Cape Town - To shouts of “Murderers!” and “You were the premier when people were killed!”, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MPs left the National Assembly after their leader Julius Malema on Thursday again refused to withdraw his comments that “the ANC government massacred the people of Marikana”.
Presiding officer, National Council of Provinces (NCOP) chairwoman Thandi Modise, on Wednesday undertook to make a ruling after an initial objection from the ANC benches to Malema’s comments during his speech in the parliamentary debate on President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address.
At the end of Thursday’s five-hour joint sitting, Modise ruled Malema’s statement “The ANC government massacred the people in Marikana Those police were representing the ANC government”, as unparliamentary and not within the decorum of the House.
“The statement by Honourable Malema suggests the government, made up of members of this House, deliberately decided to massacre people. This does not only impute improper motive, but also accused them of murder,” Modise ruled.
“Although members enjoy freedom of speech… this freedom is subject to limitations imposed by the constitution and the rules,” she said. It was also “undesirable” to make statements that could be seen as second-guessing the Marikana commission of inquiry, she said.
Modise was premier of the North West when police killed 34 Marikana miners in August 2012. The killings, and 10 deaths in the preceding week, are still the subject of the Marikana commission of inquiry under the chairmanship of Judge Ian Farlam.
Modise twice asked Malema to withdraw the statement.
He refused: “When police reduce crime, you come here and say the ANC has reduced crime and when police kill people you don’t want us to say the ANC government killed people. It is inconsistent!”
Modise responded: “You leave me no choice but to ask you to leave”, but Malema had the last word with “No problem” before the EFF MPs walked out, shouting “Murderers!”
This will not be the end of the matter. Modise agreed to an investigation into the matter, as is permitted by parliamentary rules.
This came after being requested by ANC MP Mmamoloko Kubayi, a former deputy chief whip, who is now chairwoman of the telecommunications and postal services parliamentary committee.
On Thursday night, ANC chief whip Stone Sizani’s office said it welcomed further steps against the EFF MPs and condemned “in the strongest terms possible the atrocious behaviour”.
Noting that such outbursts and gesturing had never occurred in 20 years of democracy, it added: “Such abhorrent behaviour, disguised as ‘militancy’ or ‘radicalism’, makes a complete mockery of this institution (Parliament) and is contemptuous to the people of South Africa on whose behalf this Parliament exists”.
The EFF is expected to hold a media conference on Friday.
Earlier on Thursday, ANC national spokesman Zizi Kodwa said Malema’s comments were “disingenuous” and an abuse of parliamentary privilege.
“The ANC believes in the sanctity of life and that everything should be done to avoid death.
“Opportunistic accusations… fail to account that circumstances like Marikana, unless properly investigated and stern decisions taken based on outcome, can undermine responsibility and accountability of all parties that were involved and are responsible,” Kodwa said.
After Modise repeatedly ordered the EFF to “leave the House”, there was no drama when she subsequently asked Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu to withdraw her comments which labelled DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane as a “hired native”.
Sisulu calmly said “I withdraw”.