Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) deputy president and MP Floyd Shivambu has defended his conduct in parliament on Tuesday after he was slammed for asking Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba about his nationality.
During the minister’s testimony to parliament’s public enterprises committee, which is investigating allegations of state capture at state-owned entities, Shivambu asked Gigaba about claims made by former ANC MP, Vytjie Mentor, on social media last year that he was a Zimbabwean national.
“What is offensive when people ask you about your nationality? It happens every day when we apply for visas, and when we travel people ask us about our nationalities. Isn’t this an opportunity for you to clarify where you were born?” Shivambu asked.
Gigaba and acting committee chairperson Zukiswa Rantho didn’t take kindly to the EFF MP’s question, as well as some Twitter users, who thought the question was irrelevant to the inquiry’s work and was xenophobic.
Gigaba refused to answer the question and said Mentor’s allegations were part of an extensive “vilification campaign” he had been subjected to for political reasons for some time now. He also said Shivambu had known him for a long time and found it baffling that he was asking him about his nationality.
“All of that vilification has been malicious, and this question itself is malicious. Why does it arise now?” he asked.
Well-known economist and columnist Xhanti Payi said in a tweet Shivambu’s question was “shameful”, while another tweep accused the EFF of being hypocritical by purporting to be against colonialism while the party was against other Africans from different countries on the continent.
Shivambu defended his question on Twitter, saying he didn’t think asking any African about their nationality was xenophobic and Gigaba should have responded to his question rather than taking offence.
He tweeted: “It isn’t xenophobic to ask the nationality of any African, it is xenophobic & self-hate to ‘take offence’ when asked where were you born, mostly because the asked person dreads that they might be born in a different politically defined territory in Africa. Just respond the move on! [sic]”
Last month, EFF leader Julius Malema also received backlash on Twitter and was accused of being xenophobic after he said Duduzane Zuma and his twin sister, Duduzile, were not “proper South Africans” during a radio interview with Tbo Touch’s Touch HD.
Malema said Duduzane, who is in business with the controversial Gupta brothers accused of state capture and corruption, was not a patriotic South African and was born in Mozambique.
“They [Duduzane and Duduzile] can’t speak any of the South African vernacular languages. Duduzane is not a proper South African,” Malema said.
Here’s what other tweeps thought of Floyd’s question: