“I would urge… that the contempt is indeed so serious as to warrant in some circumstances the most serious of penalties,” said Randall van Voore, the initiator in the disciplinary process against EFF leader Julius Malema and 19 of his fellow MPs.
The MPs were found guilty this week on all charges arising from their disruption of the National Assembly during President Jacob Zuma’s question time on August 21. They were apparently unhappy with Zuma’s replies to questions about his private home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal, where R246 million of taxpayers’ money had been spent on upgrades.
In terms of the Powers and Privileges of Parliament and Provincial legislatures Act, MPs found guilty of contempt face a list of penalties.
- a formal warning;
- a reprimand;
- an order to apologise to Parliament or the House or any person, in a manner determined by the House;
- the withholding, for a specified period, of the member’s right to the use or enjoyment of any specified facility provided to MPs;
- the removal, or the suspension for a specified period of the member from any parliamentary position occupied by the member;
- a fine not exceeding the equivalent of one month’s salary and allowances payable to the member concerned by virtue of the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers Act; and
- the suspension of the member, with or without remuneration, for a period not exceeding 30 days, whether or not the House or any of its committees is scheduled to meet during that period.
Van Voore said while the MPs had not previously been found guilty on contempt charges, there were other factors the committee had to consider.
“Those considerations would include the seriousness of the charges of contempt of which the members have been found guilty and the nature and severity of their conduct,” he said.
The fact that the affected MPs had not acknowledged wrongdoing or shown any remorse should also be seen as an aggravating factor, said Van Voore.
The 20 EFF MPs were absent from Friday’s meeting, choosing not to present arguments in mitigation of sanctions.
The committee went into a closed session following Van Voore’s presentation, and will deliberate before announcing the sanctions to be imposed on the MPs.