Ever wondered why the EFF insists on disrupting Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address (SONA) every year?
Grandstanding? Publicity seeking? Troublemaking? Rabble-rousing? All of the above? How about none of the above?
On Friday morning ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu publicly lambasted the EFF for its behaviour during the SONA, which resulted – inevitably – in the forcible removal of its members from the National Assembly chamber, by parliamentary security staff.
The allegations and counter allegations of violence and the use of pepper spray notwithstanding, the substance of Mr Mthembu’s pompous criticism of the EFF was simply this: as per usual, the EFF had besmirched the decorum of Parliament, and attempted to deny those who had gathered there – portentous guests included – the opportunity to hear pearls of wisdom dripping from Jacob Zuma’s lips.
Mr Mthembu characterised Thursday night’s events as a “national shame” and a “national disgrace”, noting that the presiding officers had shown “admirable patience” before having the EFF removed in terms of the rules of Parliament, after it delayed Jacob Zuma’s SONA by over an hour.
So now it’s all the EFF’s fault, that Parliament is a national and international laughing stock, but is that the case?
If you watched and listened to the scenes of violent confrontation that followed speaker Baleka Mbete’s instruction to the “white shirts” to “escort” EFF members from the chamber, you’d have heard what was really going down.
It has been the same at every SONA, since the release of the Public Protector’s report into Nkandla: holding the executive, and the National Assembly to account.
The Constitutional Court’s 2016 judgment on the Nkandla matter, crystallised the debate with these two damning paragraphs:
“Consistent with this constitutional injunction, an order will thus be made that the President’s failure to comply with the remedial action taken against him by the Public Protector is inconsistent with his obligations to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic; to comply with the remedial action taken by the Public Protector; and the duty to assist and protect the office of the Public Protector to ensure its independence, impartiality, dignity and effectiveness.”
“Similarly, the failure by the National Assembly to hold the President accountable by ensuring that he complies with the remedial action taken against him, is inconsistent with its obligations to scrutinise and oversee executive action and to maintain oversight of the exercise of executive powers by the President. And in particular, to give urgent attention to or intervene by facilitating his compliance with the remedial action.”
Constituional Court Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng made it clear that Jacob Zuma had broken his oath of office, and the National Assembly had been complicit, in that it had failed to hold him to account.
The opposition’s failed attempt to impeach Jacob Zuma notwithstanding, the fact remains that the National Assembly – dominated by the ANC caucus – simply let Jacob Zuma, and itself off the hook.
Both have yet to account for their respective perfidy in regard to Nkandla, and the Public Protector’s report into the matter, titled Secure in Comfort.
All Julius Malema and the EFF are doing, is refusing to legitimise the National Assembly’s gross dereliction of duty, and Jacob Zuma’s flagrant disregard for the rule of law.
And for taking that stance – whether or not they are doing it to score political points is academic – they are vilified at every turn.
We did get to hear Jacob Zuma’s 2017 SONA, as lacklustre as it was, as has been the case in the preceding two SONA’s, 2016 and 2015, about an hour or so later than originally planned, but the merits of what he had to say, are academic.
What matters is this: the only party in Parliament that is determined to keep the Nkandla disgrace and its grave implications for our gradually disintegrating democracy top of mind, is the EFF, and for that we ought to be deeply grateful.