President Jacob Zuma berated Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete on Thursday for allowing chaos to reign in the National Assembly.
Zuma said while travelling in Africa he had been confronted by “very embarrassing questions about this country”.
“Some are complaining, particularly in our region, that the manner in which we behave as parliament we are changing the perception they have heard of us, that [we] are alienating an example of a constitutional democracy.
“They are now saying [parliament] is influencing some of their people in a wrong way,” Zuma said.
Mbete and other presiding officers have repeatedly been confronted by an onslaught of aggression in the House and have had to call first the serjeant-at-arms and then the protection services to remove MPs, mostly those from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
On Wednesday, the EFF were forcefully removed from the House again over repeated calls that Zuma could not speak on the presidency budget as he was an “illegitimate president” who had squandered taxpayers’ money.
“I’m happy that you were able to handle the House, but commenting as somebody who from time to time comes to this House to participate I believe you need to do more to bring this House into order.
“I go around Africa and people ask me very embarrassing questions about this parliament. I thought you should know this … I think it will be very important that you seriously bring this House into order. For the dignity of the country … Some people who we represent aren’t happy in the way this parliament is conducting itself,” Zuma said.
Mbete responded that she had also heard a complaint that there was nothing parliament considered speaking about but Zuma.
Speaking in isiZulu, Mbete said parliament had to be respected, that the constitution had to be respected but as members of parliament they needed to come together.
She said there were political parties that did not respect parliament as an institution yet claimed to respect the constitution.
Opposition parties boycotted yesterday’s replies by Zuma to questions raised in the House.
In a statement signed by seven opposition parties, including the DA, the majority opposition party leader Mmusi Maimane said: “We cannot in good conscience legitimise an empty speech of an utterly discredited and illegitimate president.”