Political parties condemn scuffle in parliament

Parliament scuffles
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African National Congress (ANC) Chief Whip, Jackson Mthembu, has described the chaos that broke out in the National Assembly as a disgrace and the lowest point in the history of a democratic parliament.

The chaos broke out as the Economic Freedom Fighter (EFF), Democratic Alliance (DA) and Agang clashed during President Cyril Ramaphosa’s oral reply session.

This led to House Chairperson, Thoko Didiza, calling on the Chief Whips to discuss the incident.

“What happened yesterday was the lowest point of Parliament in its 25 years of existence. It’s something that we should not allow again moving forward. In fact I twitted yesterday that this was disgraceful. And I think our finders of Parliamentary Democracy, – the Mandelas, and the Sisulus are probably turning in their grave to witness what happened yesterday. Secondly it’s not a place where we heat each other, we are not the Parliament of Japan, we are the Parliament of South Africa,”says Mthembu.

Freedom Front Plus Chief Whip, Corne Mulder, shared the same sentiment as Mthembu.

“What happened yesterday was an absolute disgrace and a new low-low-low-low point for Parliament in South Africa. The example set yesterday to the Public out there is something to cry about. So I think that’s what happens if you allow people to use racial slurs in the house to identify people by race all the time. My problem with the EFF is that they are using democracy to basically destroy democracy,” says Mulder.

EFF Chief Whip, Floyd Shivambu, says the EFF will not apologise for what transpired in the house or for calling the DA and its leaders racist.

The EFF had reacted after DA Chief Whip, John Steehuisen, told EFF MPs that they are VBS looters.

EFF Leader, Julius Malema responded by calling Steenhuisen a racist young man who had been accused of rape. The chaos was sparked after Steehuisen rose to react to remarks made by President Cyril Ramphosa against him, about his listening abilities.

This prompted EFF MP, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, to object to Steehuisen speaking while he was not recognised by House Chairperson, Thoko Didiza.

SABC News spoke to Shivambu about the EFF’s stance, after the multi-party Chief Whip’s forum.

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with the EFF exposing the DA racism. To characterise the Democratic Alliance as racist is the correct thing to do. It is a fact that even members of the DA have been resigning in councils have been exposing the racism of the DA. So it is not racist to characterise the Democratic Alliance and its leaders as racists, so the EFF stands firmly that there is absolutely nothing wrong that we did in Parliament. Everything that we did was within the law and was within the confines of the Parliamentary rules and we stand by what we did there,” says Shivambu.

Steenhuisen referred to the chaos as fascist thuggery of the worst kind by the EFF. He labelled the EFF as a racist fascist party.

“Economic Freedom Fighters are fascists, racist party and have injected the issue of race into the South African parliament. If you don’t say what they agree with, you are racists. If you make points of order that they don’t like they howl you down and beat you up. This is fascist thuggery of the worst kind. And it has no place in the political discourse. Parliament should be a place where words are used and arguments and ability to be able to drive issues. This is not a place for thuggery and violence,” says Steenhuisen.

The chief Whips of the UDM, Nqabayomzi Kwankwa, the AIC’s Lulama Ntshayisa and Nhlanhla Khubisa from the NFP have also made their voices heard.

Khubisa says, “The image the decorum and the dignity of Parliament was compromised. And it made it difficult for the presiding officer to execute their task. What we must say such a thing really didn’t bode well for our nation as a whole.”

Ntshayisa says, “As African Independent Congress we also condemn what happened in the House. We did discuss here how to deal with these issues happening in Parliament because it does not takes anywhere. It’s bad behaviour on the part of us.”

“Well, we hope that the discussions today in the chief whip’s forum were fruitful. The only way we are going to measure whether they are fruitful or not is by seeing a change of behaviours among political leaders firstly and members of Parliament of different political parties. We cannot and we will not mince our words as the UDM that what happened yesterday is unadulterated clap trap,” says Kwankwa.

“MPs involved will be referred to Parliament’s DC” 

The House chairperson of the National Assembly, Thoko Didiza, says she will refer a number of MPs to Parliament’s Disciplinary Committee following a scuffle in the House on Tuesday.

This comes after DA chief whip John Steenhuisen called EFF leader Julius Malema a VBS bank looter. Malema in turn called Steenhuisen a racist who had been accused of rape. This led to a physical fight between EFF Member of Parliament Nazier Paulsen and Agang MP Andries Tlouamma.

Didiza has ruled that the comments and conduct of both Steenhuisen and Malema and conduct were unparliamentary. Both refused to withdraw their comments opting to rather leave the House.

Didiza says Paulsen and Tlouamma will be referred to the Disciplinary Committee.

“I believe referral to the DC of this incident specific Tlouamma, Paulsen as well as other members that can be identified in video footage as being part of scuffle will best serve in addressing conduct that erupted.”