A little over two weeks ago, Julius Malema and 11 other members of the EFF were suspended without pay from parliament. The suspensions range from two weeks to a month and come after the overall-clad fighters were found guilty of heckling the president in the National Assembly a few months back. The suspensions also cap off what’s largely been a controversial parliamentary debut for the party, that’s seen them rock up to the chambers in maids’ uniform, stage parliamentary walkouts and give the finger to the deputy president (more on that later). Here’s a recap of the party’s most controversial moments since joining parliament:
- State of the nation debate
It’s mid-June. A sickly looking Jacob Zuma has just delivered a largely uninspiring State of the Nation Address and, two days later, is now in the pristine chambers of parliament, for a debate on his address. Julius Malema, dressed in what will later become his party’s signature overalls and gumboots, walks up to the podium to deliver the Economic Freedom Fighters’ critique of the address. This being the EFF’s (and Malema’s) parliamentary debut, MPs and the general public are keen to hear what the former ANCYL president has to say. He sifts through his prepared speech and begins:
You are a man of tradition, Mr President. A tradition of empty promises.
What follows is a barrage of abuse, with Malema accusing the ANC of everything from failing to deliver basic services to colluding with “white monopoly capital”. “The ANC is part of an elite pact that seeks to protect white monopoly capital and white minority privileges,” said Malema. The assault is unrelenting and, in the end, something had to give. Parliament’s new kids on the block staged a walkout after refusing to retract a statement in which they accused the police of killing miners in Marikana. But this is of little consequence. The EFF has sent its message, loud and clear: they are there to upset the decorum of parliament.
- Shivambu gives Ramaphosa the finger
Fast forward to September and the “fighters” are now a regular fixture in parliament. Most of the sittings they feature in are inevitably marred by controversy, and walkouts are now almost part of their routine. But just when everyone thinks they’ve exhausted every possible avenue of controversy, the party still finds new ways of upsetting the order of parly.
On September 17, the EFF’s Floyd Shivambu is hauled from the house for calling Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa a murderer (citing his supposed role in the Marikana massacre). Floyd obliges, but not before directing a middle finger at the deputy president. As you can imagine, the house was outraged and Shivambu (uncharacteristically) backtracked and offered his apologies.
I wanted to… withdraw and unconditionally apologise for showing the middle finger at the deputy president in this house,” Shivambu told parliament. “There is no justification for doing that because I do agree and admit that it was inappropriate,”he went on.
- Pay back the money
And now, for the event that led to the EFF’s suspension. Back in August, President Zuma was taking questions from the opposition in parliament and the focus inevitably shifted to his R250 million homestead in Nkandla. After being evasive and non-responsive in his responses to the other opposition parties, Malema and the EFF decided they’d had enough.
“When are you paying the money because the public protector has instructed you to pay the money? We want the date,” demands Malema. Silence. Malema probes further when a point of order is called, claiming the president is using parliamentary procedure to avoid accounting for his actions.
“This thing of point of order is what you hide behind,” Malema responds to an ANC MP. “Because every time a report is brought you say point of order”. More silence… and then, chaos. The EFF breaks out into chants of “pay back the money” which led to their removal from the house, a disciplinary hearing and their current suspension. They’ve since filed an interdict challenging the suspension.
No one’s too sure how next year will pan out for the party, but if their first six months was anything to go by, be prepared for more heckling, chanting and walkouts.
For a comprehensive review of this parliamentary calendar year, head over to the People’s Assembly here.
Photography by Rofhiwa Maneta. Feature image from “Times Live”.
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