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Mbete cautions EFF, Shivambu objects

Speaker Baleka Mbete on Tuesday warned the Economic Freedom Fighters that she would not tolerate "anarchy" in Parliament but was promptly challenged by EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu who accused her of bias.

"A situation where rules were not observed would be tantamount to anarchy," Mbete told the National Assembly.

"I cannot but strongly condemn the disruption of the proceedings in the Chamber," she added, after confirming that she would not call on the House to suspend 20 EFF MPs but leave the matter to Parliament's powers and privileges committee.

Mbete on Monday abandoned her stated intention to proceed with this sanction against the EFF for disrupting presidential question time late last month.

The change of mind came after the party threatened to launch a legal challenge in the high court.

However, she said she wanted to remind MPs that "in terms of rule 52 she could have suspended the members concerned immediately.

"At the time, I opted for a lessor sanction which was to order the members to leave the House.

"As members will remember, the refusal of the members of the EFF to abide by the directions and rulings of the chair led to the early adjournment of proceedings and the question session was not completed."

As soon as she completed her statement Shivambu rose to object, ignoring Mbete's protestations that she had not intended to open the matter for debate.

"How is the committee going to investigate when you are making conclusive remarks in this House?" he asked.

Mbete asked him to desist, but he continued: "We don't agree with all those observations that you have made here. The majority are wrong."

On Monday, at a meeting of the powers and privileges committee, he also made the point that the ANC -- and Mbete as the ruling party's national chairwoman -- could not be trusted to handle disciplinary proceedings against the party in an objective manner.

The point found support from other opposition parties, and committee chairman Lemias Mashile agreed to appoint an initiator for the charges that was not a Member of Parliament.

Mbete has asked the committee to probe the EFF's conduct as a matter of utmost urgency and to report back to her as soon as possible.

On Tuesday, she told the National Assembly the party's conduct was of a nature never seen before in the Chamber.

"The frustration of the business of this House to this extent is unprecedented in the history of this democratic Parliament."

She denied that she had called in public order police to remove EFF MPs from the chamber after they refused to leave, chanting "pay back the money" at President Jacob Zuma in reference to public funds spent on his Nkandla homestead.

Instead, she said she had acted within her rights by calling on security to assist her after the EFF continued their protest in "complete and open defiance" of the chair.

She warned that such behaviour would not be tolerated again.

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