ANC on Wednesday backed down and agreed to allow a review of the presiding officer’s decision to remove Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema from Parliament‚ once a committee is established to investigate the September 9 incident.
However‚ due to the lack of quorum at the meeting‚ the decision to establish the committee in terms of the new rules of Parliament‚ will have to wait until next month.
The EFF did not attend Wednesday’s proceedings.
Speaker Baleka Mbete said that because the rules were new‚ the Rules committee was in “uncharted waters”.
Parliament’s new Rule 53A states that the matter must be referred to a multi-party committee within 24 hours of the removal of a member.
Because no such committee exists yet‚ the Rules Committee met on Wednesday to establish that committee.
And while all parties present were in favour of the establishment of the committee‚ parties clashed over a point outlining the committee’s mandate‚ which indicated that the ruling of the presiding officer‚ Grace Boroto‚ would not be reviewed.
The Democratic Alliance’s chief whip John Steenhuisen said the party believed the wrong rule had been applied in the house and by failing to challenge the correctness of the rule‚ the committee would not be functioning correctly.
He said the committee then ran the risk of becoming a “witch-hunt” if the rulings of presiding officers could not be challenged.
Initially‚ the ANC refused to budge on the matter. ANC chief whip Stone Sizani said there was a rule that “rulings of the presiding officer are final” and could not be challenged.
“It has been a practice of the EFF to undermine and insult Members of Parliament thus reducing their standing and stature.”
He said he believed the matter of the ruling itself should and would be dealt with in the committee.
However‚ after a short tea break‚ the ANC returned and with MP Richard Mdakane stating they were willing to back down on the point.
Mbete said that because of the lack of quorum the committee could not be officially established but it would be placed on the agenda for October 27‚ after Parliament has returned from recess.
Meanwhile‚ earlier in the day‚ the rules sub-committee once again mulled over plans to avoid the constant and “embarrassing” objections to motions without notice in the house.
The EFF has made a habit of objecting to all motions without notice‚ including messages of condolences and congratulations.
Chairman of the committee Mdakane said the proposed new rule would see parties submitting their notices to the parliamentary table staff before 10am on the day of the sitting.
The table staff has to be satisfied with the length and content of the notices‚ which will not be allowed to contain party political or offensive statements.
After this has happened‚ five political parties‚ including the ruling party and the official opposition will have to agree to the notice being read in the house.
Mdakane initially seemed amenable to the idea of doing away with the statements altogether saying “the sky wont fall without them”.
He‚ however‚ said he acknowledged their important role in conveying Parliament’s sentiments of condolences during tragedies‚ and in the event of high-profile deaths.
The matter is still to be presented to the rules committee of parliament.