Parliament has announced that it is tightening its rules to mitigate similar disruptions to those that have taken place during the State of the Nation address in the past.
THIS week, Parliament announced that it was tightening its rules to mitigate similar disruptions to those that had taken place during the State of the Nation address (Sona) in the past.
This comes as President Cyril Ramaphosa prepares his seventh Sona address for next month – on Thursday, February 8, 2024, at 7pm.
The address will take place before a joint sitting of the two houses of Parliament while Minister of Finance Enoch Godongwana is expected to follow suit sometime next month with his Budget speech.
The president’s address is an important milestone as it sets out the government’s key policy objectives and deliverables before the elections this year.
This past week, the joint rules committee adopted amendments to prevent members of Parliament (MPs) from interrupting the president’s speeches.
In August 2022, three EFF members were ejected from Parliament after EFF members had grilled Ramaphosa about his involvement in alleged money laundering at his Phala Phala farm.
Last month, Parliament’s powers and privileges committee continued its disciplinary hearing into the three members, Ntombovuyo Mente, Nazier Paulsen and Khanya Ceza. They have pleaded not guilty to contempt of Parliament.
Last year, EFF members stormed the Sona stage.
The new rules also come as some EFF members face being banned from attending this year’s Sona because they have constantly disrupted the president’s speeches.
It is reported that the new rules will apply to sittings in the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces. No member will be allowed to interrupt the president during the Sona.
The new rules also prohibit MPs from bringing a weapon or dangerous or threatening articles into the chamber. The rules also seek to prohibit the carrying of placards, as well as the taking of photographs and videos inside Parliament.
Under the new rules, gross misconduct is seen as deliberately creating serious disorder or disruption, undermining the authority of a presiding officer, using or threatening violence and obstructing the removal of a member from the chamber.
New rules have also been adopted to allow the Speaker to remove members from the virtual platform if they behave in a disorderly fashion.
National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has welcomed the new rules. She said they had been adopted and would soon be implemented by the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces at their respective sittings.
“We have not only considered the issues, we have discussed, and we’ve since adopted the rules.”
This week, DA leader in Parliament Dr Annelie Lotriet blamed the EFF for the latest amendment of rules.
“Anyone has a right to attend Sona and to hold the president accountable, but it is not the special right of only one party. The disruption of Sona impedes on the rights of all members who enjoy that right. How many Sonas have been disrupted by the EFF since 2014?” she said.
Last year, EFF leader Julius Malema denied that party members had posed a physical threat to MPs and the president when they had disrupted the Sona proceedings.
Independent Media reported that during a media briefing, a day after the party was booted out of Parliament, Malema had said that the EFF’s actions in the House had been in line with it exercising its freedom of speech.
Attempts to get further comment from the EFF were unsuccessful at the time of going to publication.