African National Congress (ANC) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) caused chaos during an induction session at the Old Assembly in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon.
In videos that have been shared on social media by Democratic Alliance MP Phumzile van Damme, EFF MPs can be seen approaching what appears to be a group of ANC MPs, as Speaker Thandi Modise gets in the middle in an attempt to defuse the situation.
Other MPs can be seen taking videos of the incident.
In the end, everyone goes back to their seats.
According to newly appointed EFF MP Naledi Chirwa, the scuffle broke out after EFF MP Makoti Khawula asked a question that did not sit well with ANC MPs.
She said: “Disclaimer: Mam’Khawula was asking a pertinent question and concern of how public participation should have an impact on bills. ANC members, with arrogance, felt it was okay to silence her. The constituency represented by Mam’Khawula will not be silenced and erased and we sit back.”
Van Damme, however, placed the blame squarely at the feet of the EFF, tweeting “It’s training for new MPs. Training. But the EFF can’t help themselves.”
Van Damme referred The Citizen to DA MP Nazley Sharif, who took the video that was shared on Twitter.
The altercation was “childish” and escalated quickly, according to Sharif.
She said it began when an EFF MP was asking questions on the floor.
“The ANC felt the question was too drawn out and so ANC members got frustrated and told her to wrap it up,” she said.
After this, members of the two parties exchanged harsh words in “vernac”, according to Sharif. She said that then, suddenly, EFF MPs “rushed to the other side of the chamber” and began confronting the ANC members. This appears to be when the altercation became physical.
“Once the fight was broken up, the speaker of the house [Thandi Modise] reprimanded those involved and called on us to behave like adults,” Sharif continued.
“As a new member, [it was] wild to see how quickly emotions can turn into violence.
“We are MPs and as constituents and we represent the people of South Africa, it’s unacceptable.
“Really, all I could do was laugh because it was absurd to see adults overcome with emotion like this.”
Asked which of the two parties caused the altercation, Sharif said: “I feel like it was both of them.”
Another DA MP, Annelie Lotriet, however, told News24 that in her view, the EFF seemed to be the culprit. By her account, it started when EFF MP Makoti Khawula taunted ANC members, who then responded verbally, and that another EFF MP, Tebogo Mokwele, later took control of the microphone, shouted at the ANC members and then marched across to the ANC section, after which the physical fighting began.
Lotriet also claimed that the EFF had begun creating chaos the day before, when the induction process began on Tuesday.
“The EFF is clearly preparing for something. They are disrupting sessions and depriving new members of learning about the culture, convention and traditions of parliament,” she said.
EFF spokesperson Dr Mbuyiseni Ndlozi had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.
While no punches can be seen in the two clips included in this article, News24 reports that at least one MP confirmed that punches were indeed thrown.
Watch the video below shared by Van Damme: