Cape Town - EFF parliamentary leader Julius Malema was to take his seat on the ad hoc Nkandla committee on Friday, but it might not be for long as the National Assembly wants the suspension of the party on Tuesday.
It’s the latest twist in the “Pay back the money” ruckus during President Jacob Zuma’s question time last week after EFF MPs felt the president failed to respond to a question as to when he would repay the costs of the non-security benefits accrued during the R215 million taxpayer-funded security upgrades at his Nkandla homestead.
But the EFF said on Thursday that it would approach the courts for urgent interdicts against possible suspension. “We don't believe there is any basis for such a suspension,” Malema said.
The motion to suspend the EFF was discussed at Thursday’s parliamentary programming committee, a day after Speaker Baleka Mbete wrote to each of the 25 MPs asking them to say why they should not be suspended. Such a motion is a pre-emptive move, expected to be carried on the back of the ANC’s numerical strength, as the powers and privileges committee is set to probe whether last week’s incident amounted to contempt.
Suspension for up to 14 days is permitted in Schedule 10 of the National Assembly rules to “facilitate” the committee’s investigations.
Malema said his MPs were writing to the Speaker saying why they should not be suspended and asking for her assurance this would not happen. If this assurance was not forthcoming, EFF MPs would approach the courts.
“The real reasons why these people want to suspend us is they want Jacob Zuma to come and answer questions during our 14 days’ suspension, and secondly they don’t want me to participate in the ad hoc committee which will be looking into Nkandla. They resolve political problems through suspensions and expulsions of people.”
This was a clearreference to the disciplinary action which saw him first suspended and then expelled from the ANC.
The ANC chief whip’s office said it welcomed the EFF court action: “We believe that approaching the court will provide them with the necessary lessons on parliamentary rules and procedures.”
As political battle lines hardened this week, the rumour mill stepped up its pace. Malema said “reliable sources” in the ANC had told them Mbete had spoken to presidential lawyer Michael Hulley over the suspensions. Hulley and Parliament on Thursday denied this.
It remains unclear when the powers and privileges committee, established a day after the EFF ruckus three months into Parliament’s current term, will start its work.
Established under the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act, it may consider any matter referred to it by the Speaker relating to contempt of Parliament or members’ misconduct.
A guilty verdict by the committee could lead to a formal warning, reprimand, an order to apologise, a fine of no more than a month’s salary, the suspension of a parliamentarian’s right to participate in any proceedings or the suspension of a parliamentarian, with or without pay, for up to 30 days. Such proceedings do not preclude criminal investigations against parliamentarians.