Mbete ‘irresponsible’ for calling Malema a cockroach

Baleka Mbete urged ANC members to continue their work 'otherwise cockroaches like Malema would spread'.

President Jacob Zuma and Speaker Baleka Mbete arriving ahead of the State of the Nation Address in Cape Town on 12 February 2015. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete's reference to Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema as a cockroach has been described as highly irresponsible and unbecoming of her office.

Mbete urged African National Congress (ANC) delegates at a weekend conference in the North West to continue their work otherwise cockroaches like Malema would spread.

During President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation Address (Sona) last week chaos erupted, with fighting breaking out between plain clothes police officers and EFF Members of Parliament (MPs) who refused to leave the house.

EFF members were forcibly removed after interrupting the president, wanting to know when he would 'pay back the money' in reference to Nkandla.

The ANC has since clarified that Mbete made the remarks as the ANC national chairperson and not in her capacity as Speaker.

Video: Malema booted from Parliament.

But director at the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution Lawson Naidoo says Mbete cannot detach her remarks from her position as Speaker of the house.

"Whether she was speaking as a chairperson or not, it was highly irresponsible of her to call an MP a cockroach, and with the connotations that we know the term has in Africa. I would expect her to retract that."

Meanwhile, EFF secretary general, Godrich Gardee, says Mbete's comments reveal the ruling party's agenda to incite "black-on-black violence".

"She meant what she was saying. You can't call people cockroaches and she didn't stop there. She called them thugs and said society must make them run in the communities and we've already seen it happening in Mogale City."

The stage is now set for another confrontation between Mbete and opposition parties with the State of the Nation Debate scheduled for tomorrow.

However, Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Mmusi Mainmaine says the party is considering a court interdict to prevent Mbete from presiding over tomorrow's session.

"We had extensive consultation on the issue and we'll be able to make further announcements later today or tomorrow. I've written to the Speaker asking for a meeting and she hasn't responded."


The ruling party says Parliament should brace itself for EFF members returning to the house with arms and should ensure it's ready to defend the institution using its rules.

The EFF's Floyd Shivambu told journalists after Zuma's Sona that next time his party would return to the house, they would be armed, though he did not clarify what he meant.

The ANC says it does not consider Shivambu's remark to be an idle threat.