Mbete vows action after parliament fistfight

National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete.
National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete.
Image: Esa Alexander/Sunday Times.

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete said on Thursday she was worried about a “spate” of disruptions in Parliament - and was determined to take action.

Mbete’s concern comes after violent scenes played out in the Labour Portfolio Committee meeting on Wednesday. The committee blamed members of the South Africa Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu)‚ while Saftu‚ instead‚ complained about how its members had been manhandled.

A video of the incident showed fists being thrown and people being forcefully removed from the committee room.

“On Wednesday‚ Members of the Portfolio Committee on Labour‚ dealing with the National Minimum Wage Bill‚ were left distraught as a group of members of the public‚ clad in South African Federation of Trade Unions regalia‚ disrupted the meeting‚ threatened Members of Parliament and caused damage to property‚” said Mbete.

But she said this was not the only incident.

“In May 2017‚ a joint meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance and the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry‚ which was hearing public submissions on transformation of the financial sector‚ was disrupted by Black First Land First. The joint committee meeting chairpersons were verbally abused‚ with one also threatened with physical assault‚” she said.

Mbete said that in both these cases‚ the Parliament Protection Services had to be called to intervene.

“It is an offence to interfere with the ability of Members of Parliament to conduct their work – in terms of the Powers‚ Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act. In the wake of [Wednesday’s[ disruption‚ the Speaker has instructed that a full report be submitted to her office to ensure that appropriate action is taken.

"It is unacceptable. We can't allow a situation where certain individuals come to a democratic Parliament just to trample on its constitutional rights and Members of Parliament’s rights to perform their work. We will consider what action is to be taken after studying the report. Also‚ importantly‚ the leaders of this trade union organisation should be contacted‚" said Mbete.

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