Today’s motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma was also the first debate of the third quarter of parliament this year.
During recess, MPs clearly stocked up on verbal ammunition to use in the verbal spats. The EFF, which has previously boycotted all House sittings debating the president, was out in full force.
“Kokuqibela, ndinondlulele i-carpet ndidlala i-number six akusekho ne goalkeeper [this is a free kick with no goalkeeper in the goalposts],” said Bantu Holomisa, leader of the UDM, stirring trademark parliamentary banter.
Cope leader Mosioua Lekota, challenging ANC MPs to remember the values ANC leaders instilled in him during his Robben Island incarceration days, was heckled by ANC members for invoking the names of struggle heroes.
“They taught me, not you. You must listen,” he said.
When Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula accused the opposition benches of attempting to mount a coup through the secret ballot, the accusation sent EFF leader Julius Malema up the wall.
“She is too old to be lying. I said it is about Edward’s father. You are misrepresenting the truth,” Malema shot back before he was quickly ordered to withdraw the comment. He had also referred to the president as Duduzane’s father.
In his abrupt style, Malema said he was withdrawing out of fear of being kicked out of the House because he wanted to be there to “vote the criminal out”. When told to withdraw the statement, he said he wanted to vote the “lemenemene [trickster] out”.
Mapisa-Nqakula was drowned out when she said the word ‘conscience’ was abused by the opposition, and her own conscience informed her to defend the ANC. Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu then shouted: “Yekela lezinto [leave those things alone].”
Deputy speaker Lechesa Tsenoli, who tried to run a tight ship, asked if Zulu had called EFF MPs “izinto”, to which she responded: “Those things know themselves,” before withdrawing the comment.
Just when Tsenoli thought the matter was settled, Malema stood up to suggest to the House that breathalysers be made available in future to determine MPs’ sobriety, an indirect barb aimed at Zulu, whose run-ins with EFF MPs are a matter of public knowledge.
Cope MP Andries Tlouamma said: “The spell of the Gutpas is so strong I can’t even recognise Minister [Malusi] Gigaba. President Zuma is beyond redemption. With his countless scandals, he can win awards in prison.
“The Gupta empire is spreading like an infectious disease. The power of the executive has been outsourced, and our Cabinet is the Guptas,” he told parliament.
Towards the end of the debate, speaker Baleka Mbete emerged to relieve Tsenoli of the chairing duties.
This sent the EFF MPs into a frenzy of applause and ululation.
“We just want to clarify we are not clapping for the minister, we are clapping for you, [speaker],” EFF MP Hlengiwe Hlophe-Maxon clarified.