A second bid to broker a peace deal for parliament failed at a meeting between Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and opposition parties on Monday.
In an attempt to prevent a repeat of recent chaotic sittings in Parliament, political leaders held talks in Parktown, Johannesburg, but it ended with no agreement in sight.
“In our meeting today they [opposition parties] wanted to know whether there was a way in which we could give them an explanation,” Ramaphosa told reporters, referring to why the African National Congress was pulling out of the deal.
“We gave them an explanation that the deal is off.”
He said the truce was largely breached by the Democratic Alliance when it tabled a motion of censure against President Jacob Zuma in the National Assembly last week.
“[This] departed from the spirit around which the deal was struck and we also said that we must now allow processes in Parliament to unfold.”
Ramaphosa said the ANC was open to further meetings with opposition parties in future to discuss “matters of interest”.
It was important that all political parties worked together when it came to matters of upholding decorum and dignity in the National Assembly and making sure all parties obeyed the rules.
“[We need to] create a climate which is conducive for the executive to come and appear before Parliament and be accountable,” Ramaphosa said.
ANC chief whip Stone Sizani said the ruling party and opposition parties could not come to an agreement, blaming this on the DA.
“At today’s meeting, the DA was unrepentant.
“It reiterated its narrow and self-serving argument that it would not be bound by any extra-parliamentary processes or agreements,” he said.
Sizani accused the DA of closing the space for any compromise between the ANC and the opposition parties.
On Tuesday last week, Ramaphosa struck a deal with opposition parties that disciplinary proceedings against the Economic Freedom Fighters would be held in abeyance in return for assurances that they would respect parliamentary rules.
A report by the powers and privileges committee was likely to result in various EFF MPs, including Malema, being suspended from Parliament for up to 30 days for contempt of Parliament. The charges arose from their heckling of Zuma about the Nkandla saga in August.
However, a day after the peace deal was brokered, Parliament again degenerated into insults and obscene gestures when the agreement between the ANC and the opposition fell apart.
Ramaphosa announced on Wednesday last week that the report of the powers and privileges committee was back on the agenda. The move came in retaliation to the DA’s insistence on proceeding with a motion accusing Zuma of ducking questions on the R246 million security upgrades to his homestead in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.
On Thursday evening last week, the ANC abandoned the debate in the National Assembly on the report.
Speaking on behalf of the opposition parties on Monday, DA Parliamentary Leader Mmusi Maimane said the parties were still committed to the principle of the original deal struck.
“It then became quite crystal clear that the ruling party… confirmed to us that the deal is off and they didn’t want to be part of the deal,” he told reporters.
“It’s also clear that we have not gotten further about getting a date for when the president will be coming to Parliament to come and account.
“We always stood up for the deal. The ANC came and said they wanted to withdraw.”
Opposition parties in attendance included the DA, the EFF, the Inkatha Freedom Party, the National Freedom Party, the Freedom Front Plus, the African Christian Democratic Party, the United Democratic Movement, the Pan Africanist Congress and the Congress of the People.
Earlier on Monday, ANC general secretary Gwede Mantashe said Zuma had appeared in Parliament five times since the May general elections.
Opposition parties disputed this saying he had not come to account for issues such as the security upgrades to his private home in Nkandla.
EFF leader Julius Malema accused the ANC of contradicting itself.
“If the Parliament is going to be convened specially to deal with the powers and privileges report, it’s a confirmation that Parliament can be convened specially for Zuma to come and answer questions. The rules must be applied consistently,” he said.
“We are not going to allow a situation where rules are applied selectively.”
Maimane said the opposition parties would now allow parliamentary proceedings to take place in terms of the power and privileges report but they still felt there were procedural challenges.
FF Plus leader Pieter Mulder said the ANC was of the view that Parliament belonged to the ruling party.
“It’s not the ANC’s Parliament, it’s the people’s Parliament. “If they think they can run it on their own they are in for a surprise.” SAPA