DA walks out over ‘umlungu’ label

Durban - A new ANC MPL, Sifiso Sonjica, found himself on the wrong side of the rules in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature on Thursday when he called a DA MPL an “umlungu” (white man).

The conduct by Sonjica, who was sworn-in as an MPL in June, prompted the DA to stage a walkout in protest, and other small parties also threatened to walk out if he did not withdraw his statement.

KZN Legislature in PietermaritzburgPICTURE: SHAN PILLAY. Credit: INDEPENDENT MEDIA

It caused a 20-minute clash in the chamber.

The drama unfolded when he was overheard shouting at DA MPL, Francois Rodgers, saying “lo mlungu makahlale phantsi (this white man must sit down)”.

This happened as Rodgers rose on a point of order during the proceedings.

DA caucus leader, Sizwe Mchunu, demanded that presiding officer, Happy Blose, make a ruling.

Blose said the matter would be investigated and legislature speaker, Lydia Johnson, who was not present at the time, would make a ruling later.

“You, on the right-hand side, keep quiet, the speaker will investigate. Please keep quiet,” Blose told ANC MPLs as tensions ran high.

Mchunu was, however, adamant that a ruling be made, while ANC chief whip Nontembeko Boyce asked the DA to register their objection to the ruling made by Blose.

“Let’s try to protect the dignity and decorum of the House official. There were words uttered in both sides of the House that were unsavoury,” Boyce said.

Mchunu maintained that the language used by Sonjica was an insult to the MPLs, and racist.

He then walked out with the entourage of other DA MPLs in tow.

Upon her arrival, Johnson, who had earlier watched part of the discussion, said the matter would be dealt with at a later stage.

The EFF’s Vusi Khoza insisted Sonjica withdraw his comments. Echoing Khoza, the IFP’s Nhlanhla Msimango said Sonjica should not be treated with kid gloves.

“We won’t tolerate it. We should respect each other in this House,” Msimango said.

Sonjica ultimately said: “As an African, I withdraw.”

The NFP’s Happy Khuzwayo questioned that the ANC MPL had made a conditional withdrawal of his statement.