DA motion against Mbete is defeated
Cape Town - The ANC put on a show of force during Tuesday’s debate on an opposition motion of no confidence in Speaker Baleka Mbete, with Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula throwing labels like “counter-revolutionaries” and “charlatans” at the opposition.
“What gives this bunch of losers and hypocrites the audacity to question the ANC deployment policy?” Mbalula asked during his defence of Mbete, who is also the ANC national chairwoman.
“The Speaker is not a consultant in this House. She is an elected member of the ANC... and the ANC has won majority rule and therefore we don’t apologise.”
But after a high-volume, acrimonious debate the ANC was left alone in the House after six opposition parties walked out – effectively leading to a unanimous vote by the ruling party to defeat the DA-led motion of no confidence.
This came after ANC chief whip Stone Sizani had brought a counter-motion of full confidence in the Speaker. After the walkout, which cleared the opposition benches regardless of whether or not they supported the motion of no confidence, the chief whip withdrew the ANC proposal.
Because the motion of no confidence was a constitutional one, it went to an electronic vote to be recorded in the Hansard, Parliament’s record of debates. Thus the DA-led motion joining six opposition parties was defeated with votes of 234 against, with none in favour and no abstentions.
However, the spanner in the works remains United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa, who has asked the parliamentary joint ethics committee to investigate Mbete’s involvement in a controversial Goldfields empowerment deal and whether, in addition to her benefits as a former deputy president, she is also receiving the package of a Speaker.
Earlier, DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane wrapped up the debate, which he said had abandoned the constitution and citizens, with his call to “Vote for South Africa! Vote against Luthuli House!” Kicking off the debate, Maimane said the motion arose out of a fundamental conflict of interest between Mbete’s two jobs as both Speaker and party chairwoman.
Noise levels from the floor were echoed in the public gallery which was packed with ANC supporters. Opposition MPs objected to being pointed at and jeered from the public gallery and the ANC eventually said it had sent its whips to talk to the visitors.
Relative calm prevailed only briefly when veteran politician IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi took to the podium to emphasise the need for a Speaker to be impartial.
Citing the names of seven English speakers who were beheaded after bringing the king unwanted news, Buthelezi asked whether Mbete would deliver a message from Parliament that the president would not like.
“She may not risk beheading, but the ruling party deals harshly with those who do not toe the party line.”
For the IFP the “problems of anarchy” in the House was self-created through heckling and ill-discipline, he said.
With ANC speakers arguing an attack on Mbete was an attack on democracy, and part of an effort to undermine democratic institutions and the ANC majority, opposition parties came under verbal assault.
Mbalula got away with referring to Maimane as a “token” as he had not specifically mentioned him by name, referred to Cope as an “abandoned ship”, and did not mince his words about the EFF: “Being rude and disrespectful doesn’t make you a revolutionary... To be dressed in red garments does not make you a working-class hero.”
DA chief whip John Steenhuisen later countered by pointing out that Mbete had discarded any mantle of neutrality when she addressed ANC supporters from the back of a police truck earlier in the afternoon.
EFF MP Khanyisile Tshabalala-Litchfield argued for a judge, who could remain impartial, to preside.