Probe into EFF’s Sona ‘disruption’ should be halted, parliamentary body rules

Picture for illustration. Members of the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party object as President Cyril Ramaphosa attempts to deliver his State of the Nation address in Parliament on 13 February 2020 in Cape Town. Picture: Reuters/Sumaya Hisham

EFF MP Nokulunga Sonti was ordered to leave the House by the speaker, but EFF leader Julius Malema objected to the manner in which she was ordered to leave and the order was withdrawn.

Parliament’s Powers and Privileges Committee says an investigation into the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) does not have a reasonable prospect of success and should not be proceeded with.

This follows an investigation into allegations of conduct constituting contempt of Parliament by EFF members during President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) on 13 February.

The EFF raised several points of order, including objecting to the presence in the gallery of former president FW de Klerk, and asked that he be requested to leave the House. They also objected to the presence of Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan in the House.

ALSO READ: EFF rejects De Klerk apology that ‘lacks sincerity’, says he must face the law

Chaos erupted as the presiding officers repeatedly ruled that the points of order were invalid, but the members persisted in repeatedly raising their objections.

EFF MP Nokulunga Sonti was ordered to leave the House by the speaker, but EFF leader Julius Malema objected to the manner in which she was ordered to leave and the order was withdrawn.

The points of order and subsequent rulings/interventions by the presiding officers lasted for just over an hour, after which the proceedings were briefly suspended by the presiding officers. At the resumption of the proceedings, following a brief statement by Malema, members of the EFF left the House of their own volition.

As they were walking out, EFF MPs allegedly threw water bottles in the direction of MPs sitting in the backbenches.

In its findings, the committee said the Sona incident did not have a reasonable prospect of success and therefore should not be proceeded with. Since the order for Sonti to leave the House was not pursued following the objection to the manner it was done, it could be reasonably inferred that she was probably absolved from having to comply with the instruction.

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The throwers of the water bottles could also not be identified from the video footage due to the angle of the camera, and therefore it was not possible to take that matter further.

“In view of the inadequacy of the Joint Rules to deal with challenges as experienced during the Joint Sitting of 13 February 2020, a process to update the Joint Rules should be embarked upon as a matter of urgency,” reads the report.

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