“You are a disgrace”, National Assembly Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli told MPs on Friday, after shouting broke out across the House in the final minutes of a joint sitting debate on violence against women and children.
“You really are a disgrace, and it is despicable of you to be behaving like that, including yourself Chief Whip… you are a disgrace and completely out of order,” he said.
The Chief Whip referred to was the Democratic Alliance’s John Steenhuisen, who had risen 10 minutes earlier on a point of order, objecting to one of his party’s MPs being referred to as a “finalist of Miss South Africa”.
Steenhuisen also complained about Women in the Presidency Minister Susan Shabangu, who he claimed had shouted “You are mad!” Shabangu denied doing so.
Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom tried to lighten the mood by suggesting that even if a member was “unbalanced and not really completely sane, and not of sound mind”, it was wrong to call them mad.
But following a cacophony of claims and counter-claims, and a complaint that one MP was guilty of “pulling a face and sticking out her tongue”, Tsenoli lost his patience.
“I now instruct you to put your hands down. You are out of order, all of you… This is an important debate… the way you are conducting yourselves is unbecoming… I told you before that your screaming match is out of order.”
At one point, Tsenoli rose and stood with his fists resting on the desk in front of him to emphasise his point.
Earlier, the house heard that levels of violence against women and children in South Africa remained high.
Shabangu, opening the debate, told MPs that despite high levels of awareness about the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign, “this pandemic remains a cause for concern in our society”.
DA National Council of Provinces member Jacques Julius said there was a “continuous growth of violence against women and children in South Africa”.
The National Freedom Party’s Sibusiso Mncwabe said his party sought a referendum on reinstatingthe death penalty.
“The NFP calls for a referendum on the death penalty so that our citizens can give clear guidance to the government on the governance they would like to see… in a South Africa where our children can play carefree in the streets without getting killed,” he said.