Cape Town – There were tears in the legislature from MPL Peter Marais (Freedom Front Plus) as members of the ANC staged a walkout following a spate of bad-tempered exchanges with Deputy Speaker Beverley Schäfer and members of the DA in the chamber.
Matters reached a head during the afternoon sitting when Schäfer read out a letter from Speaker Masizole Mnqasela refusing to grant the ANC’s request for a debate on a matter of urgent public importance.
Mnqasela is currently abroad leading a delegation of MPLs to Freetown, Sierra Leon.
Leader of the opposition Cameron Dugmore (ANC) had written to Mnqasela to request a debate on the DA and its internal divisions on the disciplinary problems facing both Mnqasela and Schäfer that the ANC feels are destabilising the legislature.
Dugmore said: “The matter of public importance by the ANC concerns the implications of, and the state of dysfunction within the Western Cape legislature as a result of the internal DA divisions currently being witnessed, and the impact these divisions and dysfunctionality within the Western Cape legislature are having on the service delivery in the province.”
Dugmore said that it was a matter of public knowledge that relations between the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker had soured and both are facing investigations.
Schäfer by the conduct committee and Mnqasela by the Hawks. He said these divisions were part of the ongoing internal divisions and turmoil in the DA.
“Members of the DA are too consumed by DA infighting and this has impacted the functioning of the executive. The Standing Committee on Premier and constitutional matters have not been meeting. This disempowers us from holding the premier to account for his conduct.”
During exchanges on the issue which began moments after the afternoon sitting started, Schäfer named the ANC Chief Whip Pat Lekker who had raised a volley of points of order.
Naming of is the term used to describe the disciplining of an MPL for breaking the rules and leads to their exclusion from the sitting.
Schäfer also threatened to name ANC MPL Mesuli Kama who tried to debate the issue with her and told ANC deputy Chief Whip Khalid Sayed he was treading a fine line when he tried to argue in defence of his colleagues.
Before leading the walkout, Dugmore addressed Schäfer and told her that this refusal to grant their request for a debate on a matter of public importance, was the fifth in a row since 2019.
He said they were leaving because by her actions of naming ANC MPLs she had closed down the democratic space.
Marais, who is father of the house, tried to choke back tears as he rose on a point of order after finally catching Schäfer’s eye. This, as Dugmore led his members out of the chamber and the hybrid sitting.
Sobbing, Marais said: “I was going to appeal to the opposition not to do what they have done. I would have done so in my position as father of the house, but of course you didn’t recognise me, so it is too late now.”
Marais said he was not sure whether he wanted to remain a member of the legislature if such behaviour was going to be repeated regularly.
He said to those of his colleagues left in the chamber and online, that members of the legislature should worry about the image they projected beyond the walls of the chamber and called on Premier Alan Winde to show leadership and address the matter.
The DA were unapologetic on the issue with Chief Whip Lorraine Botha issuing a statement immediately after the ANC’s walkout, condemning them and calling their behaviour “appalling.”
Botha said the ANC had attempted to cause chaos in the legislature with “frivolous points of order and interjections to undermine the authority of the Deputy Speaker”.
Botha said: “The ANC sang from the EFF’s hymn sheet today and seems to have come into the sitting with the sole intention of instigating instability.”