Picture of 1976 youth protest causes a stir during parliamentary debate

EFF MP Naledi Chirwa caused an uproar for using a picture of the 1976 youth during her Youth Day speech in parliament.
EFF MP Naledi Chirwa caused an uproar for using a picture of the 1976 youth during her Youth Day speech in parliament.
Image: Twitter/Naledi Chirwa

The use of a background showing the youth of 1976 in student uniform bizarrely caused an uproar in parliament during a debate dedicated to Youth Day.

Youth Day is celebrated on June 16 in commemoration of the 1976 Soweto uprising, when students stood up against the introduction of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in schools by the apartheid government.

During a parliamentary debate dedicated to the Youth Day on Wednesday afternoon, deputy speaker Lechesa Tsenoli ruled against the use of a background bearing a picture of the students when EFF MP Naledi Chirwa was delivering her speech.

Since the announcement of the lockdown, parliamentary sittings have had to be held differently, with members contributing virtually to debates while a few attend in person. 

Tsenoli's ruling was in agreement with Freedom Front Plus MP Corne Mulder, who had objected to the use of the background.

“We try to create an impression or facilitate that this is parliament ... If you are going to allow members to use different backgrounds, regardless of their party political things, you may get into trouble because others would use perhaps other things to make different points,” said Mulder.

“That's why there is a specific background given that indicates parliament. This is parliament - this is not a party political event.”

Tsenoli agreed with Mulder's objection - much to the annoyance of the EFF caucus.

“The order is sustained. You must change the background to the parliament background. There will be no exceptions accepted,” said Tsenoli.

When Chirwa insisted on using the background, Tsenoli stood firm on his ruling, saying his decision could not be ignored.

But EFF MP Veronica Mente continued to object to the ruling.

“What is wrong with the background of the youth of 1976? Is it that the fact that it's irritating the FF+, the murderers of the regime of 1976?” she said.

She argued there was nothing wrong with the background because it was what parliament was commemorating on the day. But Tsenoli would hear none of it, saying no one was saying anything about the youth of 1976 being inappropriate. 

Other EFF members then joined in, shouting at Tsenoli, saying he was afraid of white people. However, Tsenoli slammed Mente into order for continuing to raise her point. He called the EFF MPs childish for interrupting the house sitting with “their propaganda”. 

Chirwa was later allowed to speak - but only after she removed the picture and replaced it with a background showing the buildings of parliament.


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