16/01/2014. Minister of Higher Education and Training Dr Blade Nzimande speaks during the launch of the White Paper on Post School Education at Unisa. Picture: Oupa Mokoena

Cape Town -

The DA and ANC locked horns in Parliament on Tuesday, after several opposition parties staged a walkout in protest over what they described as a “bad” Gender Equality and Women Empowerment Bill.

This led to accusations of “filibustering” by the ANC, which called the DA’s conduct “reckless”.

The heated debate happened soon after the official opposition asked for a division on the bill, which was eventually passed by the National Assembly after delays.

The drama didn’t end there. The house then failed to reach a quorum to allow MPs to vote on the bill.

Only 188 MPs were present and didn’t make up the required quorum of 201.

The bill had to be passed later on in the day during the afternoon plenary session when more MPs were in attendance.

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande led the attack against the DA’s tactics.

“(This MP) came in here in the middle of events called one lady from the opposition to please get up and they actually left the house. This actually is tantamount to filibustering. It’s not in accordance with our democracy or the intention of calling for a division and how this Parliament is run. It’s very reckless and we call upon you to honestly make a ruling on this matter,” said Nzimande.

He said the DA was running the risk of “discrediting this Parliament which thousands of our people died for so that we can actually have this democracy in this Parliament”.

DA deputy chief whip Sandy Kalyan was quick to defend her party and asked for a right of response to Nzimande’s comments.

“The Democratic Alliance has got the right to protest against bad legislation. It is our democratic right,” contended Kalyan.

Deputy Public Works Minister Jeremy Cronin also joined the debate, accusing the DA of bringing Parliament into “disrepute”.

“Of course the Democratic Alliance, like any other party in Parliament, has the right to agree or disagree with legislation. The way in which we do it in Parliament is to vote for and against the legislation or abstain.

“They are really calling (Parliament) into disrepute. Not us, but them and Parliament. This is something that was fought for and died for by millions and millions of South Africans,” said Cronin.

The bill, once signed into law, will require that public institutions submit plans on how they will achieve a 50 percent representation for women in decision-making structures.

The bill will also see the enforcement of 50 percent gender representation.

The office of ANC chief whip Stone Sizani said the DA’s “failed effort to sabotage” the passing of the “progressive” piece of legislation by staging a walkout did not come as a surprise.

Meanwhile, the rules of Parliament have become the latest battleground in party politicking with points of order, objections used liberally to take digs at the other side of the House.

Tuesday was no exception, with only the concern over rhino poaching appearing to build bridges of agreement across the floor of the National Assembly.

With an election around the corner on May 7, robust politicking and showcasing is to be expected, but the tone has become hard, leaving presiding officers to regularly call for “order!” in the House.

It remains to be seen how MPs will handle their farewell speeches, traditionally a jocular 70 or so minutes later this month when Parliament rises to make way for election campaigning.

The political feathers flew when DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard wanted to bring a motion of censure against her police committee chairwoman and ANC MP Annelize van Wyk for failing to bring information to deliberations on the draft law regulating the private security industry, and capping foreign ownership to 49 percent.

Meanwhile, the ANC objected to the DA trying to slip in a motion against South Africa’s stance to Uganda’s anti-gay law, after the ANC had objected to it as, according to parliamentary procedures, motions objected to cannot proceed in the House.

Political Bureau