Circumstances surrounding the physical removal of Members during SONA 2023

Joint Rules

25 April 2023
Chairperson: Ms S Lucas (ANC, Northern Cape)
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Meeting Summary


JS: State-of-the-nation Address by President of the Republic of South Africa

The Joint Committee on Rules met virtually to consider the circumstances surrounding the physical removal of Members from the Joint Sitting of Parliament during the State of the Nation Address (SONA) on 9 February 2023, and to consider the Framework for the Review of Joint Rules.

The Committee was presented with a report on behalf of the Speaker of the National Assembly, which presented a detailed description of what had occurred on 9 February and an explanation of why the decision to remove Members of Parliament (MPs) had been taken.

The Committee was satisfied with the report, but there was some concern that the report was one-sided and did not consider the perspective of the MPs cited in the report.

The Committee was assured that the EFF Members who had been cited would have an opportunity to share their perspective of the occurrence.

The Committee suggested a sub-committee should be formed to urgently review the Joint Rules, specifically focusing on strengthening them regarding the consequences for disorderly behaviour. It emphasised that removing disorderly MPs was not a sufficient consequence, and the suggestion of financial sanctions for disorderly behaviour was made.

The Committee heard a presentation on the Framework for the Review of Joint Rules. The presentation provided an outline of the Framework, and the Committee agreed to refer it to the joint sub-committee on Rules.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed all Joint Committee Members and other attendees to the meeting. She asked if there were any apologies.

Apologies were received from Ms C Labuschagne (DA, Western Cape) of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), Ms P Majodina (ANC), Chief Whip of the Majority Party, and Ms S Gwarube (DA), Chief Whip of the Opposition.

The apologies were accepted, and the agenda of the meeting was adopted.

Mr Masibulele Xaso, National Assembly Secretary, noted that the agenda had been amended. He said the second item was the Framework for the Review of Joint Rules.

The Chairperson said that the first item of the meeting was to consider the circumstances surrounding the physical removal of Members from the Joint Sitting on 9 February 2023. In the Announcements, Tablings and Committee Reports (ATC) of 10 February 2023, the Speaker and the Chairperson of the NCOP referred the circumstances of the physical removal of Members from the Chamber on 9 February 2023, during the Joint Sitting for the President’s State of the Nation Address, to the Joint Committee on Rules for consideration. She said the referral was made in terms of Joint Rule 14GA (13).

The Chairperson said that the purpose of the meeting was to consider the referral in terms of the applicable rules. The Committee needed to express itself on whether the rules applicable to the removal of Members had been applied on the day (9 February 2023) and whether any aspect should be referred to another structure of Parliament for further consideration. A report had been compiled of what occurred on 9 February, and had been circulated amongst Members. She asked the secretariat to brief the Committee on the report.

Circumstances surrounding the physical removal of Members from the Joint Sitting on 9 February

Mr Xaso presented the report on behalf of the Speaker regarding the circumstances surrounding the physical removal of Members from the Joint Sitting on 9 February 2023 – the State of the Nation Address (SONA).

He provided a summary of the report, and briefly explained to the Members what had happened during the SONA. He provided an outline, in accordance with the report, of what occurred.

Mr Xaso said that according to Joint Rule 14G, the Sergeant-at-Arms had been called to assist after Members of Parliament (MPs) had refused to leave the House. Security forces had intervened. Joint Rule 14G dealt with disorder in the House and the refusal by MPs to leave. He said that these MPs would not leave and that a larger group had stood up, engaged in disorderly behaviour, ascended the stage, and later held placards. The Speaker had suspended proceedings due to the escalating violence.

Mr Xaso provided details on the applicable laws and Joint Rules. He referred to the Powers and Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act of 2004, specifically Sections 2, 4(1), 4(2) and 7. He referred to Joint Rules 14G and 14K. The Speaker had acted in accordance with the laws and Joint Rules that had been outlined in the presentation.

He concluded by providing an outline of the Speaker’s concluding observations. He noted that the disruption had intended to disrupt the delivery of the SONA, and that while Members of Parliament (MPs) had the right to freedom of speech, they should exercise this right in an orderly and respectful manner.

See full report attached


The Chairperson thanked Mr Xaso for presenting the report from the Speaker, and opened the floor for discussion of the report. She reminded the Committee that the joint rules for disruptions in joint sittings were applicable to the meeting, and that any Member who wanted to contribute to the discussion should raise their hand.

