EFF disciplinary hearing opened to the public

Parliament's Powers and Privileges Committee says the hearing is in the public's interest.

FILE: Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema is seen leaving Parliament in Cape Town on Thursday, 21 August 2014 with EFF MPs. Picture: Sapa.

CAPE TOWN - A Parliamentary disciplinary hearing into the conduct of Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema and 19 of his fellow Members of Parliament (MPs) has been opened to the public.

The decision was taken at the start of proceedings in Parliament earlier this morning.

The EFF MPs are accused of heckling President Jacob Zuma during his question and answer session in the National Assembly in August.

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete had to ajourn the sitting of the house.

The chanting was a reference to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's report on the R246 million spent on upgrades to Zuma's private Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu-Natal.

Madonsela's report said Zuma had "benefitted unduly" from some of the upgrades, which included a cattle enclosure and amphitheatre, and should pay back some of the costs of the unnecessary renovations.

Parliament's Powers and Privileges Committee has decided to allow the media to sit in on proceedings because it's in the public's interest.

The EFF tried to stop the hearing from going ahead with an 11th-hour court application in the Western Cape High Court last week.

But their bid was unsuccessful.

The EFF's lawyer was hard-pressed to prove that the application was urgent and that the committee was biased.

The 20 MPs risk being suspended from Parliament for up to 14 working days if found guilty.

The Nkandla debacle is also being dealt with by another Parliamentary committee tasked with looking into the Nkandla scandal.

The ad-hoc committee made headlines when opposition MPs withdrew from the process after wrangling over whether the public protector's findings should be enforced.