The chaos besieging Parliament is a critical constitutional matter that could be resolved only through dialogue, or as a last resort, by the highest court in the land.
This was the view of constitutional and political analysts following yet another day of mayhem in Parliament when EFF MPs were forcefully removed from the House.
Chaos erupted when National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete told EFF MPs to stop disrupting proceedings during President Jacob Zuma’s oral reply session.
Two weeks ago, the EFF said it would, by all means necessary, block Zuma from addressing MPs. This was after the Constitutional Court’s damning ruling that he had failed to “uphold, defend and respect the constitution” with regard to the Nkandla matter.
True to their word, EFF MPs tried to stop him on Tuesday, and as the pandemonium escalated, Mbete ordered security officers to eject them. School pupils seated in the public gallery shrieked in horror as the EFF members were dragged from the chamber for the second time in as many weeks.
In the ensuing chaos, EFF MPs threw water bottles and engaged in a confrontation with the officers.
The officials were forced to block the key entrances to the chamber after they had successfully removed all EFF members. During the clashes in the corridors, a glass door was shattered. An ANC MP collapsed shortly afterwards and Zuma had to wait while medics attended to her.
Malema later told the media that the EFF would meet fire with fire and vowed that Zuma would “never find peace” in Parliament.
Meanwhile the ANC has urged Parliament to lay criminal charges against the EFF.
The ruling party said on Tuesday that it was intolerable to cause destruction of property and anarchy in the sanctity of the Chamber.
ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu said the conduct of the EFF warranted further action from Parliament.
He said Parliament needed to lay criminal charges against the EFF for attacking security officers.
Constitutional law expert Professor Shadrack Gutto said the level of violence and strongarm tactics used in Parliament had reached a point where it was damaging the idea of a constitutional democracy.
“This matter ought to go to the Constitutional Court for clarification on whether the force used is justifiable or proportional. We are dealing with a question of proportionality and rationality here.”
Before Tuesday’s chaos, the Western Cape High Court rejected an urgent application by the EFF to interdict Mbete from evicting MPs from the House. The court said the matter was not urgent.
Another constitutional law expert, Professor Pierre de Vos, said it was too early to predict where the chaos was leading the country’s constitutional democracy.
“In other democracies there wouldn’t be a forceful removal of members of Parliament from the chamber, unless there is direct threat to lives,” he said.
“There would be a specific disciplinary process outside the chamber if people disrupt Parliament and prevent it from carrying out its duty. This is probably a more dignified way than forceful removal and retaliation.”
Political analysts warned that the anarchy could spill into communities, if not addressed.
Analyst Tinyiko Maluleke said he feared that “the atmosphere of near anarchy” was trickling into communities, which had started burning schools and universities.
“That is the message they (MPs) are sending to the rest of society. We now have a country that is slipping into a culture of violence.”
He said the impasse could be resolved through dialogue.
“This country is famous for finding alternatives where one appears non-existent. There is always an alternative to violence, and that alternative is dialogue.”
Zuma pointed out on Tuesday that it had become clear that parties in Parliament needed to talk in order to resolve their differences.
“No matter what party we belong to, we are here because we want to see a prosperous, successful South Africa. The only difference is the route to reach that point,” he said.
Political analyst Somadoda Fikeni added: “If this political rhetoric continues without being addressed through a political mature platform, this stand-off is most likely going to spill into the communities, where political campaigning turns out to be violent and skirmishes emerge.”
After the latest removal of EFF MPs, the ANC was quick to urge Parliament to lay criminal charges against the EFF for being involved in a brawl with protection officers. But Fikeni cautioned against this.
“It may turn into a situation where any steps taken against the EFF might be translated as a political attack instead of a process.”
That could lead to the outcome of the local elections being challenged on the grounds that the electoral process was not free and fair.[Source: Political Bureau]