Cape Town - Breaking a long tradition of jovial year-end farewell speeches, Democratic Alliance Chief Whip Watty Watson launched a stinging attack on his African National Congress counterpart in the National Assembly on Thursday.
To a chorus of catcalls and heckling from ANC benches, he also used the occasion to tell MPs that the ruling party was “making a mockery” of the entire parliamentary system.
“I want to contend that instead of farewell speeches, we should be taking this time to debate the very important matter of a vote of no confidence in the President Jacob Zuma,” Watson said.
“I will therefore refrain... from participating in the convention of saying nice things to each other, particularly because the ANC shows no respect for the very fundamental conventions and constitutional rights we have as an opposition to have a debate... on a motion of no confidence.”
Thursday was the last official sitting day of the National Assembly this year.
Earlier, the Western Cape High Court dismissed an urgent application - brought by Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko on behalf of eight opposition parties - to force a debate on the motion before Parliament went into recess.
In a speech punctuated by repeated calls for order from Speaker Max Sisulu, Watson said the ANC was using Parliament to serve its own purpose and to promote only one viewpoint.
“I am not proud... I am embarrassed and I am ashamed. In its performance as a Parliament of the people, this institution is an absolute disgrace.
“It is being run by an ANC Chief Whip (Mathole Motshekga) who has done his level best to undermine democratic authority of this institution to promote his own... political career,” Watson said.
In his farewell speech, Inkatha Freedom Party Chief Whip Koos van der Merwe did his best to restore some Christmas cheer.
“I prefer to speak to you in the spirit of Christmas,” he pointedly told MPs, before informing them that next Friday he would have served as an MP for 35 years.
“There are currently 16 serving members of Parliament who were only born after I arrived here (in 1977).”
He also warned his fellow parliamentarians to beware of what he called “VIP fever”.
“That is the fever of believing that now that you are an MP, you are a very important person. Let me warn you, that fever has cut short many careers in Parliament,” he said.
Freedom Front Plus Chief Whip Corne Mulder struck a more sombre note.
“There is a huge temptation to read the feeling in the House, and to play back to that feeling and be friendly and jovial and just say all the nice things. That's the temptation.
“But, I think we should look at ourselves in a very serious manner today.”
Referring to the earlier high court ruling regarding debate on the vote of no confidence in Zuma, he urged all to read it.
“Make a point, get it, and read that judgment. Because although the application was dismissed, the content of the judgment has a huge impact on us as Parliament... I think we should take it very, very seriously,” he said.
In her farewell speech, African Christian Democratic Party Chief Whip Cheryllyn Dudley reflected on Zuma's “vying for top spot” at the ANC's national elective conference in Mangaung next month.
“How Christmassy does that sound?” she asked.
Dudley described Zuma as a “super” optimist.
“Optimists see the light at the end of the tunnel. Now, he sees the light, but swears blind there is no tunnel,” she told MPs. - Sapa