Cape Town - Parliament should move to Pretoria because police took their time responding on Thursday to the call to eject members of the EFF who had defied an instruction to leave, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said.
The slow response – by police answering to Western Cape provincial commissioner Arno Lamoer – might have been calculated to embarrass the government, Mantashe said yesterday.
However, DA leader and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille said last night Mantashe’s claim was complete nonsense. “It’s not as if the police are under the command of the EFF.”
The police were under the direct control of the national commissioner, who reported to the national minister.
“The police can’t have divided loyalties because they’re only loyal to the constitution and the law,” Zille said.
“And if Mantashe’s suggesting that police must be loyal to a political party, then he clearly doesn’t understand the constitution. We would never, ever, require the police to be loyal to a political party.”
This latest spat has erupted as President Jacob Zuma appears to be becoming increasingly isolated.
Pressure is mounting on him after opposition parties demanded he appear before a committee looking into the Nkandla scandal, and his legal team agreed yesterday to surrender the so-called spy tapes and documents relating to the decision to drop corruption charges against him.
Meanwhile, returning to the threat to move Parliament, Mantashe said yesterday that while policing was not a provincial competence and fell under the national command, police answered directly to provincial commissioners.
“If that provincial commander does not have a strong hand then police will not act. Therefore it becomes vulnerable to have Parliament in a province with a police command that has divided loyalty,” Mantashe said.
He said the call for Parliament to move was not new and would be debated in the structures of the ANC.
Capetonians should not be shocked by the call. “They must act like part of the country. They must not act like they want to secede.
“We are highlighting the police in a province led by the opposition. It might have an interest in embarrassing the government. I don’t understand how police can refuse to act,” he said.
There had been “obvious anarchy taking place, and destruction of the image of an institution called Parliament”, he said. This follows chaotic scenes in Parliament on Thursday, after EFF MPs defied Speaker Baleka Mbete’s order to leave the National Assembly.
They had reacted to a reply by Zuma to a question from EFF leader Julius Malema by banging their hard hats and demanding that Zuma “pay back the money” – a reference to the public protector’s instruction for him to pay back a percentage of the costs of security upgrades at Nkandla.
Mbete called security after the EFF MPs insisted on staying put, and later asked MPs from the other parties to leave the chamber instead so the security officials could “deal with this issue”.
Shortly after this, a police contingent in full riot gear arrived.
Lamoer then declared it was a “police operation” and asked everyone, including the media, to leave.
But before the EFF MPs were forcibly removed the bells were rung for everyone to return and Mbete informed the house an agreement had been reached for it to adjourn and for Zuma to return and complete his question time at a later date.
She said at a press briefing later that the presiding officers were concerned by the slow police response and would be looking into improving Parliament’s capacity to deal with such events.