Cape Town – Ministers in the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster have condemned the disruptions in Parliament last week, saying measures have now been put in place to ensure that such incidents do not happen again.

Addressing the media in Cape Town on Tuesday, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa–Nqakula said there is existing legislation to ensure that no meeting or sitting of the National Assembly, House or Committees are disrupted.

She was referring to the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislature Act. The act states that any person, who creates or takes part in any disturbance while Parliament, the House or Committee is meeting, may be arrested and removed from the precinct on the order of the Chairperson, designated speaker or by staff members.

“Working with other State agencies, this legislation will be enforced to make sure that such occurrences are never repeated,” said Minister Mapisa–Nqakula.

In addition, the Cluster Ministers have instructed their senior officials to make recommendations on how to prevent such incidents from happening in the future.

“Certain measures by the security cluster have been put in place with immediate effect to ensure that this never occurs again,” said Minister Mapisa Nqakula, who was flanked by Police Minister Nathi Nhleko, Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha and the Provincial Police Commissioner Lieutenant-General Arno Lamoer.

Last Thursday, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MPs disrupted Parliament during President Jacob Zuma’s response to a question on the security upgrades to his Nkandla home.

The disruption followed a question by EFF leader Julius Malema, who objected to President Zuma’s reply to the question.

President Zuma told Parliament that he had already responded in his report to the question of whether he would pay back any money spent on Nkandla.

National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete ordered the EFF MPs, who were chanting and disrupting proceedings, out of Parliament, saying they were not serious about the proceedings.

But the MPs refused to leave, continuing to chant and shout slogans, which forced Mbete to adjourn proceedings.

The incident saw public order police being called in to diffuse the situation. Parliament is currently conducting its own investigation into the incident, while the Security Cluster is also looking into the matter.

Minister Mapisa-Nqakula said the incident “was undemocratic”.

“South Africans watched in anger … as Parliament, one of the most important pillars of our democratic state which represents the aspirations of our democracy, deteriorated into chaos… that incident is unprecedented in the 20 years of our democracy.”

Defending democracy

Parliament, the Minister said was an independent organ, which is why they cannot allow unruly behaviour.

“The JCPS Cluster cannot stand idle as our democracy is undermined in full glare of the public and the world.”

She urged MPs to abide by the rules of engagement.

Minister Masutha said Parliament can refer cases for prosecution in the courts, and that security in Parliament falls directly under the police.

Minister Mapisa-Nqakula said the cluster’s response to the situation was in no way undermining Parliament’s role.

“The police’s role is to maintain law and order, which must be upheld by all citizens of the country,” she said.

Minister Mapisa-Nqakula said the cluster, which also heads up security in Parliament, supports a robust democracy and debate, including questions put to the executive.

“But that must be done in a dignified manner. Even if there are disagreements, it must be done within the confines of the law and out of respect of the institution.”

Her views were also echoed by Minister Nhleko, who said that what was seen “wasn’t debate… it was disruption”.

Minister Nhleko, who confirmed that he called in public order police to attend to the incident, said police exercised a lot of restraint. A strict instruction was given for there to be no violence in removing the EFF members.

The cluster reminded South Africans and MPs that democracy comes with responsibilities and that excising rights must be done within the confines of the law.