Deputy speaker lashes out at MPs

Lechesa Tsenoli lost his temper after shouting erupted during a debate on gender-based violence.

FILE: National Assembly Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli Picture: GCIS.

CAPE TOWN - National Assembly Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli has lashed out at Members of Parliament (MPs) after shouting erupted during a debate on gender-based violence.

MPs this morning debated the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children campaign during a sitting of both houses of Parliament.

But tetchy and perhaps sleep deprived, MPs appeared to be getting on each other's nerves following a week of tense relations between opposition and African National Congress (ANC) MPs, who were up until 4am during a lengthy sitting of the National Assembly.

The sitting was one of the lengthiest since 1994.

There was a tetchy atmosphere in the chamber right from the outset this morning, marked by MPs levelling complaints and counter claims against each other during the debate.

Democratic Alliance Chief Whip John Steenhuisen complained that Minister of Women's Affairs Susan Shabangu had shouted that he was mad.

Then, there was a complaint from another parliamentarian from the opposition benches.

"The honourable member from the National Council of Provinces, that was just called to withdraw and which you said she is not going to, is just pulling faces and sticking out her tongue."

Tsenoli lost his patience.

"You are really a disgrace."

At one point, Tsenoli rose and stood with his fists resting on the desk in front of him to emphasise his point.

Earlier, a ruling was made that it's unparliamentary to chew bubble gum in the house.

This after ANC MP Mandla Mandela complained that an opposition MP was chewing "chappies".

The ANC also complained about an opposition member taking photographs in the house.

DA parliamentarian Jacques Julius used his time on the podium to take a swipe at Shabangu.

"This is the leadership that the sinister, oh sorry, minister has shown. Leadership where we have lost confidence, leadership that has shown 16 Days of Activism will be a talk shop with no impact on curbing gender violence."

Tempers flared and Shabangu could be seen mouthing the words "who are you".

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY PROGRAMME EXTENDED

The ANC in Parliament says the National Assembly progamme will be extended to next week so that outstanding matters can be dealt with.

The house was supposed to rise yesterday, but political wrangling resulted in a six hour suspension of proceedings.

Opposition MPs objected when the ANC placed the Powers and Privileges Committee report into the conduct of Economic Freedom Fighters MPs back on the agenda.

During intense negotiations, political party whips then agreed the matter would stand over.

ANC Chief Whip Stone Sizani made the announcement last night.

OPPOSITION PARTIES PLAN TO MEET RAMAPHOSA

Opposition party leaders are likely to meet with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa next week but the ANC insists the deal forged a few days ago is dead in the water.

Proceedings in the National Assembly were suspended for six hours yesterday afternoon for tense behind the scenes talks after opposition parties objected to the ANC unilaterally changing the day's programme.

The majority party tried to put the Powers and Privileges Committee's report on the Economic Freedom Fighter (EFF)'s conduct back on the agenda after claiming the deal, giving the EFF a temporary reprieve from disciplinary action, had unravelled.

The ruling party plans to bring the report before the house next week.

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 would chair a multi-party committee comprising Mbete and all parties to find solutions to tensions that have brought Parliament to near breaking point.

A scuffle erupted on 13 November when fully armed public order police entered the house during a heated sitting.

Tempers flared when ANC MPs objected to motions brought by the opposition in an attempt to delay the tabling of a report on upgrades to Zuma's Nkandla home.

In March, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela released her Nkandla report and found that Zuma and his family "unduly benefited" from the upgrades at his KwaZulu-Natal home.

But earlier this month, the Nkandla ad-hoc committee officially absolved the president of any wrongdoing in relation to the massive overspending.