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What happens when MPs get rowdy? Parly struggles to make virtual meetings work

As the COVID-19 crisis wears on, the National Assembly still needs to sit but getting more than 400 people on a zoom meeting is not without its challenges.

Members of the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party object as South African President Cyril Ramaphosa attempts to deliver his State of the Nation address at Parliament in Cape Town on 13 February 2020. Picture: AFP

CAPE TOWN - Parliament is wrestling with how to make virtual sittings of the house work.

As the COVID-19 crisis wears on, the National Assembly still needs to sit but getting more than 400 people on a zoom meeting is not without its challenges.

Parliament's office bearers have been working on rules for a virtual Parliament and discussed those with the rules committee on Tuesday morning.

Among the questions asked is what happens when members get rowdy?

Cheeky MPs may not be in a position to be physically ejected from the chamber at the moment but presiding officers will still have the power to cut them off during virtual sittings.

Speaker Thandi Modise said normal rules would apply in this instance.

"We will follow the usual protocol to calm down, withdraw and them applying the rule. In this case, cut the member out.”

National Assembly secretary Masibulele Xaso said there were still rules dealing with disruptions during virtual meetings, such as applying Rule 80 of the National Assembly rules, which includes the muting of microphones if speakers are being disruptive.

According to the guidelines, every sitting will be considered to have taken place in Cape Town, even though members can join in from anywhere in the country.