Johannesburg - The SAPS’s elite Tactical Response Unit had to be called in on Tuesday to evict “unruly” Economic Freedom Fighters members from the Gauteng legislature.
The drama began when the overall-clad EFF refused to heed legislature Speaker Ntombi Mekgwe’s injunction to leave due to their being dressed inappropriately.
After police intervention, the paramedics had to step in and one EFF MPL, Benjamin Disolwane, was admitted to Brixton’s Garden City Clinic to have his broken arm set, while Parks Khaiyane was said to be in a critical condition at Parktown’s Milpark Hospital.
The drama began just after 10am when Mekgwe read out various legislature rules as a precursor to asking the EFF members, clad in red overalls, hard hats and domestic worker uniforms, to leave the House and return properly dressed.
She then called a 10-minute adjournment to let them change.
The adjournment, however, dragged on for more than 30 minutes as other political parties got involved, trying to get the EFF members to leave the chamber – with both the ANC and DA condemning the EFF’s conduct.
When they refused, first legislature security personnel arrived in the chamber, then uniformed police officers.
Mekgwe then returned to her chair and ordered the EFF members individually and by name to leave for being in breach of legislature rules.
The EFF still refused to budge, so police officers spoke to them, but the MPLs vowed to stage a sit-in and even sleep there overnight if necessary.
A scuffle broke out when the police tried to physically remove the offending MPLs, with one EFF member shouting “Let them do what they did in Marikana”.
Security ordered everyone out of the House, including the media, but The Star photographer Itumeleng English hid and shot these pictures of the EFF MPLs resisting arrest.
“A lot of them came out screaming and one of them said ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe’,” English said.
It was later confirmed that EFF Gauteng leader Mgcina Tshwaku had suffered an asthma attack.
Some EFF members were given first aid treatment, while Disolwane was taken to hospital in an ambulance.
Legislature officials went around trying to ensure that no one had photographed or recorded the scuffle.
Mekgwe later defended her decision to order out the EFF, saying they had wilfully broken the House’s rules and disrupted the sitting.
“The EFF members were part of the two-week induction where all members were informed about the rules and regulations of the legislature,” Mekgwe said.
She said they would be allowed back on Wednesday if they were properly dressed.
When asked about EFF leader Julius Malema being allowed to wear his red overall in Parliament, Mekgwe said: “I do not know what is happening in Parliament; in Gauteng it is not allowed.”
Her office intends reporting the offending EFF members to legislature integrity commissioner Ralph Mgijima for possible punitive sanctions over on Tuesday’s debacle, including attacking a female legislature security official.
Legislature secretary Peter Skhosana defended the police’s presence, saying the legislature was a national key point. He said there had been no option but to call in the Tactical Response Unit.
On Tuesday night, the EFF threatened to approach the high court to obtain an interdict preventing the legislature from removing its members.
EFF national spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said: “No amount of beating by the ANC police will ever (force) the EFF into abandoning the red overalls and domestic workers’ dress codes. The legislature is a place of work and it must represent the people.”