Former public protector Thuli Madonsela on Saturday used her Twitter account to voice her disapproval over the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) threatening to invade Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan’s podium in parliament on Thursday, in an outburst that resulted in the party’s entire caucus being removed from the chamber.
“[Defend] this if you must,” Madonsela said, before making it clear that she would not be doing so, viewing the incident as “one of the lowest points in our democracy”.
“The constitution opened a portal to a new struggle for greater frontiers of freedom,” she added, implying that the actions of the EFF had not taken this struggle forward.
It seems EFF leader Julius Malema felt let down by Madonsela joining the many voices who have expressed strong criticism over his party’s actions, responding “Le wena gape?” [“You too?”]
Defending this if you must. This is one of the lowest points in our democracy. The constitution opened a portal to a new struggle for greater frontiers of freedom. ➡️Is it? https://t.co/0TVUA4eU1l
— Prof Thuli Madonsela (@ThuliMadonsela3) July 13, 2019
Le wena gape?
— Julius Sello Malema (@Julius_S_Malema) July 13, 2019
The incident in parliament began with EFF MP Sam Matiase calling Gordhan a “constitutional delinquent” before he and 14 other EFF members tried to invade his lectern. Democratic Alliance (DA) chief whip John Steenhuisen stood in front of Gordhan for protection, causing him to insist: “No, no, no, they must touch me. They must touch me.”
This took place before the delivery of Gordhan’s public enterprises budget speech, in an outburst that had the party’s entire caucus ejected from parliament and earned them accusations of “fascist populism” from Gordhan.
The minister was not alone in his condemnation, with Steenhuisen calling the party’s behaviour the “grossest violations of parliamentary privilege I’ve ever seen”.
Politicians including the ANC’s Bheki Hadebe, the NFP’s Shaik Emam, the IFP’s Narend Singh and the ACDP’s Steve Swart voiced agreement with Steenhuisen’s comment.
The “constitutional delinquent” insult has become a popular one among EFF politicians. Party leader Julius Malema used the term during the debate that followed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s third state of the nation (Sona) address, which took place on June 20.
Malema took exception to Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan’s inclusion on the list of speakers who spoke in parliament on June 26.
“I don’t think it would be advisable for Mr Gordhan to address us,” Malema said, citing public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s report finding that found Gordhan had irregularly approved the early retirement of Ivan Pillay from the South African Revenue Service (Sars) while finance minister.
“This is not a point of order,” deputy speaker Lechesa Tsenoli replied.
“And you allow a constitutional delinquent to speak,” Malema continued, before Tsenoli cut him short, telling him that he was making a “political statement” rather than rising on a genuine point of order.
Since the release of the report referenced on this occasion, Mkhwebane has again accused Gordhan of violating the constitution in another report, which found that the minister had lied about having met with the controversial Gupta family, that the so-called “rogue unit” at Sars existed, and that Gordhan probably knew about its existence.
(Background reporting, Amanda Watson)