Sona disruption comes back to haunt the EFF

Security personnel remove Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MP out of Parliament during the State of the Nation Address (Sona) on February 09, 2017 in Cape Town, South Africa. Picture: Gallo Images / The Times / Esa Alexander

In 2014, a group of MPs were charged after they shouted ‘pay back the money’ during a question and answer session with former president Jacob Zuma.

Frivolous points of orders and errant behaviour have come back to haunt the EFF as its MPs have to answer for disrupting the State of the Nation Address (SONA) over former president FW De Klerk’s presence and an attack on Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.

On Tuesday, Parliament’s powers and privileges committee met to deliberate on the legal opinion on the disruption of SONA in February.

Committee chairperson Philly Mapulane said they had sought a legal opinion on the matter, but no initiator had been appointed as yet.

“The legal opinion was to raise two issues. The first was whether we have jurisdiction to consider the referral from the Speaker of the incident that occurred. The opinion says this committee has the jurisdiction to consider the matter and to make a conclusion either for or against.

“All what needs to happen, is that committee must allow the process to identify those against whom there are issues and charges to [be] brought. They also need to be allowed to make representations, and on the basis of representations, the committee can then decide whether [to] proceed or not,” Mapulane 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.

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

EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi called on the committee to abandon the process. He said there was no legal grounds to listen to a complaint that treated members of Parliament “as a group of a political party”.

He said: “The people of South Africa have decided that the EFF must be in that Parliament and once they are in there, a member must be referred to us [committee]. The Power and Privileges Act has no jurisdiction over a political party, there is no such a thing. It is fundamentally wrong. You can subject anyone to a procedure, but what we should be entertaining is member X who has been brought to us and he has been brought to us because the Speaker says this is what he violated. Then we investigate if indeed such a person has violated acts. That person must come and answer.”

“Even on the video you are going to watch them doing what? We are going to have to decide that they are breaking which rule… that can’t be justice. You can’t be the investigator and the judge,” Ndlozi added.

Also read: Sona: ‘Only president’s address will be entertained’ amid EFF disruption threat

Mapulane said it was premature to abandon the process as the legal opinion clarified the committee’s jurisdiction on the matter.

“The committee is satisfied with the opinion. We must then move forward to deal with the merits with what happened on the day of the SONA. The only way forward is for us to identify those members and ask them to make representations on the charges that will be put before them,” he said.

On the incident involving Gordhan, the committee heard that an initiator had been appointed.

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

The committee was yet to establish a timeline of proceedings.

It’s not the first time EFF MPs were referred to the powers and privileges committee.

In 2014, a group of MPs were charged after they shouted “pay back the money” during a question and answer session with former president Jacob Zuma.

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