Move over Generations, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) is fast becoming your competition in the race for viewership and publicity.
Okay, okay, I am exaggerating but I am pretty sure that most (if not all) of you caught a glimpse of the EFF’s one-time performance of “Bring Back the Money” a few weeks ago. What got less attention (up until now) was parliamentary speaker and national chairperson of the ANC, Baleka Mbete, and her protracted attempts to reign in the rowdy EFF.
On the day of the incident, her attempts proved futile as the members of the EFF refused to leave the House despite her shrill shrieking, finger wagging and the kind of face an impatient mother would pull on her restless toddler. Once all that failed, parliamentary security had to be called in to have them removed. Following that incident, Mbete declared in a letter addressed to EFF leader Julius Malema that the EFF members would be suspended for 14 days, and offered Malema an opportunity to justify why its members should not be suspended from the house (by her) for their behaviour. Malema consulted his attorneys late last week and offered a letter of his own. Mbete was expected to respond on Monday but it soon turned out that she does not have the authority to do so.
In a letter addressed to Julius from the office of Baleka Mbete dated 26 August 2014, the speaker of the House explained that the display “impeded the House’s ability to conduct and conclude the business of the day.”
Still, she could only have them removed from the House on the day, but nothing more, because the authority to suspend them for 14 days, as she had hoped, lies with someone else – the Parliament Powers and Privileges Committee (PPPC). That is why Mbete has since deferred the decision to have them suspended to this committee. She made the recommendation that the EFF be suspended for a period of 14 days without remuneration.
The PPPC met for the first time on Monday and it will take five working days for them to make a decision on the matter after going through video evidence and transcripts of the incident. Its findings will be made public at the end of the five days but no information whatsoever will be disclosed before the five day period is up. The exact date of this announcement is yet to be disclosed.
With Malema being, well… Malema, he responded to Mbete’s letter in typical Juju fashion. He begins by countering her argument, calling her “utterances” vague and stating that she never referred to him in particular when she was trying to calm the chaos.
“You will also know better than me that the Rules of National Assembly do not apply when proceedings are suspended. Thus, in case you are referring to the chanting of ‘pay back the money’ since your letter is not very clear as to what you are referring to, this occurred when the house was suspended and therefore could not be referred to as unparliamentary.”
Most political analysts have argued that Mbete’s position as parliamentary speaker, as well as the way that she conducts herself and rationalises her decisions, are jaded by her position as national chairperson of the ANC.
While the EFF’s protest has been written about ad nauseam without anything resembling a consensus on the matter, Mbete’s behaviour is now the talk of the town. ANC members, it’s important to note, are traditionally very loyal so it is only natural for her to be upset by the way in which the EFF chose to act towards her commander in chief. But, as the speaker of the house, it is her job to keep things balanced. Would her behaviour have been called into question if she was a member of another party?
The fact that the decision on whether or not to suspend the EFF no longer resides with her means that whatever decision is made will essentially be considered impartial. Case closed.
But with the EFF around, we have four more years to watch the new-found drama of parliament. Mbete and the EFF have a long relationship ahead. Where to from here? I have no idea. But it will be intense and fascinating to watch.
Follow me on Twitter: @Kay_Tatyana
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