Right when South Africa was set to have its own YouTube video of Members of Parliament coming to blows and the police treating elected leaders like violent protestors, calm was restored. Almost. GREG NICOLSON looks at the charges that were laid after Thursday’s parliamentary protest by the Economic Freedom Fighters.
There was a moment on Thursday when violence seemed certain. Members of the National Assembly left the chamber. Only the EFF was left, protesting, chanting, demanding President Jacob Zuma “pay back the money”. Fighter Mbuyiseni Ndlozi stretched his legs. The feed from Parliament was cut and the microphones turned off. Riot police were amassing at the doors of democracy. The might of the state was finally about to reckon with the ANC’s former wunderkind Julius Malema and his band of Fighters. Then, in an instant, MPs shuffled back to their seats. The session was officially adjourned and the situation resolved.
In the end, the “violence” was minor, but charges have been laid. The EFF marched out of the National Assembly with police on site. In the commotion, emotions high, ANC Youth League national task team member Braam Hanekom says he was assaulted by the very EFF MPs who had decided parliamentary “decorum” wouldn’t be enough to get Zuma to account.
Speaking on Friday, Hanekom maintained the EFF was at fault. The party left the House, showing their middle fingers to ANC members and insulting the governing party’s supporters, he said. Hanekom was there on Thursday as a guest of a member of Parliament. “All I did was put myself in that space which is my right,” he said.
Hanekom claims the EFF didn’t walk back towards their offices but instead tried to confront the ANC contingent. He says they asked them why they were there, what were they doing? “They were basically telling us to go.” Malema told him to leave, then, says Hanekom, the EFF’s Andile Mngxitama, who has reportedly been on the verge of scuffles with Freedom Front Plus members, grabbed his arm and leg and tried to punch him. Hanekom says he was shoved, his neck grabbed and was physically manhandled.
Hanekom laid charges of assault against the EFF, Malema and Mngxitama and says video footage shows what happened and has been given to police. “In their attention seeking efforts some of them may think that they are radical. The behavior seen in parliament today was not only disgraceful, but also violent,” said the ANCYL task team late on Thursday night. “As disciplined members of the ANCYL, we will not retaliate or behave violently by attacking them, but rather utilize the South African criminal justice system to ensure they are held accountable for their actions. Adults should learn to control their tempers and not resort to violence; if they do they have broken the law and must be held accountable.”
Hanekom said no one should be physically manhandled and believes that the EFF behave violently and think it is “radical”.
EFF spokesperson and Member of Parliament Mbuyiseni Ndlozi rubbished Hanekom’s accusations on Friday. “Braam Hanekom is trying to be famous I think… He is trying to prove to the comrades he is brave and all of those things,” said Ndlozi.
Ndlozi claims the EFF walked out of Parliament and Hanekom forced his way past the large police presence and went straight to Malema to provoke him. He stood in front of Malema without saying anything and the EFF leader was confused, thinking Hanekom was a journalist – “Julius doesn’t know him.” Hanekom than verbally and physically confronted them, said Ndlozi, and the EFF members pushed him back.
“I don’t want to entertain him. I despise his ways,” the EFF spokesperson said. He claimed that in a pursuit to be elected to the ANC Youth League’s top echelons in September, Hanekom wants to be famous and seen as a comrade who stands up to defend the ANC leadership.
The EFF says the key thing to focus on is Zuma’s inadequate response to the Public Protector’s Nkandla report. “The EFF cannot join the toothless tactics of parliamentary procedure when the very foundation of the rule of law is undermined by the executive,” said Ndlozi in a statement. “Parliament’s duty must be to exercise its constitutional mandate of holding the executive accountable, which means the president must answer the question raised to him by the house. To suppress these questions through orders is a suppression of the very constitutional duty of holding the executive accountable.”
While there was a small scuffle outside the National Assembley, the real trouble was avoided. Recently, cops came to the Gauteng Legislature and forcefully removed EFF MPLs, hospitalising a number of them.
Ndlozi thanked the media for refusing to leave the House when there was a blackout on footage and sound from the legislative body, claiming the ANC and police could have imposed violence if there was no one watching. “They were stopped by that action of the media… That is what is critical here.” DM
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