Julius Malema on Tuesday led EFF MPs out of their disciplinary hearing in Parliament, leaving it to proceed in their absence with charges arising from their protest about the Nkandla controversy.
After a messy start to proceedings, Malema told the powers and privileges committee: “Whatever the outcome of this process, the EFF will not be participating”.
He said it was an unconstitutional exercise, bound moreover to bias against the Economic Freedom Fighters because the powers and privileges committee was dominated by ANC MPs. Malema said it would be “career-limiting” for them to contradict Speaker Baleka Mbete’s wish to suspend them from Parliament.
Asked by committee chairman Lemias Mashile to clarify his intentions, Malema firmly added: “Chairperson, we are not going to be subjected to you and your ANC colleagues. And we have given reasons why. And we are saying to you that if you decide to proceed, you can proceed on your own. We are not party to this. This is an illegitimate, unconstitutional process and we reserve our rights.”
This concluded a 25-minute submission to the committee in which Malema had read out a 89 points detailing the EFF’s representations.
Central to these was the contention that Mbete had mishandled events on August 21 when the EFF shouted “pay back the money” at Zuma during presidential question time in the National Assembly.
Mbete ordered “members who are not serious” leave the chamber after EFF MPs repeatedly pointed out that Zuma had failed to answer a question from Malema on when he would heed Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s directive to repay some of the R246 million in state funds spent on his home.
She then threatened to have them removed before adjourning proceedings.
“It is our considered view that Baleka Mbete should appear before this committee because she made illegal threats to members of the EFF… because the House collapsed due to the lack of patience and leadership, as she concedes that ‘I lost it’,” Malema charged.
Malema used his passionate speech to the committee to drag the spotlight back to Nkandla and to the opposition’s oft-stated contention that Mbete is under orders to ensure the African National Congress majority in Parliament shields Zuma from accountability.
“The complaint is based on matters on the Nkandlagate and the president,” he said.
“You are aware that your secretary general has instructed you not only to protect the president, but to deal harshly with members of EFF who humiliate and embarrass the president.”
He added that all ANC MPs were therefore not only likely to be biased, but were also witnesses to the incident, and that this contravened a basic legal principle.
Mbete in late August moved to have the EFF MPs suspended from the legislature but capitulated when they threatened to mount a legal challenge. She decided to leave the matter to the committee.
At the start of the hearing, EFF MPs refused to plead to charges of disrupting and showing contempt for Parliament, saying Malema’s submission would be their sole response.
Malema reiterated the point that Mbete, in her dual role as Speaker and ANC national chairwoman, had an untenable conflict of interest –something repeatedly said in recent weeks by opposition parties who in September called a failed vote of no confidence in her.
“The complainant is not only a Speaker but a party national chairperson who on Mondays sits with the president and on Thursday attends the ruling party caucus and on other days preside over House meetings where she is expected to be impartial.”
As Malema led the EFF out of the hearing, party spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said they were indifferent to the charges being heard in absentia.
“We don’t care,” he said.
After a brief adjournment the committee proceeded without the EFF. These members risk suspension from the legislature for up to 14 working days if found guilty.
Legal adviser Frank Jenkins told Mashile that Malema’s submission did not qualify as verifiable evidence.
“All I want to advise the committee on is that this document cannot go through the latter part, as the author and EFF members have walked out and they haven’t submitted this as evidence,” Jenkins said.
“It is between a rock and a hard place, it is neither here nor there but it is something which the committee needs to pay attention to.”
Turning to Malema’s contention of bias, Jenkins said it was a point that could potentially be argued in court.
In the afternoon the committee watched video footage of the EFF heckling Zuma.
The walkout comes 10 days after the EFF and all other opposition parties withdrew from the parliamentary ad hoc committee considering the findings of investigations into misspending at Nkandla.
They withdrew in protest after ANC MPs on that committee signalled they would not enforce Madonsela’s report, saying they would not be part of a whitewash.
The disciplinary hearing was due to continue on Wednesday. SAPA