National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete should withdraw her description of Economic Freedom Fighters members as insects and irritants, EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi told MPs on Tuesday.
“She really needs to withdraw her comments on irritants, on insects, and all the violence that she was calling for on honourable members,” he said at the start of a joint sitting of Parliament’s two Houses to debate last week’s state-of-the-nation address.
Ndlozi was referring to reports that Mbete, addressing an African National Congress provincial congress at the weekend, spoke of “cockroaches like [EFF leader Julius] Malema roaming all over the place”.
Ndlozi was joined in his appeal by EFF Chief Whip Floyd Shivambu, who called on National Council of Provinces chairwoman Thandi Modise to rule on the matter ahead of the debate.
“The Speaker [Mbete] said somewhere that members are cockroaches… and we want that clarified before we proceed,” he said.
Responding, Modise provoked laughter among MPs when she told them she was “aware that there is an insect matter which is doing the circles [sic]”.
She was also aware that the matter did not happen in the House.
“So that matter, honourable Floyd Shivambu, does not belong to the joint sitting of this Parliament.”
At this point, Democratic Alliance Chief Whip John Steenhuizen rose on a point of order to point out that Mbete herself, when ruling last week to have MPs removed from the House, had relied on comments — threats of disruption — that had been made outside the House.
Modise conceded Steenhuizen was right.
“But I do not want to make a precedent of one presiding officer presiding over another presiding officer… I cannot make a ruling and I cannot apologise on behalf of the Speaker.
“What I can do is convey the sentiment and the message of this House to the Speaker.”
Rising on a further point of order, Malema then told her: “We want to discuss the state of the nation, and we don’t want to cause any problems… don’t just reject [this request]. Please take our concerns and raise them with her [Mbete].”
Modise said she would do this.
Earlier, at a media briefing by Parliament’s presiding officers, Mbete did not respond to a barrage of questions about her comments at the weekend.
Deputy chairman of the National Council of Provinces, Raseriti Tau, said the questions should not be raised in Parliament because it happened elsewhere while Mbete was appearing in her capacity as the national chairwoman of the ruling party. SAPA