MPs move with haste to stop parliamentary disruptions

EFF Members of Parliament disrupting proceedings (Photo by Gallo Images / Business Day / Trevor Samson)

Parliament is moving with haste to pass a set of interim arrangements to deal with disruptions to its business, with the the legislature’s rules committee adopting the stop gap measures on Tuesday.

The rule changes spell out what happens when MPs are booted from the House by a presiding officer, but refuse to leave, as was seen in June when President Jacob Zuma’s question and answer session was cancelled when Economic Freedom Fighters MPs refused to let him speak, unless it was to answer questions on when he was going to pay back a portion of the R246 million spent on his private Nkandla homestead.

During Tuesday’s meeting of the rules committee, all parties represented, barring the EFF, agreed to a set of rules clarifying what happens when MPs refuse to leave parliamentary chambers when ordered to do so by Speaker Baleka Mbete and her fellow presiding officers.

They included that the presiding officers be allowed to call in unarmed members of the Parliamentary Protection Services, and not the police, to remove errant MPs.

“We do not ever want to see a situation where the police enter a sacrosanct area which is the chamber of Parliament,” said Democratic Alliance MP Natasha Mazzone.

EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu accused parties of streamrolling the interim rules through Parliament, objecting to any physical removal of members of Parliament, unless there was a threat to life and property.

“Do not prescribe as a resolution the physical removal of members of Parliament for things they said in Parliament,” said Shivambu.

“For things that MPs say, you can’t use physical aggression. We do not believe it’s consistent with South Africa’s democratic discourse.”

The rule changes are expected to go to a full sitting of the National Assembly on Thursday for approval.

If passed, this would pave the way for Mbete to have a clear set of rules to have MPs booted, forcibly if necessary, during Zuma’s next question-and-answer session on August 6.

The interim rule changes will remain in place pending the completion of a complete review of the rule book currently taking place.

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