In the aftermath of the State of the Nation Address, the action of the Speaker of parliament, Baleka Mbete has come under extreme fire from the other members of the opposition and the public in general. The main argument is that the use of the police in removing members of the EFF was tantamount to a breach of the constitution and was unwarranted. In addition, there was also the argument that only a few members of the EFF had been ordered to leave the house but the police details that arrived at the behest of Mbete ‘kicked and pummeled’ everyone out of the house.
Speaking at a media briefing on Friday, the chief whip of the Democratic Alliance, John Steenhuisen said that his party believed that the police had no right to forcibly remove ALL the members of the EFF from parliament as the Speaker had only ordered only three members of the opposition party to leave the Chamber. He added that it was the feeling of his party that Baleka Mbete should be held responsible for Thursday night’s incident. He went on to describe the calling into the House of the armed police as a slippery slope away from constitutional democracy.
Mmusi Maimane also revealed during the briefing that his party was busy in consultation with its legal advisers about seeking a specific court order that would deal with and stop the Presiding Officers from calling the police in the House of Assembly. He argued that this was necessary because the current legislation may not be specific enough for this purpose. Maimane went on to accuse the Speaker of Parliament of being partisan in a position that demanded neutrality, adding that “the speaker of the National Assembly acted in the interests of the ANC. She allowed the executive to act in a manner that they sought to find ways to undermine the constitution. She protected President Jacob Zuma.”
Turning to their own walk-out, Maimane was at pains to make it clear that their walk-out had nothing to do with the EFF. His party also walked out of the House on Thursday evening just before President Zuma delivered his State of the Nation speech in what Maimane explained as a walk out in protest against the use of police in the Chamber. He elaborated that his party was not in agreement with the way the EFF had carried themselves. “I think the actions of the EFF were wrong. If the ruling concludes that your point of order is not appropriate, in my view you should accept that ruling and if you are asked to leave the Chamber, you need to be able to do that yourself,” he said.