Parliament ends year with little cheer

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Breaking a long tradition of jovial year-end farewell speeches, DA chief whip Watty Watson launched a stinging attack on his ANC 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 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 President Jacob Zuma,” Watson said.

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 DA 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 a singular 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.”

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,” Van der Merwe 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.

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” in reference to maintaining his position.

“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


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