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#SonaDebate: Sparks fly & tempers flare

It all started when the DA took issue with Raseriti Tau’s decision to call Cope's Mosiuoa Lekota to order.

Members of Parliament up in arms as they insist the speaker of the house to leave. Picture: EWN.

CAPE TOWN - Sparks have flown in Parliament this afternoon with shouting, heckling and calls for the presiding officer to leave the house.

It started when the Democratic Alliance (DA) took issue with NCOP Deputy Chairperson Raseriti Tau's decision to call Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota to order.

Tau told Lekota the use of the word "faction" was unparliamentary.

DA Chief Whip John Steenhuisen was then ordered to leave the National Assembly after refusing to withdraw his statement that the presiding officer was "talking rubbish".

Opposition MPs vehemently objected to the ruling, claiming it interfered with MPs' freedom of speech.

Steenhuisen refused to withdraw his statement, and was told to leave the chamber, at which point the DA benches erupted.

Tau tried to call Steenhuisen to order.

"I said may the member refrain from using any words that cause confusion and uncertainty in whatever way."

But the DA Chief Whip wouldn't have none of it.

"You are talking complete rubbish now and you are making yourself a joke and turning this house into a joke. You are not fit to sit on that chair. How dare you infringe on his rights of freedom of speech!"

Tau asked for quiet so that Lekota could continue. When he did not get it he ordered the entire DA caucus to leave the chamber.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane suggested Tau himself should leave.

Tempers cooled, but only somewhat, after an official pointed out to Tau that the rules did not allow him to expel an entire caucus without naming individual MPs.

'TRADING IN DOOM AND GLOOM'

Earlier, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel hit back at opposition MPs for trading in doom and gloom over the state of the economy.

Patel accused the DA and Economic Freedom Fighters of "schoolboy debating tactics", like inventing imaginary prophets.

"They make good prophets of doom and gloom at a time when we need collective leadership and a closing of ranks as South Africans."

Patel fleshed out government's plans to kick-start the economy and create jobs, including fast-tracking 20 massive infrastructure projects.

The DA's David Maynier lamented the lack of new ideas.

"Yes, there was a turnaround plan but the turnaround plan did not contain any new economic policy, what the turnaround plan did contain was economic policy that had never been implemented."

Patel acknowledged big headwinds facing South Africa, including the drought, global economic woes and lower prices for commodities, but he insisted it wasn't all doom and gloom.

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