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Cape Town - Tighter security measures will be in place at Parliament from Monday following this week’s confrontation in the National Assembly that came close to violence.
Parliament’s spokesman Luzuko Jacobs confirmed on Saturday that urgent reviews were under way at “different levels” of the shortcomings highlighted by the incident, in which EFF MPs defied an instruction to leave the National Assembly and police were called in to remove them. There was a plan to ensure Parliament was able to continue with its business without being “unduly disrupted”, Jacobs said.
With sittings scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, including Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa answering questions in the National Council of Provinces, Parliament is keen to make sure it is not embarrassed again.
EFF members were able to enjoy sole occupation of the National Assembly for more than an hour on Thursday after MPs from all the other parties withdrew to allow security personnel to remove them.
But the impasse continued even after riot police arrived, until it was agreed to adjourn the session in which President Jacob Zuma had been responding to questions.
Speaker Baleka Mbete and ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, among others, have expressed concern at the slow police response.
Fears have also been raised about possible confrontations between MPs, with emotions running high on all sides after the showdown.
Cabinet ministers Siyabonga Cwele, Lindiwe Zulu and Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula had to intervene as a group of furious ANC members tried to force their way into the chamber while the EFF members lounged on the benches inside on Thursday.
The ANC has hinted its MPs may not be able to restrain themselves if there is a repeat of the incident, while EFF leader Julius Malema said the party had instructed its representatives to walk in groups in the precinct for their safety.
ANC Youth League national task team member Braam Hanekom laid charges after he was allegedly assaulted as the EFF made its way out of the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, a committee to consider possible disciplinary steps under the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act is in the process of being constituted.
Jacobs said names were coming in from parties to be represented on the committee on a proportional representation basis.
It was a “priority matter” and the committee would review the events and make recommendations on possible disciplinary action, Jacobs said.
Penalties under section 12 of the act, dealing with contempt of Parliament, range from a formal warning to “suspension of the member, with or without remuneration, for a period not exceeding 30 days”.
The ANC has called for the maximum possible sanction against the EFF MPs.