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MPs launch personal salvoes during filibuster

MPs used the opportunity this afternoon to take personal swipes and settle scores.

Speaker Baleka Mbete sits next to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa after his question and answer session in Parliament on 19 November 2014. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - Members of Parliament (MPs) have launched personal attacks on one another during a filibuster aimed at delaying a debate over whether President Jacob Zuma should be censured.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) was scheduled to bring the motion to censure Zuma for refusing to answer MPs questions in the National Assembly chamber.

MPs used the opportunity to take personal swipes and settle scores.

Motion after motion was proposed, some cheekier than others.

One DA MP suggested the house debates the disappearance of the president, who has not made himself available to answer questions, and also proposed a reward be offered to anyone who finds him.

Deputy Minister of Public Works Jeremy Cronin suggested DA MP David Maynier take a breathalyser test after his spirited address in the house.

It was followed by a tit-for-tat between Maynier and his long-time political foe, Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu ,who was accused of flipping the bird at the opposition benches.

Earlier, the African National Congress (ANC) accused the DA of acting in bad faith and undermining the accord struck between Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and opposition parties.

The ANC was reacting to the DA's decision to go ahead with its motion of censure against Zuma.

The ANC's Moloto Mothapo said part of the agreement was to avoid bringing before Parliament anything contentious or polarising.

He said the DA reneged on that agreement and suggested DA Parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane is not in charge of his caucus.

"We believe that by reneging on this agreement a mere 24 hours after it was agreed upon is an act of dishonour and has undermined the entire intervention."

But DA chief whip John Steenhuisen also accused the ANC of acting in bad faith.

"This motion is about protecting Parliament and ensuring Parliament and its rules are respected by the president, his Cabinet and MPs."

PARLIAMENT PEACE DEAL REACHED

Leaders from 11 opposition parties met with Ramaphosa to initiate crisis talks at Tuynhuys on Tuesday.

The talks were aimed at putting Parliament back on track.

Ramaphosa announced he will chair a multi-party committee comprising National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete and all parties to find solutions to tensions that have brought Parliament to near breaking point.

Ramaphosa said an agreement has been reached with opposition leaders on a number of points that will allow for Parliament's dignity and its standing in the eyes of the public to be restored.

Parties agreed to abide by the rules and Ramaphosa agreed that the same should apply to presiding officers, Zuma and his Cabinet ministers.

"They too must not be seen to be doing things that are going to disturb that decorum that we want to create."

One of the agreements reached is a fresh look at the eligibility of presiding officers.

Another, is that disciplinary action against any MP will be held over while the multi-party forum gets down to thrashing out the issues.

This meant that the disciplinary action, currently looming over 20 Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MPs found guilty of misconduct, would be shelved until the multi-party committee completes its work.

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

Mbete had to adjourn 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.

ANC chief whip Stone Sizani and Maimane are the deputy co-chairs of the multi-party forum.