File picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency/ANA.

PARLIAMENT - DA chief whip John Steenhuisen on Tuesday branded the EFF elitist hypocrites who wished to keep the poor out of politics and used their positions to enrich themselves.

"I have never once used my position to line my own pockets. I have never once abused provincial tender processes to make myself and my family rich, as Julius Malema did in Limpopo," Steenhuisen said in the National Assembly two days after he was mocked by the EFF for his lack of a university qualification.

"I have never stolen the savings of the poor and vulnerable to buy fancy houses and swimming pools, as Floyd Shivambu did with the VBS Bank. And I have never assaulted journalists, or threatened fellow members of this House, like the EFF does on a regular basis."

Steenhuisen said the Constitution was clear that "no matter whether you are a mineworker or a brain surgeon, you could seek election to represent your community".

He added: "Let me be clear: I don’t have a university degree, I have never pretended to. I enrolled for a BA in politics and law at [University of South Africa] Unisa in 1994, however - like many South Africans - I never finished it due to financial and work pressures.

"I am not ashamed of this."

He said the EFF's criticism was redolent of the English class system and meant that the party dressed in workers' uniforms but would not want those it claimed to represent to hold elected office.

The EFF benches responded by calling him a racist.

Shivambu, the deputy leader of the EFF, on Twitter said Steenhuisen's lack of a degree or diploma explained "his shallowness". 

The row has caused political embarrassment for the DA, which has in the past tackled ANC officials over their qualifications and called for civil servants to be replaced because they did not study beyond high school.

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African News Agency (ANA)