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SONA 2024

EFF in new court bid to attend Sona, now with stricter rules

EFF in new court bid to attend Sona, now with stricter rules
EFF MPs are removed from the Cape Town City Hall during the 2023 State Of The Nation Address on 9 February 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

The EFF is in court in a last-minute bid for its leader Julius Malema and five others to attend Thursday’s State of the Nation Address. But tough new joint sitting rules are in place to ban interrupting the President’s speech in which the election date could be announced.

‘No member may interrupt the President whilst delivering the State of the Nation Address,” say the new rules for joint sittings. It’s a move to address Sona disruptions that date back to 2015.

The new rules for joint sittings of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) also expressly ban repeated points of order to the same issue and require a dress code “befitting the dignity and decorum of the House”. Parliamentarians who are removed physically or from the virtual platform will be referred for a decision on further disciplinary proceedings.

Crucially, the new joint sitting rules expressly provide for the use of “such force as may be reasonably necessary to overcome any resistance” when removing a rowdy MP.

The rules now also allow weapon-carrying security services into the House “in extraordinary circumstances in terms of security policy”.

eff sona

Members of the EFF are evicted from the 2023 State Of The Nation Address at Parliament in Cape Town on 9 February 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Jeffrey Abrahams)

In the 2023 Sona, armed, balaclava-wearing police in camouflage uniforms entered the House when EFF leader Julius Malema and others carrying posters entered the stage where President Cyril Ramaphosa was sitting. The EFF MPs’ guilty verdicts for contempt of Parliament stem from this incident.

That these joint sitting rules were adopted with a vote of 297 for and 23 EFF MPs against on 6 December 2023 signals the EFF isolation on the parliamentary benches as these disruptions have antagonised not only the governing ANC, but other opposition parties.

It is a blow for the EFF leaders to miss February’s high-profile political events from Sona and its debate on the Budget on 21 February.

Parliament would hope for a smoother Sona with the toughened rules, the strategically timed suspension of Malema and the others, and opposing EFF court bids to overturn sanctions.

Parliament, in its court papers for Tuesday’s hearing, said the sanction of suspension for February 2024 was for contempt of Parliament for the disruption of the 2023 Sona. Were the sanction to be suspended by the court, as the EFF requested, it would defeat the purpose of the sanction. In any event, the sanction already began on 1 February.

eff parliament

Chaos erupts as members of EFF are escorted from the house during the Presidency Budget Vote Debate Response at Parliament in Cape Town on 10 June 2022. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

Necessary legislation

With Sona security and prep done, speculation is rife that the President will announce the election date. And that means MPs must roll up their sleeves and get the Electoral Matters Amendment Bill passed ahead of the poll.

With mostly technical amendments to bring independent candidates into the political funding and donation declaration regimen, the much anticipated 2024 elections can’t happen until it’s in force.

“It is indeed necessary for the Bill to be adopted by Parliament and signed into law by the President by the time that elections are held,” the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) confirmed in writing following a request for comment.

“It is only through this (law) that independents, who get elected to Parliament or provincial legislatures, will be able to receive any financial allocations from the Represented Political Party Fund and other funds established in terms of the Political Party Funding Act…”

Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi took until 7 December 2023 to table the Electoral Matters Amendment Bill in Parliament. 

It is unclear why it took some seven-and-a-half months for him to do so after Ramaphosa on 20 April 2023 signed into law the Electoral Amendment Act that allows independents to contest national and provincial elections.

The need for consequential technical amendments to bring independents into the political funding had been clear since Parliament passed this electoral amendment legislation on 23 February 2023.

Such delays have put Parliament under pressure again.

In an effort to meet tight law-making timeframes, the National Assembly and NCOP home affairs committees will sit together this week to be briefed and hold public hearings on Tuesday and hear departmental and IEC responses on Thursday. 

The list of committee meetings has not set out further meetings at this stage, but the National Assembly and NCOP home affairs committees must separately agree on the draft law and take it to their respective Houses.

Should the elections be proclaimed for May, as is widely expected, and if the pattern of the 2019 elections holds, Parliament is set to rise at the end of March.

If, like in 2019, Ramaphosa announces the election date in his Sona, the pressure and timelines for parliamentarians will be clear on Thursday.

The upside? The Electoral Matters Amendment bill can be passed by Parliament and signed into law by the President at any time before the vote.

Or, as the IEC put it, “…it would still be in order to have the enactment done any time before the elections”.

But it needs to be done in time. DM

Update: The Western Cape High Court has dismissed the last-minute court bid to attend Sona by EFF leader Julius Malema, his deputy Floyd Shivambu, secretary-general Marshall Dlamini and three others. The judgment was delivered electronically on Thursday morning, hours before the Sona.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    Doubt it. The prez and parliament are old and epic ditherers.

    • Con Tester says:

      Can DM not filter on specific comment content, rather than on specific commentators? This latest spam by “Pamela Khumalo” is a carbon copy of spam that was posted under a few other monikers.

  • J vN says:

    Parliament has been a pointless waste of time since 1994. Everything just gets rammed through by the majority and the rest is just hot air.

    • Adam B says:

      That’s quite a statement. I realise that many people have frustrations, but to conclude that one of the key democratic institutions is “pointless” is a worrying indictment. I do wonder about your reference to 1994, and your perception of the relative effectiveness of parliament before then. Was there not a similar majority that could “ram” through their preferred legislation? Was there more lively debate? Or was there something else about the composition of parliament before that date?

  • Rae Earl says:

    Having an uninterrupted SONA will indicate just how bad the EFF actions of the past were in undermining announcements of national importance. Not that it’s going to make any difference as Ramaphosa will no doubt resort to his usual vapid stream of setting unattainable goals and his acknowledgement of the ever increasing stream of ANC governance mistakes. Continuous admissions of in-house errors means just one thing, the ruling party has lost control and does not learn from mistakes. And the world witnesses the unravelling of South Africa and starts turning to greener pastures for trade agreements etc.

    • Con Tester says:

      Mostly agreed, although I also expect Ramaposeur to indulge in a fair amount of onanistic, self-congratulatory bloviation about how well his, er, “government” has done by the people of SA, for example an absurd celebration of the alarming increase in social grant recipients (which, in reality, is a glaring reflection of his and his party’s abysmal failures).

      After all, it’s an election year, so what better platform to spread manipulative BS and propaganda than the one event that will be heard by nearly every SAn and analysed ad nauseam?

  • David Crossley says:

    The sooner the EFF start to behave like adults, the sooner they will be allowed to participate in the Parliamentary processes. They are a dangerously militant political organisation with a good dose of Nationalism which should sound alarm bells to anyone who supports Democracy.

  • Benevolence ZA says:

    Further into winter they must not expect South Africans to leave their homes and go to vote. Last time I queued for 2-3 hours that’s because it warm and I was already losing patience. I will not wait that long in chill weather.

  • Rory Macnamara says:

    Misbehave and you get punished EFF. perhaps you might learn something if that is at all possible.

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