Opposition parties intend to ratchet up the pressure on Speaker Baleka Mbete on Tuesday when the National Assembly reconvenes after riot police were called into the Chamber last week.
“If she walks in there and thinks it is going to be business as usual, then it is not going to an easy time for her in there,” Democratic Alliance Chief Whip John Steenhuisen said on Monday.
Steenhuisen said that in terms of the rules of the legislature, the DA could not bring another motion of no confidence in Mbete until January, but the party said last week it would no longer recognise her authority.
“She is in a very difficult position.”
Another opposition MP put it more bluntly, saying: “If Mbete refuses to leave the chair, then there will be trouble.”
Last Thursday, DA and Economic Freedom Fighters MPs jumped to their feet, pointed at Mbete and shouted “you must go” after she tried to restrict their time for motions and stop an opposition filibuster that delayed the adoption of a report absolving President Jacob Zuma of responsibility in the Nkandla saga.
Before the night was out, riot police entered the National Assembly to forcibly eject EFF MP Ngwanamakwetle Mashabela after she called the president a thief, and ended up in a brawl with DA MPs who tried to block their path.
DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane said opposition leaders would ask Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to rethink the African National Congress’s hard line on opposition complaints about the running of Parliament when they meet at Tuynhuys on Tuesday morning before the sitting.
“I think the events of last week created a catalyst,” Maimane said.
He said he would press the point with Ramaphosa that sending riot police into Parliament violated the constitutional separation of powers because they reported to the police minister who was a member of the executive.
“It is a violation of that principle,” he said, adding that he had had sight of a directive to presiding officers at Parliament and provincial legislatures to change security protocols following the EFF’s heckling of Zuma in the National Assembly in August.
“The next thing they will send the defence force into Parliament.”
The EFF accused the police of violating section 58 (1) of the Constitution which guarantees parliamentary privilege and protects MPs from arrest for statements made in the house.
Maimane rejected Ramaphosa’s injunction to opposition MPs earlier this month to show Zuma more respect if they wanted him to appear before them in Parliament.
He said he would argue that the president was in breach of the rules requiring him to account to the assembly once every quarter, and could not dictate the tone of the engagement.
“It will be robust. He cannot pick and choose the definition of what is acceptable. But it is clear that the ANC has decided that every available effort must be made to protect the president.”
Tuesday’s sitting will start with the consideration of Budgetary Review and Recommendation Reports in the morning, and move on to the more contentious adoption of the Powers and Privileges Committee’s report finding 20 EFF MPs guilty on corruption charges. SAPA