3 minute read
18 Nov 2014
12:39 pm

Ramaphosa halts EFF suspension process

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has struck a deal with opposition parties that disciplinary proceedings against the EFF will be held in abeyance in return for assurances that they will respect parliamentary rules.

FILE PICTURE: Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS

Ramaphosa told media on Tuesday the opposition have also pledged to respect leaders of government, who would in turn come to Parliament regularly to account to the legislature and answer “difficult” questions.

The crisis meeting with the opposition at Tuynhuys saw all parties agree to restore the decorum of the legislature, he added, after riot police were sent into the National Assembly on Thursday.

“We have agreed that we are going to create a climate, create a conducive climate for the executive to be accountable to come and answer questions in Parliament,” he said.

“Saying that we are going to create a climate so that there is respect, there are no insults, there is proper decorum in which all members of the executive can come and answer.”

With this, he appeared to be saying diplomatically that President Jacob Zuma would heed opposition calls to return to the National Assembly to respond to questions.

This was one of the opposition’s grievances that drove tension with the ruling party to breaking point last week.

Zuma has failed to return to the chamber to complete presidential question time after he was heckled by the Economic Freedom Fighters on August 21. MPs demanded to know when he would reimburse the state for luxuries added to his Nkandla home at taxpayers’ expense.

The assembly was on Tuesday due to adopt a report from the powers and privileges committee finding 20 EFF MPs guilty of misconduct charges stemming from that incident.

But Ramaphosa, who was flanked by opposition leaders, indicated this had been postponed indefinitely and that parties would instead try to find a political solution.

His spokesman Steyn Speed confirmed: “It will be held in abeyance while they look for a political solution.”

Asked whether assurances had been given at the meeting that the police would not be called into the legislature again, Ramaphosa said there should be no need call security forces.

“The calling in of police issue does not even arise once we address all these matters.”

He added that the independence of Parliament and the impartiality of the Speaker went without saying.

“The independence of Parliament is an issue that is beyond question. It is enshrined in our Constitution… so Parliament is a separate independent institution,” he said.

“The principle that we have all reaffirmed is that the presiding officers in Parliament must be impartial, they must apply rules consistently, without any prejudice. They must demonstrate that in reality.”

Last week, Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane threatened to stop recognising ANC national chairwoman Baleka Mbete as Speaker because the opposition saw her as biased.

Ramaphosa said a committee was being set up to address matters which had occurred in the past week and to deal with the “proper functioning” of Parliament.

He would lead the committee, while Maimane and African National Congress Chief Whip Stone Sizani would serve as deputies. The first committee meeting would take place next week.

“This committee will address all these matters politically and thereafter give guidance,” Ramaphosa said, adding that he planned to meet opposition leaders four times a year.

The opposition members who met Ramaphosa for more than two hours on Tuesday included Maimane, EFF MP Khanyisile Litchfield-Tshabalala, the United Democratic Movement’s Bantu Holomisa, the African Christian Democratic Party’s Kenneth Meshoe, the Congress of the People’s Mosiuoa Lekota, and the Freedom Front Plus’s Pieter Mulder.