All nine EFF members hauled before the powers and privileges committee for charges related to allegedly disrupting the proceedings of the budget vote in June last year, have pleaded not guilty.
This as the hearing into allegations of misconduct and contempt of Parliament continued before the committee on Monday.
The accused EFF MPs include Natasha Ntlangwini, Anthony Matumba, Isaac Mafanya, Babalwa Mathulelwa, Paulnita Marais, Naledi Nokukhanya Chirwa, Sinawo Tambo, Yoliswa Nomampondomise Yako and Khosi Mkhonto.
Each member was recognised and asked to plead. They were given three minutes to give a plea explanation but no one took up the offer, instead saying: “I do not wish to make an explanation now at this point. I do reserved my right to make it at a later stage.”
The charges include “contraven(ing) Section 7(a) of the act, when, during the proceedings, you wilfully refused and/or failed to obey Rule 69(d) when you called the president a money launderer and accused him of criminal conduct ...” Other allegations include undermining the authority of the presiding officer or repeatedly refusing to obey rulings and disrespecting and/or interrupted the presiding officer.
Before the proceedings officially got under way, legal representatives for the EFF again brought up the issue of why Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula who brought the charges against the members, could not testify.
Counsel for the EFF MPs, Mfesane Ka-Siboto, said: “The speaker has to be here so that none of us has to speculate as to what she meant by those words.
The speaker was not availed to us, we insist that she must be here again...because the speaker has charged one of the members saying she was guilty of interrupting, that member was not in the House (so) how could she then have been guilty of that charge; only the speaker can answer that question.”
Initiator Tanya Golden SC responded that they did not intend to call the speaker.
“I have made it very clear ... it’s also been referred to in the various correspondence that we have written to the attorney of the EFF, but we do not intend to call the speaker to prove the charges or allegations against the relevant EFF members. The reason for that is ... we do not need the evidence of the speaker to prove the charges against the members. We will almost exclusively rely, or not exclusively but largely rely on the video recording evidence of the 9th and the 10th of June 2022, the proceedings in the National Assembly. I will lead the evidence of (secretary to the National Assembly, Masibulele Xaso) who is our only witness at this stage and then I will also at the appropriate time place on the record the affidavits of the other members or other witnesses which we do not intend to call to lead (oral) evidence.”
Xaso on Monday testified while video evidence was played.
Referring to one of the clips, he said: “The speaker is really trying to maintain order in the house and even reminding members of the procedure in terms of raising points of order.
What the member who had taken the floor initially recognised but later on not recognised had made certain remarks which are in breach of the rules, rule 84 in particular among others about making abusive remarks about the president.”
Proceedings continue on Tuesday.