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Ramaphosa’s parly peace deal derails

ANC chief whip Stone Sizani Picture: David Ritchie

ANC chief whip Stone Sizani Picture: David Ritchie

Published Nov 19, 2014


Parliament - Parliament again degenerated into insults and obscene gestures on Wednesday as a détente between the ANC and opposition brokered by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa fell apart after a day. 

The ANC embarked on a filibuster in the National Assembly after it became clear the Democratic Alliance would not abandon a motion asking for President Jacob Zuma, leading the ruling party, to accuse it of a breach of trust.

Other parties followed suit with a string of facetious motions, with Agang's Andries Tlouamma calling for a sangoma to determine whether MPs are "bewitched or suffering from mental illness".

"Agang would like to be excused," he added in closing.

Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli could not contain his mirth. Minutes earlier he had pleaded with members to refrain from making obscene hand gestures when DA chief whip John Steenhuisen accused Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu of "flipping a Floyd".

Sisulu claimed she had wagged her index finger.

The sitting had begun on a completely different note, with Ramaphosa welcoming an agreement with leaders of the opposition to restore decorum to the legislature.

It was reached after two hours of crisis talks at Tuynhuys and ended with calls from both sides that police should never again be sent into Parliament, as they were last Thursday to forcibly eject an Economic Freedom Fighters MP.

But the mood soon soured as opposition MPs tried Ramaphosa's patience with interjections.

Ramaphosa complained that he was heckled while responding to a question by IFP MP Sibongile Nkomo on what sanctions he would consider appropriate for ministers who failed to answer parliamentary questions.

"I'm required to stand here and answer questions. I'm not engaging in a debate," he said.

"This is precisely what we sought to address yesterday (Tuesday). That members of the executive ought to be given an opportunity to answer questions. And they must do so in a climate that enables them to answer questions."

Ramaphosa said the opposition's conduct filled him "with great regret" as it undermined the accord reached with party leaders.

"What it means is that what we struck yesterday, does not hold. It doesn't hold. If I was engaged in a debate, I could understand heckling and interjections. I have been asked to come here and answer questions.

"If I am impeded... to answer those questions... then what is the point of having me here?"

He warned that the agreement struck with opposition leaders was "in my view, about to lie in tatters".

While he was speaking, ANC chief whip Stone Sizani issued a statement accusing his DA counterpart John Steenhuisen of reneging on an agreement to shelf the motion calling for Zuma to be censured for breaching the rules of Parliament.

The motion is aimed at the president's failure to return to the National Assembly to answer questions after the EFF on August 21 challenged him to repay state funds spent on his Nkandla home.

"The decision to force through the motion into today's agenda of the House is in direct violation of the consensus reached by all parties that other processes be held in abeyance to enable a process of engagement amongst parties," Sizani said.

His office said in a meeting with Sizani on Tuesday, Steenhuisen had to persuade his party to indefinitely postpone the debate as part of the deal struck by Ramaphosa.

It was agreed in return for a reprieve granted to EFF MPs facing expulsion from Parliament, spokesman Moloto Mothapo said.

"They have betrayed our trust. The conduct of the DA renders the whole process meaningless."

Steenhuisen denied he had deviated from any agreement, saying of the debate that they had merely agreed that it would stand over to Wednesday.

He suggested that it was rather Sizani who had failed to bring around the ANC caucus.

"They asked for 24 hours to engage their caucus and now this?"



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