinary hearings pending their legal challenge to the disciplinary rules of Parliament.
“If you continue constituting the committee in the current fashion you will fall foul of the common law rule against bias. Your proceedings will be unlawful and unconstitutional. So, that is why we do not ask that the matter should not sit. We never made that request but what we do ask is that the matter should sit before a neutral, independent chairperson,” says Adv Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC, EFF legal counsel.
However, this was opposed by the initiator of the hearings.
“The current application for the application has been brought for one purpose only; to delay the commencement of the enquiry on unsustainable grounds. It has not been brought in good faith. It has been brought at the eleventh hour in what may be legitimately regarded as an ambush. The application for postponement must be dismissed,” says Adv Anton Katz SC, Initiator: EFF disciplinary hearing.
Video: EFF MPs hearing – SONA Disruption case
In the end, the committee resolved to proceed with its proceedings.
“Taking all relevant matters into account, the committee has not been persuaded that the enquiry will not be conducted in a fair, reasonable and procedural fair manner. The affected members have not made out a case for a postponement of their hearing. In the circumstances, the committee has decided there is no factual or legal basis for the matter to be postponed and the enquiry will commence,” says Violet Siwela, Chairperson: Powers and Privileges committee.
But this was met with resistance by the EFF. And the party and its legal representatives staged a walkout of the proceedings.
“We recuse our legal representatives, they must now leave that place and we are also leaving this nonsense of a kangaroo court. Thank you,” says Julius Malema, EFF leader.
There is only one witness and he has concluded his testimony.
“In the event of serious disruption as a result of members refusing to be removed, parliament may suspend proceedings. So, because there was a sense that what was happening was unprecedented, it was not sanctioned by the rules and the Speaker took the action that she took precisely because she felt also that the manner it happened was in breach of the rules so in my view there was a disruption in the house,” says Masibulele Xaso, Secretary to the National Assembly.
The EFF says its disciplinary hearing should not be at the mercy of its political opponents. And it wants the committee to wait for the outcome of the December 4 High Court case, on the legal challenge over rules of the Parliamentary disciplinary hearing.
Video: EFF walks out of disciplinary hearing – Rebone Tau weighs in