#SONA2015: What went wrong

Electronic communication was cut in Parliament yesterday ahead of the State of the Nation speech.

Service was restored after chants of "bring back the signal" from opposition benches but there are now calls for an investigation into the matter.

Secretary of Parliament Gengezi Mgidlana, DA Parliamentary Leader Mmusi Maimane, EFF MP Andile Mngxitama and Senior Lecturer in Public Law at UCT Cathy Powell discuss speculation that the signal disruptions at Sona were foul play:

Secretary of Parliament addresses signal disruption speculation

After the chaos that ensued in Parliament on Thursday, 702/CapeTalk's Redi Tlhabi asked questions about what happened at the State of the Nation Address. Secretary of Parliament Gengezi Mgidlana answered questions regarding the signal disruptions at Sona.

Mgidlana says that the Speaker has tasked him with looking into the matter of the jammed signal in last night’s sitting. He says that he is gathering the facts to present a comprehensive report.

When you are planning an event of this nature, under the circumstances that it was occurring - including the withdrawal of staff and putting in interim measures to deal with issues - you are bound to have some hiccups.

The Secretary said that the signal issues affected the broadcasters' sound as well as the President’s microphone. The Speaker will report to the House, after he has given her his findings.

I think let’s allow the process to go through so that I can present a report that makes sense and that does not confuse matters.

The Secretary says he does not believe that last night's proceedings are a reflection of Parliament’s leadership. He says that the public must keep in consideration that the context of last night was not convention.

The character, the tone and the mood that was put around this particular State of the Nation was unprecedented and unfortunate for the nation, and Parliament.

Speculations that the signal jamming took place because everyone knew that the EFF planned to interrupt the President is wrong, says Mgidlana. He asks that we allow the process of inquiry to run its course before he reveals how the signal was returned and that there are policies in place to deal with the matter.

On the question of whether SAPS members were amongst the protection services tasked to evict the EFF, Mgidlana said that security details are not matters that should be discussed "at that level."

Why the DA walked out of #SONA2015

DA MPs, led by Parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane, walked out of the State of the Nation Address yesterday when EFF MPs were forcibly removed from the House.

What I saw yesterday was a complete violation of our constitution,” said Maimane. “The constitution makes it clear that security forces may only enter the premises if there is eminent danger or a threat of life.

Maimane says what made him walk out is that he couldn't in good conscience legitimise the actions of a government that is creating a military state in front of his eyes. It was also worrying that Thandi Modise - Chairperson of National Council of Provinces - could not say whether the security forces were members of the police or not.

The EFF is not Julius Malema’s party - Andile Mngxitama

Following the unprecedented turmoil in Parliament on Thursday evening, 702/Cape Talk’s Redi Tlhabi spoke to EFF MP Andile Mngxitama.

Mngxitama did not attend the State of the Nation address because of events that unfolded earlier in the day at an alternate press conference on Thursday. Ahead of Sona, Mngxitama called a conference at the Cape Sun hotel in Cape Town, were he was reportedly stopped by members of the EFF,who said he had no mandate to host this conference. A fight broke out and it is alleged that the MP was physically attacked and stopped from speaking to the media.

When asked about the scuffle at Parliament and at his press conference, Mngxitama says that such behaviour must not be tolerated. He condemns what he calls an "attack" on members of Parliament by police at the National Assembly.

I had a similar experience at the hands of my own comrades, who were sent by the national leadership of the EFF to disrupt and to assault me. I planned to explain why I will not be participating in the campaign on ‘PayBackTheMoney’. And also to reveal shocking details of how our party leadership is corrupt and compromising our movement.

Mngxitama said that his party’s rules on calling a press conference do not justify the manner in which he was assault by other party members.

We can’t resolve issues of difference through violence.

He says there is no rule in the EFF constitution that prevents members to voice their views. When addressing his censorship and the violent behavior of his colleagues, Mngxitama says that EFF leader Julius Malema has brought “an ANC culture” into his party, insisting that it is not what the EFF stands for.

Now it is expected that all of us in the EFF will defend Julius Malema, and some of the leadership making wrong decisions, by all means necessary. Some of us did not join politics for creating the ANC outside of the ANC. We joined politics precisely because we want to end the culture of the ANC, and we're going to fight it.

Mngxitama says the key reasons he wanted to call the conference was to expose the breaking of EFF rules by leadership.

He alleges that EFF leadership tried to illegally expel EFF MPs in a deal with the ruling party in exchange for silence and peace at Sona. He said it is the first major transgression of the party and that it justified the press conference he was trying to hold.

We need a culture of openness, and it requires that we go beyond the point of duty, because if we don’t, we will all be the ANC.

Responding to what he will do next, Mngxitama says that he will continue to stand for the truth and oppose corruption and any tyrannical leadership, regardless of the political party involved.

If we don’t end this culture, which is endemic, one day you and I will wake up in a country which is run by complete dictators.

Mngxitama intends to call another press conference on Monday where he will give evidence of wrong doing within the EFF national leadership.

ANC blames EFF for disruption, slams signal jamming

Zizi Kodwa, spokesperson of the ANC, says what happened yesterday at Sona was a well-coordinated disruption.

“What happened last night was unprecedented and disgraceful not to any one party, but to the whole country. Clearly I don’t think it was a coincidence. It was well-orchestrated and well-coordinated. We heard the announcements in the past weeks and months that there will be disruptions so I don’t think it was a coincidence, but a well-planned disruption.

“We condemn the signal jamming as it is against the spirit of freedom of the media, freedom of speech and the constitution”.

The EFF were faced by bad faith, and they responded in bad faith - Public Law expert Cathy Powell.

Senior Lecturer in Public Law at UCT Cathy Powell explains what justifies a point of order and point of privilege as well as the constitutional validity of last night’s chaos.

There are rules that allow for interruption at any stage in Parliament, including the State of the Nation Address. These include points of order and matters of privilege. So the EFF had done its homework in checking what it is that allows you to stand up and talk. But points of order and calling on privilege has particular rules attached, they’ve got to have certain content.

Point of order

Powell explains that raising a point of order means that an MP is correcting a procedural irregularity that is occurring at that very moment.

A point of order is there to protect the process of debate itself; to ensure that the debate rules are followed.

Calling on privilege

Powell says that points of privilege are also an immediate issue that is attached to the individual MP or Parliament as whole, and it concerns their rights and privileges. She makes the example of conditions or comfort of members of Parliament, such as asking for water or adjusting the temperature.

For me it’s pretty clear that none of the interruptions were justified as either a point of order or a point of privilege. They were just ways that enabled the EFF member to stand up and start talking.

Powell says it’s problematic to find a point of order during the President’s speech because the only procedural rule is that the President carries on speaking. She says the EFF would have to have made quite a technical argument to explain why they raise those rules, which they didn’t.

Powell says that if the Speaker establishes that MPs have raised invalid rules of interjection, she may rule on those rules, so her decision should be final. Legislation also permits the Speaker and Parliament to respond to particular kinds of disruptions to the Parliamentary process, including ordering people to leave the chamber.

However, according to Powell, regulation does not cover what happens thereafter. She says this is important as it shows us that “the rules assume a modicum of good faith”. She says the EFF has breached good faith, more than they have breached rules. She also says that they responded to the Speaker’s own breach of good faith, which was to represent herself as a channel for the executive to Parliament, instead of representing Parliament against the executive.

Powell added that fact that the EFF was removed from Parliament was not a constitutional issue. The problem is the people who were tasked with their removal from the chambers.

This article first appeared on 702 : #SONA2015: What went wrong


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