Cape Town - A South African MP who insulted and allegedly threatened to assault a female colleague during a parliamentary sitting could face disciplinary action within his own party, the office of the chief whip of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) said on Friday.
"The behaviour of ANC MP Mervyn Dirks was despicable and not in keeping with the image of Parliament and the organisation he represents, the African National Congress," Jackson Mthembu's office said in a statement.
A scuffle during Thursday night's National Assembly sitting, the last of 2017, could be seen in the back benches of the ANC. Dirks is alleged to have attacked fellow ANC MP Thozama Mantashe.
While the presiding officer did not see the incident and said he could not act, Dirks was eventually booted from the chamber after showing his middle finger to opposition party members.
The member is also accused of calling other MPs "dogs" on his Facebook account.
Mthembu wrote a letter to the Speaker asking for a probe into the incident.
"If found to be true, these actions cannot go unpunished," the statement said.
The chief whip had also written to the secretary general of the ANC to ask that disciplinary action be brought against Dirks for "gross misconduct and bringing the organisation into disrepute".
"It is very regrettable that while observing 16 Days of Activism Against Women and Child Abuse, a male member of parliament would threaten to assault a female member in Parliament."
National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete is considering what action to take
"The Speaker is in the process of determining a suitable course of action. This could include referring the matter to an appropriate committee of Parliament for further investigation and decision," Parliament said in a statement.
"The alleged threatening gestures fly in the face of the 16 Days of Activism during which society is raising awareness about violence against women and children and calling on men, particularly, to challenge behaviour and norms that condone violence."
Parliament said MPs are expected to uphold Constitutional values.
"It is to the Constitution that Members pledge allegiance before starting their duties as parliamentarians. The founding values of the Constitution – such as human dignity, advancement of human rights and freedoms, non-racialism and non-sexism – find expression also in the Code of Ethical Conduct for Members, which requires members to promote and support ethical conduct by their leadership and example," the statement said
"In this context, the alleged conduct of Mr Dirks is highly concerning and cannot be condoned."