AfriForum head of policy and action Ernst Roets got into a verbal spat with MPs
AFRIFORUM head of policy and action Ernst Roets caused a stir when he engaged in a verbal sparring match with MPs on Wednesday.
He told them his organisation did not have confidence in Parliament and its public representatives.
Roets made the statement while making an oral presentation to the ad hoc committee on Section 25.
The drama started when committee co-chairperson Mathole Motshekga asked, after his presentation, if he believed in the capacity of South Africans to find solutions to their problems.
Motshekga also asked Roets to explain why AfriForum rushed to the UN to raise issues about the process of amending the Constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation.
In his response, before referring to a study, Roets said: “We don’t have confidence in the people representing the people in South Africa. We don’t have confidence in Parliament to resolve the issues. People are not properly represented.”
This prompted ANC MP Kathleen Dibolelo Mahlatsi to ask why AfriForum was taking part in a process it did not believe in.
EFF MP Floyd Shivambu said the process was transparent and democratic to allow racist people to speak in Parliament and say the parliamentary process was not legitimate.
Freedom Front Plus MP Corné Mulder described Shivambu’s calling Roets a racist as insulting and asked that he withdraw his unparliamentary statement.
But, Shivambu stood his ground, saying they allowed all sorts of characters who came to Parliament.
He questioned why Roets said a democratically-elected national legislature was not legitimate.
“What other mechanism does he want to be represented in? Is it legitimate when it is only whites?” Shivambu said, adding that they were being deliberately provoked.
Motshekga defended Shivambu, saying he had made an inference to conduct and that he did not say Roets was racist.
EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said Parliament should invoke its authority
“Whoever does not believe in us, don’t talk to us. Whoever thinks we are illegitimate, don’t talk to us because we are not scared of you. We are not scared of anything you can do,” Ndlozi said.
He said Roets’ conduct was motivated by racial patronisation.
Motshekga urged MPs not to waste their time on unfounded statements or opinions.
“MPs were elected by the majority of South Africans, both black and white. It can’t have more substance than that. That must be dismissed with contempt it deserves,” he said.
Roets did not take the MPs’ responses lying down. He took on Ndlozi and Shivambu, saying they were in disagreement whether he and AfriForum were racists.
Shivambu retorted: “You are racist.”
Motshekga pleaded with Roets to not interpret opinions and to rather respond to the questions put to him.
Roets denied that he said AfriForum did not recognise Parliament, but stated that politicians were out of touch with realities on the ground.
“They do not properly represent people … I did not say Parliament is illegitimate and that is a storm, with due respect.”
He, however, said the process of amending the Constitution did not take cognisance of realities on the ground.
“We can pretend that we are important, that the people in South Africa have great respect and love their politicians and people who work in Parliament, but that does not distract us from humour, irony and the fact that a corruption connoisseur like Floyd Shivambu is trying to lecture us on how people run the country,” Roets said, laughing.
Ndlozi responded: “No, no, no, no, chairperson. We are not to be abused by this racist boy here.”
Roets continued laughing, and Motshekga asked him to respond to the questions.
“Please take the meeting seriously,” he said before asking him to withdraw his statement.
Roets felt he had been unfairly treated.
“Don’t you think, members, it is unfair that Members of Parliament made atrocious accusations toward me, AfriForum and our members and if I am responding, you say I must withdraw?” he said.
In what could be interpreted as Motshekga having had enough of the verbal sparring, Motshekga said they were at the virtual hearing to engage in oral presentations and ask questions.
“Focus on answering questions and not comment(ing) on other things,” he said.
Roets said that as far as he was concerned, he had answered questions, unless someone pointed out otherwise.
“We are finished. Can we go to the next presentation,” Ndlozi said.
– Political Bureau