EFF MPs accused of disrupting Sona off the hook

16 EFF MPs were found guilty of misconduct for storming the stage during Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan’s budget vote in July 2019. Picture: Reuters/Sumaya Hisham.

In July last year, around 20 MPs stormed the stage while Gordhan delivered his budget speech.

EFF members accused of disrupting the State of the Nation Address (Sona) over former President FW De Klerk’s presence are off the hook for the time being.

This comes after Parliament’s Powers and Privileges committee agreed that there is little prospect of succeeding, or bringing charges, against the members for their part in disrupting Sona in February.

On Friday, the committee was briefed by Advocate Ncumisa Mayosi who was brought in as an external initiator.

Mayosi said the matter must be considered in respect of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act.

She also said Sona was a joint sitting of the Parliament and therefore the joint rules applied.

“One of the things specified there [in the act] is that when a member willfully fails or refuses to obey any rule, order or resolution of the house, then that is contempt. The joint rules do not provide as do the National Assembly (NA) rules, that a member may not rise on a point of order that has already been deliberated on. I think the practice in Parliament states specifically that the ruling of a presiding officer is final and that is that. I think that is the practice, but that’s not specified,” Mayosi said.

EFF MPs delayed the start of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Sona by over an hour as it objected to the presence of De Klerk, who was in the public gallery.

Party leader Julius Malema objected to Parliament extending an invite to De Klerk and referred to him as murderer.

“If we are going to say you are in contempt of Parliament because you failed to obey a rule, then we must refer to that rule. For the purposes of the joint rules and this sitting, the rule really can only be [rule number] 14G. It is 14G, in the absence of explicit specification as [it is] with the NA rules, which then allows a presiding officer to form an opinion that a member is deliberately contravening a provision of the rules. Again, we must find the rule in the joint rules that a member is deliberately contravening,” she said.

Mayosi further added: “It is 14G that allows a presiding officer to form an opinion, that a member is in contempt or disregarding the authority of the chair or that a member’s conduct is grossly disorderly. The NA rules have a similar provision. The NA rules specifies what exactly gross disorderly conduct is. But that is not provided for here [in the joint sitting]. Whatever conduct it is we are dealing with; the contempt has to be located within the applicable rules.”

Committee chairperson Philly Maphulane said the committee has no prospect of succeeding with the matter.

“It is quite clear that based on the comments expressed and the advice received, this committee does not have any prospect of succeeding or bringing charges against the members referred to us. There has been a deficiency that has been identified in the joint rules of Parliament especially as it relates to repetition of point of orders,” he said.

EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said: “We are discussing this from a prejudicial view. We are asked to view a video. Everybody is looking at members of the EFF. That is wrong. The Speaker ought to refer a specific member to us, she must open a charge. Then an investigation ensues. In this case we are basically fishing.”

The matter involving an alleged attack on Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan will be discussed next week.

In July last year, around 20 MPs stormed the stage while Gordhan delivered his budget speech.

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