ANC MP Mervyn Dirks. Picture:
Cape Town - ANC MP Mervyn Dirks has come out guns blazing against his boss ANC Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu, charging that he was “factional” and had failed to provide leadership to the party’s parliamentary caucus.

On Thursday night Dirks was ejected from the National Assembly after showing the middle finger to the DA benches after an altercation with one of his colleagues in the back benches, Thozama Mantashe, a relative of ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe.

Those who witnessed the altercation, said Dirks had “threatened” to assault Mantashe, and had raised his hand to her.

In a statement, Mthembu said he had written a letter to the office of Speaker Baleka Mbete over the matter.

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“We have also written to the secretary-general of the ANC to institute disciplinary action against this member. We believe that these actions amount to gross misconduct and bring the organisation into disrepute.

“It is very regrettable that while observing 16 Days of Activism Against Women and Child Abuse, a male MP would threaten to assault a female member in Parliament.

“Members of Parliament ought to be the custodians of our constitution and this democracy. It is therefore unacceptable that a Member of Parliament can be found to be involved in such unbecoming behaviour,” said Mthembu.

Mbete’s spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said she was “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,” said Mothapo.

Speaking to Independent Media yesterday, Dirks said claims he had assaulted Mantashe were an “absolute lie”.

“It is absolutely a lie that I tried to assault a female colleague of mine. There are many cameras (in the National Assembly), they must refer to the cameras,” said Dirks.

He said people in the ANC, “with their factional agenda” had charged that he had assaulted Mantashe.

“I had a heated exchange with DA Chief Whip John Steenhuisen at the time. She (Mantashe) shouted at me, and asked me whether I was drunk,” said Dirks.

That question incensed him, and he launched into a tirade against her but he says it did not become physical.

“All the ANC members sitting in the back can confirm that I didn’t assault Mantashe. This thing is being engineered against me,” said Dirks.

A vocal supporter of President Jacob Zuma and the presidential ambitions of Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Dirks said his own party’s members had gone to the opposition to complain about him.

“I know where it stems from, it’s the toxic atmosphere in the caucus, driven by Jackson Mthembu.

“He is not providing leadership, he’s using his position to fight his factional battles,” Dirks insisted.

Mthembu has been a vocal supporter of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s bid to succeed Zuma as the ANC president.

In August, after a tense lead-up, Zuma survived his umpteenth vote of no confidence with the ANC caucus divided on the matter.

Dirks said following that vote many of his colleagues would not greet him.

He denied that he had wanted to join the DA, as claimed by Steenhuisen, but said he had been close friends with some DA fellow councillors at uMsunduzi.

Mantashe did not respond to requests for comment at the time of going to press.

Weekend Argus