ANC will not stand idly by as democratic institutions are attacked

26 August 2014

The Office of the ANC Chief Whip rejects suggestions from some analysts and commentators seeking to pin the blame for the eruption of hooliganism on Thursday on the Speaker of the National Assembly and the President. A misinformation being peddled here is that because the Speaker comes from the ANC, she is biased and acted to protect the President from accountability. On the other hand, the fabrication goes on to allege that the President failed to respond sufficiently to the question hence the rowdy behaviour.

It is the tragedy of our public discourse that the anti-Zuma prejudices all the time seem to trump principle. An outrageous conduct that would ordinarily be roundly condemned by all sensible South Africans is excused and justified because it is directed at a figure some section of our public commentators and the media dislike. Suddenly we see our public critics burying their heads in the sand, seeing no evil, hearing no evil and speaking no evil on matters of principle. Similarly, we see those who have repeatedly failed to unseat the ANC through democratic elections over the last 20 years unsurprisingly now applauding an attempt to destroy legitimate democratic institutions with a hope to weaken a democratically elected government.

Because some section of the media, some pundits and opposition have joined forces to publicly glorify the blatant acts of unruliness that played out in the Assembly, even an institution supporting democracy jumps onto the bandwagon to surf on the populist wave. An earlier constitutionally sound principle in which Parliament would have been the decider on the adequacy of the President`s response is inexplicably and conveniently abandoned because the wave of media opinion now faces a certain direction.

We therefore wish to deal with this misinformation through the following

1. The Speaker of the National Assembly only acts within the prescribed rules in the management of the sessions of the House. The rules are not the creation of the Speaker or the ruling party, but are made and adopted by all political parties represented in Parliament. Once the rules have been adopted, all parties and their members are expected at all times to abide by them. The Speaker, as she had done previously, managed the sitting fairly and without fear, favour or prejudice.

2. It has been claimed that because the Speaker comes from the ANC she is bound to favour the ruling party. The EFF has even called for an amendment to the Constitution so that a `neutral` Speaker in form of a retired judge should preside over debates in Parliament. In all established democracies with democratic constitutions, a party that win election selects the head of the executive and head of the legislature.
Our democratic constitution emphasises the principle of separation of powers in which the judiciary, the executive and the legislature exists separately and their powers are not in conflict with each other. By having a retired judge (who is practically still regarded as part of the
judiciary) doubling as a head of the legislature would be tantamount to the judiciary heading another independent arm of the state. Only in a dictatorship such separation of powers are disregarded.

3. The Speaker gave the President an opportunity to respond to the question, which he did even in the face of howling and other disruptive acts. Questions time is one of the mechanisms for holding the executive accountable. However, they are also a terrain of political contestation.
This means that there can never be unanimous political consensus amongst parties regarding any answer provided. It is outrageous for any MP to engage in unruly conduct just because, in his or her political opinion, the question has not been dealt with satisfactorily.

4. The EFF`s disruption was planned beforehand and the details of this plan were an open secret in the supporters were bussed in to drive the disruption from the gallery to complement what the MPs were doing on the floor of the Assembly.
Therefore, regardless of what the President might have said the disruption were planned to take place. It is therefore unfortunate that the media would fall for the blatant propaganda that the disruption resulted from the President`s handling of the question

5. There is a misguided campaign relating to the President`s payment of the money, which was initiated by the leader of the EFF, that seeks to discredit the current parliamentary process set up to consider the report of the President on the security upgrades at his private home. In our constitutional democracy such lawful and legitimate processes are important in ensuring that matters are dealt with thoroughly, fairly and openly to ensure that appropriate solutions are arrived at. Malema himself is enjoying fair and just processes in relation to his R18m tax case and his corruption case emanating from his companies` alleged looting of public funds in Limpopo. We reaffirm our support for the ad hoc committee to perform the task for which it was tasked without fear, favour or prejudice.

6. Since the start of this new term of Parliament, the EFF MPs have been involved in rowdy behaviour and have indicated openly that they would not play by the rules - which they described as colonialist. We are in the fourth month since the beginning of this Parliament and we are yet to see any proposal from that party regarding amendment to the rules.
This confirms our view that their conduct has nothing to do with the rules but an orchestrated plan to relentlessly discredit Parliament and other democratic institutions with a view to render them ungovernable.
The ANC will do everything within the rules and the law to preserve the integrity and decorum of the institution in defence of our democracy.

It would be a biggest error on the part of the EFF and its fellow travellers to think that this movement will fold its arms as our hard-fought democratic gains and democratic institutions are discredited and destroyed. We welcome the tough stance taken by Parliament as well as the measures announced by the Speaker this afternoon to deal with the mischief-makers behind Thursday`s disruption.

Issued by the office of the ANC Chief Whip

Moloto Mothapo 082 370 6930