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Speaker ousted, opposition parties walk out of Legislature

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Opposition parties walked out of the Limpopo Legislature Thursday evening after a protracted debate about the rules and the regulations of the house.
The Democratic Alliance (DA), Economic Freedom Fighters and Congress of the People agreed that the African National Congress (ANC) did not correctly interpret the rules of the Legislature regarding to divisions within the House.
The problem started when ANC Chief Whip, Falaza Mdaka read the notice of a motion for the removal of Speaker, Merriam Ramadwa. Deputy Speaker Lehlogonolo Masoga, acted as Presiding Officer for the sitting.
As stated by the Constitution the Speaker may only be removed from the position with a majority of the Legislature present and in favour thereof. The ANC tabled a notice of the motion that was opposed by the opposition parties. Mdaka moved the notice of the motion and it was seconded by Chairperson of Chairperson’s Committee, Dan Sebabi. A further objection by the opposition was followed by a quick yes and no vote. Opposition parties were adamant that the House should be divided by secret ballot.
Mdaka replied that the rule determines that the House can only be divided through a secret ballot, if ‘Yes and No’ answers do not demonstrate a succinct division of the House on any issue. However, in this regard, there was no obfuscation on the position of the House, as the yeses outweighed the noes.
What followed was a protracted battle on points of orders, with Premier Stan Mathabatha also entering the battle at times. The opposition quoted from the Rule Book and again asked for division and a secret ballot. DA Provincial Leader Jacques Smalle cited Rules 120 to 121 and 122, whereby members may ask for a division and a vote. The ANC by mouth of Masoga said the rules were wrongly interpreted by the DA and other parties. Masoga in the end said asking for a division would just be a repetition of what have been done already, and would only be allowed if the first declaration is challenged – which was done in effect by the opposition.
EFF Provincial Leader, Micahel Mathebe insisted that the bells could be rung, the doors locked and a vote called for. The opposition insisted their demands were fair and in accordance to the rules, made by the ANC, and they should keep to it. EFF MPL Jossey Butane accused Masoga that he wanted to satisfy the Premier and ANC Provincial Secretary, Nocks Seabi and that the rules and democratic principles were being oppressed. He repeatedly asked what the ANC feared opposing a secret ballot.
The opposition were at a time threatened with being unruly and Mathabatha cited rule 88 as to how to deal with such members. The opposition said they were respecting the rules. Buthane asked Mdaka to take proper decisions, as he knew him to be man of principles. He later asked him to say that he was denying the parties their rights and that he refused to obey the rules. Masoga however declined the request, saying he adhered to the rules and a division was called for. The opposition parties then walked out.
Following the walkout Smalle in an interview said: “If they were unanimous they would not have been so scared to subject their notice to a secret ballot. If the same tactics are followed during the next sitting, we will definitely follow the legal route.”
Mathebe said tha EFF was simply quoting from the rules which should be followed but the ANC used their majority to enforce an illegal and unlawful route “The main problem was the Speaker: They had a caucus before the sitting and they had a mandate they had to follow,” Mathebe said.
The ANC Party Caucus declared their disappointment with the walk-out. Mdaka said there was another option of voting by showing of hands, but the opposition parties only wanted to confine the Presiding Officer to the secret ballot, which resulted in a deadlock. He regretted the walk-out on the first day after the recess, saying the opposition parties were neglecting the mandate bestowed on them by their voters and that they did not take part in a series of debates of various reports by numerous departments tabled.

Story: NELIE ERASMUS
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