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Post SONA Sitting Day 2 Part 1: Minister’s statement results in flared tempers

By Charl Bosch - Feb 19, 2015
Post SONA Sitting Day 2 Part 1: Minister’s statement results in flared tempers

Proceedings during the second day of President Jacob Zuma‘s post State of the Nation debate yesterday in Parliament, nearly descended into chaos after Justice Minister, Michael Masutha, had said that the defence force should be allowed enter to the National Assembly if deemed necessary.

His comment comes barely a week after members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) were ejected from the National Assembly after interrupting Zuma during his SONA address.

“Even the SA National Defence Force can be deployed in Parliament. As long as the intervention is necessary, justifiable and sanctioned by the presiding officers it is perfectly legitimate,” Masutha said.

This resulted in EFF Sectary General, Godrich Gardee, asking National Council of Provinces Deputy Chairperson and presiding officer, Raserti Tau, that Masutha withdrew the remark as the matter is “being investigated by the parliamentary oversight authority”.

Although not directly adhering to Gardee’s request, Tau stated that the minister refrain from elaborating on the matter if it was indeed being probed. Seconds later, party leader Julius Malema called on Masutha to sit down as instructed by Parliamentary rules.

A shouting match then ensued with Malema instructing Tau to “do his job” and tell the minister to sit down. Masutha then rebuked the firebrand party leader’s instruction, by saying that the “EFF should learn to take to heat they dish out to other members,” which lead to Malema jumping-up and accusing Masutha of making fun about a sensitive matter.

“We have one of our members in hospital,” he said, referring to Renielwe Mashabele who suffered gashes to her face and a broken jaw after the party claimed she was beaten by an officer’s shoe during their eviction by security personal.

“The minister stands here and justifies an illegal action committed by police under the illegal instructions of the Speaker. A woman has been injured after being assaulted by police,” he said, before being told to sit down.

Tensions reached an all-time high minutes later, when Deputy Minister for Basic Education, Enver Surty, accused the EFF of raising “a matter that has absolutely no substance”, stating that Masutha “had not referred to any pending case”.

This caused outrage among the EFF and Democratic Alliance (DA) MP’s, with Malema informing Tau, who had consistently appealed for order and that members respect the rules of the House, that a letter from the DA had been send to Parliament’s Power and Privileges Committee to investigate the matter, before accusing the minister of trying to influence its outcome.

Tau’s accusation of Malema for questioning his earlier ruling, then resulted in DA Chief Whip, John Steenhuisen, saying that the Speaker’s failure to provide him (Tau) with a copy of the signed document, “is not our problem”, to which Tau instructed him to sit down. Steenhuisen refused, saying that it is within his rights to finish his motion.

“You are obliged to hear my point of order and I would like to finish it,” hw said, eventually adding that he had risen on ‘n different motion instead of on Tau’s ruling.

“I am beginning to get a feeling that member are now challenge the ruling I made earlier with regard to this matter. And I addressed each member on this,” Tau remarked, leading to DA MP Mike Waters, accusing him of favouring the ruling party over opposition MP’s.

“You allowed the Deputy Minister of Basic Education to wax lyrical on a point of order while you shut down the opposition,” he said.

Tau again reiterated that he had made a ruling on a matter “that we don’t know whether it is before the judiciary or not”, which caused Steenhuisen to rise and enquire as to whether Surty’s point of order was indeed valid

“At the beginning the minister raised issues, but submitted a point of order at the end in which he said that it is not right for fellow member to intimidate others, which is a valid point,” to which Steenhuisen replied, What rule are you applying to that?”

More shouting ensued with Steenhuisen saying, “If you want to send the police in here to get me out, you can do that, but I want to know the rule”.

Masutha eventually managed to finish his speech only after retracting his statement “so as to save the opposition from the agony they are causing to themselves over a complete storm in a teacup”.


CAPTION: Still image of Justice Minister, Michael Masutha, yesterday during the second day of  President Jacob Zuma‘s post State of the Nation debate in Parliament. IMAGE sourced from eNCA