Parliament gets bloody as MPs clash with police
MPs told EWN of bloody noses and cut lips sustained in clashes with armed police in Parliament.
CAPE TOWN - Parliament's presiding officers are set to give a briefing this morning on last night's dramatic events in the National Assembly.
The sitting in the house started with fireworks when the day's programme was changed by National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete despite being agreed on earlier.
Armed riot police hauled a female Member of Parliament (MP) out of the National Assembly and several other opposition Parliamentarians were assaulted in a fracas that led to proceedings being abruptly suspended late last night.
Opposition MPs have told Eyewitness News they're laying charges of assault against the police, who entered the chamber after an Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MP called President Jacob Zuma a thief and a criminal and refused to retract her statement.
As riot police moved into the chamber, Parliament TV cut the live feed.
The EFF MP's forced removal by police came after opposition MPs challenged Mbete's ability to be impartial while also serving as the ruling party's national chairperson and a brutal debate on Nkandla.
In March, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela released her Nkandla report and found that Zuma and his family unduly benefitted from the upgrades at his KwaZulu-Natal home.
Madonsela ordered that the president pay back a portion of the money used for the upgrades at his home.
The African National Congress (ANC) majority, muscled through the adoption of the Nkandla ad-hoc committee's report, absolving the president of any liability, as opposition MPs warned the country was at a crossroads.
Inkatha Freedom Party MP Narend Singh said, "Nkandla is now a permanent stain on the presidency and the ANC. They have protected one man, but opened a wound in our nation that will bleed forever."
Shocked and emotional, MPs last night told EWN of bloodied noses and cut lips, sustained in clashes with armed police in the assembly chamber, while there was no clarity on who ordered them in or to blackout proceedings in the house.
Video: Deputy speaker puts his foot in it.
MPS CHANT THAT MBETE 'MUST GO'
There were several angry exchanges between Mbete and the opposition, with MPs shouting "you must go".
The speaker began by setting time frames for issues to be debated in the house including the ad-hoc committee's report on Nkandla.
"I rule that notices of motion and motions without notices be limited to 45 minutes."
But opposition parties would have none of it, repeatedly chanting, "You must go! You must go"!
Parties demanded that sufficient time be given to discussing items on the agenda.
They demanded to be heard and mayhem broke out.
The Democratic Alliance's John Steenhuisen challenged Mbete to step down.
"You have lost control of the house for the second time madam speaker. You are pushing us to a Constitutional crisis and we would ask that in the interests of this institution, you step down from the chair so we can proceed with the business interests of the day."
EFF MP Khanyisile Litchfield-Tshabalala, tried to address the house, but was told to sit down
There were shouts of abuse of power as Mbete repeatedly failed to recognise members of the EFF clamouring for her attention.
Mbete was asked to surrender the chair to allow for order to be restored, but she remained in place.
Video: Chaos in Parliament.
NKANDLA SCANDAL SETS PARLIAMENT OFF
Opposition MPs savaged the Parliamentary ad-hoc committee's report on the scandal which has been described by some as a 'white wash.'
Committee chairperson Cedric Frolick says the group's noted the costs for the upgrades to the president's home, but adds he's not responsible for them.
He says Zuma must now decide on the next step.
"He must consider whether any members of the executive failed to implement the provisions of the cabinet memorandum of 2003, either through complacency or negligence in the execution of their duties and if necessary take appropriate action."
However the DA's Mmusi Maimane has slammed the committee saying it's one-sided.
"The adoption of the report by the ANC committee is a travesty of parliamentary oversight. Zuma has forsaken his Constitutional duty and the ANC's report has rubberstamped his sins."
QUESTIONS RAISED OVER MBETE'S ABILITY TO DO HER JOB
Questions are being asked about whether the National Assembly speaker is able to keep doing her job following yesterday's chaos.
Political analyst professor Steven Friedman said, "The main thing that has shifted in our politics is we have a speaker that is also the chairperson of the ruling party and as long as that's her job, tempers will flare."
While independent analyst Ralph Mathekga says this really is all about Mbete.
"If she had diplomatic demeanour, it would have been different and she's getting all this attention because she has a track record of being the weakest link of the ANC in Parliament
But the ANC is likely to stay firmly behind her.