Opposition turns on EFF over parliamentary disruptions

Enough is enough. That was the message from opposition parties to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) on Wednesday as they ganged up against it over the proposed National Assembly rules relating to disruptions in the debating chamber.

The African National Congress (ANC) had the rare occasion of the backing of other opposition MPs during Wednesday’s parliamentary rules committee meeting. The meeting followed an earlier rules sub-committee meeting on Tuesday to finalise Parliament’s new rules regime.

While the EFF remained vehemently opposed to the “barbaric” new rules that will see members having their salaries docked when removed from the chamber‚ other parties accepted the amendments.

In a veiled but clear reference to the EFF‚ Freedom Front Plus chief whip Corne Mulder said a member cannot use democracy and democratic procedures “to try and destroy a democracy and expect those who are serious about democracy not to take steps to protect that democracy”.

“The majority of parties have come to point to say we’ve had enough. It’s not funny anymore. It’s not necessary anymore. You cannot change what happened on election day later on if it doesn’t suit you. The rules are there to remove people because of their behaviour‚ not what they say.

“If you behave in such a way that you infringe on the rights of other members of Parliament‚ then you should not come around and talk about ‘this is uncivilised‚ this is barbaric. We’ve been very tolerant. Propose we move on and get this behind us as soon as possible‚” said Mulder.

The proposed new rules will also put an end to the use of SA Police Service members in the chamber.

Security officials will also not be allowed to enter the chamber armed and can only remove a member when he or she poses a physical threat or danger.

MPs ejected from the house will also have their salary docked automatically.

Democratic Alliance chief whip John Steenhuisen said the National Assembly is a place where whoever shouts the loudest “becomes a race to the bottom where we’re “replacing debates with just shouting and screaming”.

“We can’t have a situation we had last Thursday where we were prevented from performing our functions because a political party decided that they were not happy with a particular situation. We can’t make rules to suit one political party‚” said Steenhuisen.

United Democratic Movement MP Nqabayomzi Kwankwa agreed with the DA.

“Mr Steenhuisen took the words right out of my mouth. In cases of people disrupting proceedings‚ the presiding officers are not empowered currently to do anything. If you look at the fact that they’re unable to intervene‚ this means I can actually stand literally on top of a desk and start singing while somebody is at the podium and nothing will happen to me.

“And that obviously impedes on the rights of other members to discharge their constitutional mandate. That is wrong and it needs to be addressed‚” said Kwankwa.

EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said the EFF was opposed to the proposed rules‚ in particular the physical removal of MPs.

“Nobody may ever be removed physically unless they pose a physical threat. If you are to be denied those rights‚ you must be denied those rights through due process. If the speaker believes you are guilty of grave disorder and takes your salary‚ it’s an arbitrary decision. There’s no due process. The other side of story has not been heard‚” said Ndlozi.

The EFF’s Hlengiwe Maxon said her party’s submission is the “only way to go”.

“We are treated like stepchildren in this Parliament. We need a political solution‚ not rules‚” said Maxon.

The rules committee adopted the amendments which will then be adopted by the National Assembly‚ pending a few technical and grammatical corrections.