Parliament security to be 'beefed up'

Security cluster ministers say the decision to beef up security is necessary given last Thursday’s mayhem.

Police with riot shields arrive at the National Assembly on 21 August 2014. Picture: Gaye Davis/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Stronger security measures have been put in place at Parliament to avert future disruptions, with Economic Freedom Fighters facing possible suspension while their conduct is investigated.

Security cluster ministers say the decision to beef up security measures at Parliament in the wake of last Thursday's mayhem isn't a case of being heavy-handed.

They also say they respect the independence of Parliament and the separation of powers between the executive and the legislature.

But they're adamant that similar scenes of chaos such as those that followed the disruption by the EFF of President Jacob Zuma's question time last Thursday not be repeated.

Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula's told journalists the law allows for people to be arrested at parliament

"There's no heavy-handedness in dealing with this matter, there wasn't. However, from now going forward we want to make an appeal to Members of Parliament that we should not see the kind of circus which occurred in the house."

She says the EFF have a right to hold the government to account but it must be done within the rules.

"They have a right of course to take us to task and make us account, but shall be done in a manner that is within the confines of the law."

She said in terms of the first line of defence, the police have a responsibility to ensure law and order as security in Parliament falls directly under their control.

National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete meanwhile is considering suspending the 25 EFF MPs while their conduct is investigated by parliament's Powers and Privileges Committee.

Mbete has asked the EFF MPs to explain to her in writing why they should not be suspended while the probe's underway.

"The matter is being referred to the Powers and Privileges Committee in terms of rule 194. The committee is to investigate whether the conduct of the EFF members constitute contempt of Parliament."

The trouble started when the party's leader Julius Malema asked President Zuma when he would pay back the money spent on upgrading his Nkandla home.

Zuma replied that the Nkandla issue had already been dealt with which prompted an EFF sit-in.

In March, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found that the president and his family unduly benefitted from the R246 million upgrades at his private Nkandla residence and recommended that he pay back a portion of the money.

Mbete had to adjourn the sitting of the house and at one point, it appeared as if riot police would forcibly remove EFF members from the house.

The multi-party committee will have to consider whether the conduct of the EFF members amounts to contempt of Parliament.

Meanwhile, The ANC says the EFF must be chucked out of Parliament every time they disrupt proceedings.

ANC Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte says Parliament is supposed to be a place of debate and discussion.

"And people bringing their voice of their constituency to the Parliament and the EFF, with due respect to South African headlines, is a six percent party."

ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe says Parliament must deal firmly with the EFF if they disrupt proceedings.

"If they disrupt proceedings, law must kick in. if they disrupt every time, they must be chucked out every time."

The party's National Working Committee has also called on Parliament to take strong stance against EFF members who disrupted the National Assembly last week.