The source of conflict was Speaker Baleka Mbete. Her position is a difficult one, requiring neutrality and general respect from all members of parliament. Under the Institutional Mandate on Parliament’s website, as the leader of the House, the Speaker has the responsibility to:
“Exercise impartiality at all times in pursuance of these duties. The impartiality of the Speaker is one of the prime values the integrity of South African Parliament is measured in terms of. The Speaker therefore has the responsibility of:
- Being the custodian of this integrity.
- Preserving parliamentary integrity.
- The decorum of the members of the House consequently.”
Mmusi Maimane, the DA’s parliamentary leader, said that neutrality was impossible as Mbete was also chairwoman of the ANC i.e. a clear conflict of interest. She proved the point when Fikile Mbalula, the ANC’s Sport Minister, was allowed to get away with criticising Maimane by saying that, “the DA has been on a shopping spree to find a token black person… it found him in dusty streets of Soweto.”
The EFF has yet to send out a press release so here, alone, is the walkout in the words of Maimane:
This evening in the National Assembly, the DA led a walk-out of opposition parties that supported the Motion of No Confidence in the Speaker, Baleka Mbete.
This move came after the Chief Whip of the ANC, Stone Sizani, proposed an amendment to our Motion of No Confidence that entirely re-framed the motion as one of confidence in the Speaker – which the Presiding Officer accepted as a valid amendment.
To supplement a valid and lawful Motion of No Confidence, with one of confidence, and the ANC abusing its majority to push the amendment through, perverts the process of Parliament, and undermines the role of the National Assembly.
The ANC has shown nothing but contempt for today’s Motion of No Confidence, and the amendment moved by the ANC to make the motion one of confidence in the Speaker is a slap in the face of democracy.
It is our firm belief that the people of South Africa have lost confidence in the Speaker and by the ANC denying Parliament the opportunity to properly vote on this motion, the ANC has subverted democratic practice.
Today is a dark day for the health of our Parliamentary democracy.
Speaker Baleka Mbete has continuously undermined parliamentary honesty by shielding President Jacob Zuma from the most serious questions, the Nkandla scandal amongst them.
I can’t help but wonder if our country is merely an appearance of democracy so that foreign countries can, in ‘good conscience’, continue to trade with us. Although i may have freedom of speech to compose this blog, real power, held by the ANC, is made autocratic by their overwhelming majority.
As much as i applaud the spirit of the walkout, the only solution to the crimes of our executive has to grow from within the ANC. Only the ANC can save itself. Consequently, outside of revolution, only the ANC, in the short term, can save our country.
The irony of our democracy will last longer than i can clap for what just happened.