MATTERS RELATING TO THE STATE OF THE NATION ADDDRESS
The ANC in Parliament welcomes Presidents Zuma’s plan for radical economic transformation as presented in his State of the Nation Address last night. The speech demonstrated commitment to fundamentally change the structure, systems, institutions and patterns of ownership, management and control of the economy in favour of all South Africans, especially the poor, the majority of whom are African and female.
As the ANC in this Parliament, we are poised to hold the executive accountable on the commitments it has made to the nation in relation to radical socio-economic transformation.
We are committing ourselves to thoroughly consult the people on every Act that facilitates radical socio-economic transformation, including those that have been referred back to parliament, such as the Expropriation Bill and the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act. We acknowledge that in some cases the NCOP has defaulted on ensuring meaningful public participation. We will ensure that that all our people are sufficiently involved in the law-making processes as they impact on their lives.
We welcome the new regulations that make it compulsory for big contractors to subcontract 30% of business to black owned enterprises which were gazetted last month. We further welcome the anticipation of new legislation which will among others address the need to have a more inclusive economy and de-concentrate the high levels of ownership and control we see in many sectors. These interventions will go a long way in dealing with white monopoly capital and ensuring that all South Africans are able to participate in the economy of our country.
On land, we note the need for parliament to speed up the process of the Expropriation Bill in order to pursue land reform and land redistribution. We further welcome the announcement of a draft Property Practitioners Bill which will be published by the Department of Human Settlements for public comment with the purpose of establishing a more inclusive, representative sector, towards radical economic transformation.
We are pleased with the announcement that this government will in the remaining years of this administration focus on relooking the NSFAS threshold of R122 000 to allow the poor and working class greater access to higher education.
The African National Congress in Parliament is deeply disturbed by the reprehensible and deeply embarrassing conduct of Members of Parliament which displayed itself last night in full view of the national and the international community during the occasion of the 2017 State of the Nation Address.
The annual State of the Nation Address presents an opportunity for government to account to the public on its performance and to present its set of priorities for the future. South Africans, the majority of whom are Black and poor, look forward to this important annual presidential address to hear how their government plans to continue to respond to their socioeconomic challenges and improve their conditions of life. For its part, Parliament is enjoined by the Constitution to enable a platform for the executive to report regarding its work and to conduct oversight over its performance.
When Members of Parliament connive in order to prevent the executive from accounting to the people, they are not only guilty of dereliction of their Constitutional function but they are also in violation of the right of South Africans to hear and hold their government to account. Public representatives should not be a barrier between the people and the government they have elected. Parliament is the uppermost representative body of the people that represents their democratic will, hopes and aspirations. Any attack on the institution or obstruction of its Constitutional function represents a direct onslaught on the people.
The happenings at Parliament last night are a national shame that, if not thoroughly and decisively nipped in the bud, will destroy the mainstay of our constitutional democracy. Blood, sweat and tears were shed for the attainment of this democracy, together with one of the best constitutions in the world, for it to be destroyed by unbridled acts of anarchy which show scant regard for the law, the rules, the Constitution and the people to whom Parliament belongs. The people of South Africa must rise up and speak out against this rampant anarchy and protect their public institutions.
The conduct of the EFF Members of Parliament last night, which involved blatant acts of criminality and intimidation, is the clearest indication yet that the Party’s resoluteness to render dysfunctional and subsequently destroy one of the most important institutions of the people. When a party of few MPs violate the rules and procedures of Parliament at will, and even unleashes violence against those tasked with preserving and maintaining the orderly management of the House, then our national liberty is at stake. This cannot be allowed to continue.
As part of a clearly orchestrated plan to obstruct this year’s first sitting of Parliament, EFF MPs yesterday transgressed all rules governing joint sittings of the two Houses of Parliament. They rose in a synchronised chaotic fashion insisting on frivolous points of order which have no basis in the law or rules, unleashed a torrent of profanity at the President, the Presiding Officers and the House while demonstrating utter contempt for the public.
In the face of extreme provocation and vulgarity, the presiding officers displayed great restraint, patience and reasonableness – delaying the President’s speech for over an hour before correctly ordering the removal of the EFF MPs. EFF’s response to this procedural mechanism provided for in the rules was violence: beating the parliamentary protection staff with fists and helmets and pelting them with water bottles and other objects. A number of staff members were injured in the process. We strongly believe that the violent attacks using water bottles and helmets calls for the tightening of the House rules to ensure safety of all MPs and staff.
The EFF MPs also left a trail of damage to parliamentary property, which includes the door of the ANC Chief Whip’s reception area. As the parliamentary staff was removing the disruptive MPs from the Chamber, we are reliable informed by eye-witness sources that a member of the EFF in the public gallery simultaneously threw a tear gas powder, which we believe was part of the well-orchestrated disruption. We are confident that the cameras of Parliament will be able to expose this individual, including identifying specific MPs responsible for the damage to property, so that they can face the full might of the law. Members of the parliamentary staff must be applauded for responding swiftly by pouring water on the substance to minimise its effect.
We condemn in the strongest terms the repulsive conduct of these EFF MPs and their supporters, whose intention was to collapse the most important sitting of the two Houses of Parliament, undermine the rights of South Africans, and to destroy the institution. The behaviour of these MPs warrants a criminal probe by the law enforcement agencies and a parliamentary investigation by the powers and privileges committee. A clear message must be sent to these individuals that people’s institutions cannot be attacked and be subjected to acts of criminality with impunity.
We equally condemn the opportunistic DA for partaking in the disruption through frivolous points of order in solidarity with its coalition partner. The DA’s use of the painful and sad matter of the deaths of psychiatric patients in Gauteng for political posturing is shameful. The DA deliberately sought to use this tragedy as a tool for political grandstanding and disruption of Parliament.
If the DA was sincere about Parliament paying respects for the deceased, it would have followed the normal parliamentary procedure of alerting the presiding officers and all parties ahead of the sitting, as it is normally the case with matters of this nature. While the ANC in Parliament supports the remembrance of deceased by Parliament, the manner in which the DA sprung the matter was disingenuous, disappointing and disrespectful to the memory of the victims and the bereaved families.
The families of the deceased should not have been made to witness their deceased loved ones being placed at the centre of such deliberate disorderliness by the DA. If the DA respected the memory of the deceased as we do, and was sensitive to the feelings of their families, it would have treated the matter with deserved respect by consulted with all parties as dictated by procedure instead of using as a stepping stone for walk-out and disruption.
We have noted the announcement around the deployment of members of the SANDF to assist with law and order enforcement during the State of the Nation Address during the sitting of the House. We will write to the Speaker of the National Assembly for clarification on this matter.
Statement issued by the Office of the ANC Chief Whip, 10 February 2017