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Parliament - A SA National Defence Union (Sandu) organiser has demanded an apology from Parliament after MPs kicked him out of a defence portfolio committee meeting on Thursday for wearing shorts, revealing his tattooed legs.
Sandu Western Cape organiser Tim Flack was told to leave the meeting after ANC MPs objected to him being there in a pair of knee-length beige shorts, a black golf shirt, and flip-flops.
African National Congress MP Hlengiwe Mgabadeli was one of the first to object.
“Here we are, disciplined members of the public representing our masses who voted us in power..., there comes a male child in shorts with tattoos sitting there... and our own kids can't do what I'm seeing happening here,” Mgabadeli said.
She and her colleagues suggested that Flack did not conform to Parliament's dress code, even though the National Assembly does not have a specific dress code for members of the public.
DA MP David Maynier tried to intervene, reminding MPs that the legislature was a people's Parliament.
“The reality is that the public are free to attend meetings and I don't think that it's appropriate that our committee attack a member of the public or make a comment on his or her dress,” Maynier said.
“The honourable member 1/8Mgabadeli 3/8 might choose to dress differently, but this is a democracy, people dress the way that they choose,” he said.
However, stand-in chairman Alpheus Mokabhe Maziya gave both Maynier and Flack, who tried to explain his garb, a dressing down.
“No, no, no, Maynier this is not a Member of Parliament. Besides, you 1/8Flack 3/8 have got no speaking rights mister,” Maziya said.
He eventually asked Flack to leave after saying: “I have a right to identify the person and to also give my opinion, which is the correct opinion, that I don't think it is correct, more especially if it is a member of the trade union who knows this is an official session of Parliament, not a rally.”
Maziya said if parliamentary security were aware Flack was attending the meeting they would not have allowed him in.
Shortly after Flack was booted out, two members of Parliament's protection services took reports from committee staff.
After storming out, Flack told Sapa the whole incident was ridiculous and an “absolute joke”.
“I'm discriminated against by ANC members who do not like my tattoos on my legs. It obviously frightens them or something,” he said.
He said he had visited soldiers “in the middle of nowhere” as part of union business, and had worn shorts because of the hot weather.
“I was alerted to this meeting, so I came through here on the way home. I don't have a parliamentary salary where I can just drive home and put on my Gucci suit and then come back to Parliament,” a visibly angry Flack said.
Parliament indicated that it would investigate the incident, which it considered serious.
“The Constitution says Parliament must facilitate public access and involvement in its legislative and other processes, must conduct its business in an open manner and hold its House sittings and those of its Committees in public,” Parliament said in a statement.
“According to the Constitution, the public, including the media, may not be excluded from a committee sitting unless it is reasonable and justifiable to do so in an open and democratic society.”
Maziya will be asked to submit a report to Parliament, after Flack explained his account to the Speaker's office.