Parliament pushes ahead with EFF Sona disruption inquiry
Cape Town - The powers and privileges committee stood its ground on Tuesday, saying it would move ahead with identifying EFF MPs who disrupted the State of the Nation Address (Sona) earlier this year.
This was despite protests by lone red berets MPs who argued against the move when the committee received legal advice and then decided to identify the EFF MPs who would be asked to make representations.
The EFF MPs had on February 13 raised points of order objecting to the presence of former president FW de Klerk and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, prompting disruption of the annual address by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The matter was referred to the committee by National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise for consideration and reporting.
The legal advice said it would be premature to make a determination on whether the conduct amounts to contempt of Parliament.
"It accordingly follows in my view that, although the question for consideration herein is to determine whether the conduct amounts to contempt, no definitive answer can be given, at this stage, because the EFF’s version of events have not been provided," said Adiel Nacerodien.
Ndlozi said there was a big problem with the legal opinion which did not refer to court judgments which pronounced on several occasions disturbances in Parliament.
He said judgments stated that there has to be a reference to a member and what he or she has done than a party.
"Any complaint that treats members as a group of a political party falls short," Ndlozi said before asking why the language used spoke of EFF members.
Committee chairperson Philly Mapulane said the committee had made observations on the judgments and lessons learnt.
Advocate Frank Jenkins, a parliamentary legal advisor, said when the committee gets into the procedure, it would not be political parties that would be charged.
"We are to look at National Assembly members. We are not yet there," Jenkins said.
But, Ndlozi insisted that the matter in his view was closed unless names of culprits were provided.
"The matter is closed. There is nothing you can do about Sona. Nothing outside the rules happened," he said, adding that it was not only EFF MPs that raised points of orders.
He asked if the exercise would be regarded as preliminary and that committee members would have to view the video again.
"There can't be a fair process that begins like that," he said.
But, DA MP Annette Lotriet said the committee was not at a stage of discussing substantive matters.
"We deal with the procedural part. I accept the opinion and let's plan how we take the matter further," Lotriet said.
Deputy chief whip Doris Dlakude said the ANC welcomed the legal advice and that they have not dealt with substantive matters.
"It can't be correct to say the committee must just leave everything because there is no evidence. We are not there," Dlakude said.
"If it calls we go to the video so that we identify any member who transgressed that day, we will do that. It is our responsibility to do a thorough job so that whatever conclusion we make is credible," she added.
ANC MP Violet Siwela said: "It is our responsibility to protect the decorum of the House."
Mapulane also said the committee has not dealt with the merits or substance of what happened on the day of Sona.
"All that needs to happen is that the committee allows processes to identify those so that there are charges to be brought and allow them to make representations.
"On the basis of representations the committee will decide whether we proceed or we don't proceed," he said.