SA's 6th Parliament

High spirits, high energy as new MPs sworn in at Parliament

By Rebecca Davis 22 May 2019
Members of the ANC are sworn in as Members of Parliament by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng in the National Assembly, 22 May 2019. Photo: Leila Dougan/Daily Maverick

As the swearing-in of MPs for the country’s sixth democratic Parliament got off to a start on Wednesday, the sudden absence of Nomvula Mokonyane and David Mabuza dominated gossip on the parliamentary precinct. But this particular parliamentary occasion always feels a bit like the first day of school – with the term still new and radiant with possibility.

ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa, fresh from a #MeToo sabbatical, buzzed around the parliamentary precinct on Tuesday morning giving interviews to journalists on the cusp of South Africa’s sixth Parliament.

Kodwa was much in demand, due to the unexpected drama with which the day was kicking off.

Not only were Malusi Gigaba and Baleka Mbete to be absent from the MP swearing-in, having withdrawn themselves at the last minute, but it appeared that deputy president David Mabuza and former environmental affairs minister Nomvula Mokonyane would ultimately not bend the knee before Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng either.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng swears in Members of the Sixth Parliament in the National Assembly, 22 May 2019. Photo: Leila Dougan/Daily Maverick

Mabuza would watch proceedings from the parliamentary gallery usually used to seat former presidents – of which there were none around. Thabo Mbeki is in Blantyre observing the Malawian elections on behalf of the Commonwealth; Zuma has an alternative engagement at the court in Pietermaritzburg.

Repeatedly asked by journalists who would serve as Deputy President under Cyril Ramaphosa if not Mabuza, Kodwa was not giving an inch.

The decision is the decision of President Cyril Ramaphosa,” Kodwa said. “I don’t think I look like him.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa watches the proceedings in Parliament as Members of Parliament are sworn in by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng in the National Assembly, 22 May 2019. Photo: Leila Dougan/Daily Maverick

And indeed he does not. The DA’s John Steenhuisen, meanwhile, who has been confirmed as the opposition party’s chief whip once again, described the news about Mabuza as “bizarre” and “left-field” while waiting to enter the DA’s caucus meeting at 9.30am.

At that meeting, the party would decide which positions to contest when the time arrived for MPs to vote on posts including that of the president.

Other DA MPs took a moment to enjoy a selfie on the steps of the National Assembly in this sunny moment before the rough and tumble of Parliament officially begins. DA MP Geordin Hill-Lewis hoisted his toddler on to his shoulders for a snap.

Among the freshmen MPs waiting to be sworn in to Parliament for the first time was the DA’s Sibongiseni Ngcobo.

At just 23 years old, Ngcobo is the youngest MP. He will stand out in a Parliament where the average age of new MPs is around 50, and the oldest parliamentary veteran – the IFP’s Mangosuthu Buthelezi – is 90.

I’m very excited,” Ngcobo told Daily Maverick.

The scariest part is not being familiar with the environment. But I’m looking forward to everything, otherwise I would not have put myself forward for it.”

In similarly high spirits was the new crop of EFF MPs, with the Fighters’ election growth bringing their numbers in the National Assembly to a record high of 44.

EFF caucus gather before the swearing-in of MPs at the first sitting of the new term of Parliament in Cape Town on 22 May 2019. Photo: Aisha Abdool Karim

The “44 Batallion”, as they were quickly dubbed by Twitter, took photos together and sang and danced in small groups within the precinct.

Don’t get tired yet,” returning EFF MP Godrich Gardee warned a group of ebullient newcomers.

It was the kind of morning on which even the most perennially grumpy politicians couldn’t resist a smile: both the EFF’s Floyd Shivambu and the ANC’s Lindiwe Zulu appeared relaxed and upbeat, laughing with companions as they entered the National Assembly building.

Happy to pose for photographs on the National Assembly steps was the beaming new ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina.

New ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina poses on the stairs of the National Assembly before the swearing-in of MPs in Cape Town on 22 May 2019. Photo: Rebecca Davis.

Majodina is well known for some extreme fashion choices in the past, but on this occasion her outfit was understated. She told journalists she was saving the real sartorial firepower for the State of the Nation Address.

Will GOOD party leader Patricia de Lille have to wear her party colour (orange) to Parliament every time she appears there now? Unclear, but De Lille was rocking orange lapels on Tuesday morning for the inaugural appearance of her party in the National Assembly. Later, she would take up her seat next to the sole other GOOD MP – former DA councillor Shaun August – behind the sea of EFF red in the House.

We’ve come full circle,” De Lille exclaimed on her way in, saying she was looking forward to using her “experience of 15 years” in Parliament once again.

She was back in parliamentary action on her own terms, De Lille said: “No handouts!”

Amid all the hustle and bustle on the precinct, President Cyril Ramaphosa – president only of the ANC for now, as technically he has yet to be voted in by Parliament – managed to squeeze into the House almost unnoticed.

President Cyril Ramaphosa arrives at the National Assembly before the swearing-in of MPs in Cape Town on 22 May 2019. Photo: Aisha Abdool Karim.

Ramaphosa’s trick? Following on the heels of the riotous EFF caucus.

We’re going in with the EFF,” Ramaphosa muttered to his wife Tsepho, as they rode the Fighters’ slipstream. DM


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