Ricochet News

Presidency budget vote goes ahead as opposition withdraws involvement

By Charl Bosch - May 5, 2016
Presidency budget vote goes ahead as opposition withdraws involvement

The majority of the country’s opposition parties have confirmed it would not attend Thursday’s sitting of Parliament to hear President Jacob Zuma respond to points raised during Wednesday’s chaotic Presidency budget speech.

Parliament descended into disarray right from the onset when members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) objected to Zuma’s presence inside the Chamber, which was also his first appearance since the Constitutional Court found in March that had violated his oath of office by ignoring the remedial actions of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s Nkandla report.

Most of the party’s members were eventually removed after National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete called on Parliament Protection Service to intervene when they continued protesting against her apparent refusal to put a motion before the house as to whether Zuma should speak.

The near-on seven hour sitting was again characterised by the hurling of insults and jibes mostly directed at Zuma, the EFF and its leader Julius Malema, as well as the Democratic Alliance (DA) and its leader Mmusi Maimane. It was later confirmed that Parliament had slapped the EFF with a five-day ban for the incident.

In a statement, Maimane said the party held consultations with the EFF, Freedom Front Plus, African Christian Democratic (ACDP), Congress of the People (Cope), United Democratic Movement and National Freedom Party (NFP), where it was decided to boycott the sitting in protest against Zuma.

“As representatives of the people of South Africa, we cannot in good conscience legitimise an empty speech of an utterly discredited and illegitimate President,” Maimane said.

“This collective decision was taken by opposition parties after much consideration to send a strong message to the South African people that the opposition won’t allow Zuma to trample on the constitution, ignore court rulings, and then come to Parliament and ask for more money for his office”.

As well rejecting the budget, Maimane also took a swipe at the various presiding officers’ clamp down on free speech, describing it as a “new low for Parliament”.

“Parliament ought to be a platform where publically elected representatives of the people are afforded constitutional protection so that vigorous political debate can occur. If we cannot even quote directly from court judgements, or make strident political points about the President and his party, then free speech is truly dead in our Parliament,” he said.

Cope spokesperson Dennis Bloem said it has become clear that the ANC are “hell bent in continuing to disrespect the Constitution and the rule of law”, adding that opposition parties also risk violating the Constitution by being merely present inside Parliament.

“The ANC under Mr Zuma has made many institutions of state dysfunctional, costly and politicised. For the peoples’ parliament to become the peoples’ parliament, opposition parties must withdraw from participation and use this period of electioneering to win public support for its dissolution. The Baleka led National Assembly is moribund. Its only usefulness lies in creating drama,” he said.