“Tomorrow we are taking this to court. The papers are read, we are getting an urgent interdict to stop this,” EFF leader Julius Malema told singing and dancing supporters on the steps of Parliament’s Marks Building.
Minutes earlier, the ANC majority had secured a vote of 210 in favour of the report sanctioning his party for heckling President Jacob Zuma to repay money spent on his Nkandla home, with 111 against and three absentions.
Undeterred, Malema said the EFF would pursue the issue and insist the president implement Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s order that he reimburse the state for luxuries added to his home.
“We are going to demand that Zuma pay back the money whether they suspend us or not. The only crime we committed was to ask for the money of the people that was stolen by Jacob Zuma.”
Earlier, after a fraught debate and filibuster by the EFF, Malema asked Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli whether the adoption of the report by the powers and privileges committee meant that the suspension had taken effect.
There was no clear answer.
“If the suspension kicks in now, we will be back for the state of the nation” address in February, EFF MP Andile Mngxitama said. “For them, that does not make sense.”
Malema told supporters the EFF fully intended disrupting the formal opening of Parliament unless Zuma heeded opposition parties’ calls to answer questions on the Nkandla controversy in the legislature.
This is now a technical impossibility, as Thursday’s special sitting was the last for the year.
“If Jacob Zuma does not come to answer questions between now and the state of the nation, then he must know he is not going to give that state of the nation,” he threatened.
In the debate on the report, Malema had called Zuma a criminal.
This time the slur went without objection as Tsenoli and ANC MPs clearly sought to have the sitting – watched over by a sizeable police presence – run its course without a repeat of the violence that ensued a fortnight ago when riot police removed an EFF MP who called Zuma a thief and refused to withdraw the remark.
The EFF objected vehemently to the speech by ANC MP Lemias Mashile, who chaired the committee that found them guilty of contempt charges – after he said all members had agreed not to call Speaker Baleka Mbete and other MPs as witnesses.
Malema said Mashile was lying when he said the committee agreed not to “call Baleka” and other witnesses.
When Tsenoli urged him to respect the rules by prefacing any direct reference to Mbete and Mashile as “honourable” as customary, he snapped: “There is nothing honourable about Mashile.”
At one point, as several EFF MPs clamoured to make interjections, Tsenoli resorted to having their microphones switched off, drawing even more protest.
“Cutting off microphones is not one of the things you should do,” EFF Chief Whip Floyd Shivambu snapped.
After the debate, Shivambu embarked on a filibuster masked as an attempt to move an amendment to the committee’s report, clearly having done his homework to find loopholes in parliamentary rules.
He brandished a speech Malema made at the start of the committee’s work in September, as well as Madonsela’s 400-page report on Nkandla, warning that he would quote at length from both to motivate his amendment.
Countless objections from the ANC and counter-objections from the EFF later, Shivambu dared Tsenoli to say openly that he was preventing him from continuing.
The deputy speaker did so, after several senior ANC members, including Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor, urged him to be firm with the EFF and end the filibuster.
“You have been given ample opportunity… so we are taking it that you are not moving an amendment,” he said.
The report adopted by the house recommends that Malema, Godrick Gardee, Shivambu, Mpho Ramakatsa, Khanyisile Litchfield-Tshabalala, and Mbuyiseni Ndlozi be suspended without pay for 30 days.
Fellow EFF MPs Elsabe Louw, Ngwanamakwetle Mashabela, Nthako Matiase, Hlengiwe Maxon, Magdalene Moonsamy, and Andile Mngxitama, are to be suspended for a fortnight and eight more ordered to submit a verbal apology to the House.
Most opposition parties had strongly opposed its adoption, agreeing with the EFF that the process was not fair because the committee was weighted with ANC MPs.
“This little committee’s investigation was little more than a kangaroo court,” the Democratic Alliance’s Mike Waters said.
The sitting ended a term dominated by opposition parties’ demands that Zuma account to Parliament on Nkandla and outrage at the Speaker’s decision to send police into the chamber.
On Thursday morning, Mbete wrote to parties’ chief whips noting that the EFF had threatened “blood on the floor” and reminded them of the provisions of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislation Act.
That law allows the Speaker, or the person chairing the sitting at the time the right to call in the police if lives are in danger.