“I think it is important to disagree with respect,” Zuma said in his reply to the debate.
“But it is also important in exercising our democracy to respect our own rules so that we can teach people we lead as lawmakers that the laws we make here must be respected by the nation.”
On Wednesday night, parliamentary rules went out the window after Deputy Minister in the Presidency Buti Manamela drew an apparent comparison between former German dictator Adolf Hitler and Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema.
EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu told Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli that he objected to the comparison and, in his point of order, referred to Manamela as Buti, using the deputy minister’s first name.
Chastised for this by Tsenoli, Shivambu then asked him: “How do you refer to Buti as honourable, when he’s not honourable? And he’s lying now.”
When Tsenoli pointed out that it was unparliamentary to call a fellow MP a liar, Shivambu asked: “Chair, how do I say that he is not telling the truth? What is the proper word? At least guide me so that I know the rules. The reality is that he’s not telling the truth.”
More heated objections from the EFF followed after Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba referred to the fledgling party as “political opportunists” led by people facing criminal charges.
Zuma did not single out the EFF, but said his position obliged him to caution Members of Parliament that they had gone too far.
“I am underlining this because I thought that yesterday [Wednesday] we were rather almost going beyond the line in terms of what is expected of us by the people who elected us here.
“I’m not pointing fingers at any individual… I’m talking in a general way and if I don’t do it I will be failing in my duties as one of the leaders of this country.”
Since winning 25 seats in the National Assembly in the May elections, the EFF has repeatedly fallen foul of parliamentary rules. Malema was recently told to leave the National Assembly after he accused the ANC government of murdering striking miners at Marikana.