The DA will no longer recognise National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete, the party’s parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane said on Friday.
Briefing the media at Parliament the morning after a raucous sitting of the House culminated in fisticuffs and scuffles, he said what happened had prompted a “fundamental change” in the Democratic Alliance’s approach to the institution.
“[Speaker] Baleka Mbete lost control of the House and destroyed her credibility as Speaker. Accordingly, we will cease to recognise her authority as Speaker.”
Every time Mbete presided over the House, “the DA will send only its Chief Whip, its deputy Chief Whip, and those members participating in the debate itself”.
Maimane said he had written to the leader of government business, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, asking that he support the passing of a motion of no confidence in Mbete, and that Parliament elect a new Speaker.
He had further called on Ramaphosa to take other steps to restore order in the House, including “that he supports the election of a member of the opposition as one of the presiding officers to restore objectivity in the position”.
Referring to the events of Thursday evening, which saw riot police entering the House, he said Ramaphosa should also take steps to ensure that this never happened again.
“We call for an Ipid [Independent Police Investigative Directorate] inquiry into the use of riot police in Parliament on August 21 and November 13.”
Responding to questions, he confirmed that four DA MPs were injured after scuffles with police in the Chamber.
“Our members were assaulted by police… [when they] acted to defend the Constitution and their colleagues.”
He said the injured had all been examined by a doctor and “some ordered to rest”.
Pandemonium broke out in the House shortly after 2pm on Thursday — ahead of a debate on the African National Congress ad hoc committee’s report on upgrades to President Jacob Zuma’s residence at Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal — when Mbete announced she was limiting the period for motions by members to 45 minutes.
She said this was being done in the interests of saving time.
After a half-hour period of shouts, howls of protest and strong language from opposition benches, she reversed her decision.
Opposition parties then filibustered, spending the next two hours moving a stream of motions.
Defending this action on Thursday, Maimane said it “did not break a single rule”.
DA Chief Whip John Steenhuisen said Mbete — whom he described as “the woman masquerading as the Speaker of Parliament” — was ultimately responsible for setting the tone of the debate.
“When she started… trying to shut down the opposition filibustering, she abused her position.
“She had no right to do so. She did so for one reason only — to carry on the mandate from Luthuli House, which is to protect President Zuma and to protect the ANC at all costs, even if that means compromising her position.”
Steenhuisen said he was angry about the events of Thursday evening.
“I am very angry about the presence of armed police personnel on the sacred place of the floor of Parliament. I am very angry members of my party got assaulted yesterday evening, and it’s up to Parliament to do something about it. We cannot continue in this vein.
“Those police must never, ever, ever again be allowed to set foot into that sacred Chamber.” Steenhuisen said it was absolutely clear that Mbete was not a suitable Speaker.
“Her position in the ANC compromises her to the extent that she puts the interests of her party ahead of the interests of Parliament as an institution.” SAPA