Ms R Lesoma (ANC) said that “sometimes we want to reason where reason does not resonate.” As the fifth Parliament, they were bearing fruits of the previous Parliament, where there had been an understanding not to tamper with the dress code, and to allow everybody to wear what they chose. There had been an understanding that the dress code did not impact the proceedings and matters of Parliament or MPs' right to represent their constituency. She expressed her appreciation for the presentation, and encouraged other Members to agree, support and adopt the report that had been presented.

She suggested that a small working group of the Joint Committee should be established to review the Joint Rules for firmer consequences for disorderly conduct. She referred to Joint Rule 14G (Member ordered to withdraw), and Joint Rule 14H (referral of Member’s conduct to the House). She highlighted Sections 4(1) and 4(2) of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act, which referred to the removal of Members and assistance by security forces. She said it might be beneficial to consider financial sanctions for disorderly Members, depending on the severity of the misconduct and disruption. She agreed with the report presented on behalf of the Speaker, and said a small team was needed to firm up the rules and consequences because the rules were too relaxed. It was important to close any loopholes in the rules to avoid future situations of a similar nature -- that would be in line with what the courts had made a judgment on. She said it was important that no Member of Parliament was undermined and prevented from exercising their right to raise their issues, but added that it should be done in an orderly manner and in line with the rules.

Ms D Dlakude, Deputy Chief Whip (ANC), welcomed the report of the Speaker and expressed her support for the report, stating that it was a true reflection of what had occurred on 9 February. She agreed with Ms Lesoma that the consequences for misconduct should be reconsidered. Removing individuals from the House was not enough, because MPs kept behaving in a disorderly manner and were serial offenders. It was necessary to tighten the rules so that the Joint Sitting was respected. Financial sanctions would be a more effective consequence and cause individuals to refrain from acting in a disruptive manner in the House. She expressed her support for financial sanctions, and suggested that the Joint sub-Committee should look into the rules and ways in which the rules could be tightened.

Mr H Papo (ANC) agreed with the previous Members. He emphasised that it was urgent that the Joint Rules be strengthened so that a repeat of what happened this year would not happen at the next SONA or any other Joint Sitting in the future. The Joint Rules already had a basis or Framework, and the sub-committee should use the existing Joint Rules, NA Rules and NCOP Rules as a framework to strengthen the Joint Rules. Parliament was a place to engage in debates, but there should be no attempt to obstruct any Member from exercising their right to freedom of speech. He said that using posters inside the House was improper and should not be allowed. Parliament should not be a place where the worst of the MPs come out, but should rather be a place where the best come out, and should be a place to share debates, views and ideas. Parliament could not be allowed to descend into brutality, rudeness and disruptions. He reiterated that reviewing the Joint Rules was urgent and that the amended rules had to be adopted. Amending the Joint Rules would show that what happened on 9 February would not happen again.

Ms M Mokause (EFF, Northern Cape) expressed her discontent over the report that had been presented. She said the report was one-sided and sought to paint a picture of a Speaker who was more objective when presiding over a session, than reality. She did not agree with the report. The reality was that MPs were suppressed and were not allowed to exercise their democratic right in a sitting of Parliament. She would disregard the report because it was one-sided.

Ms Mokause referred to Section B (7) of the report. She noted that the Speaker had stated that she had suspended the proceedings due to an escalating situation with the reasonable prospect of violence and serious disruptions resulting from EFF Members resisting removal from the House. In the Speaker’s closing remark, she had said that the disruption sought to hinder the proceedings. She contended that these were two conflicting statements, and asked which was true. She said that the Speaker herself did not know what she was talking about in the report. The presiding officer had been confused and was constantly suppressing MPs.

The Chairperson asked that Members refrain from insulting each other and calmly discuss the matter on the agenda. She indicated that Members could proceed with the discussion.

Mr Q Dyantyi (ANC) welcomed the report presented on behalf of the Speaker. He said the report outlined every detail of what occurred at the SONA. He had found the report to be concise and detailed about what happened, and emphasised that it was a true reflection of the occurrences of 9 February. He expressed his support of the report.

He hoped Ms Mokause’s concern would be heard and addressed. Members cited in the report should have an opportunity to share their side of the story. It was not a case of just endorsing the report --  the Members who had been cited in the report should have an opportunity to explain their actions, so that their perspective was noted. The report presented was that of the Speaker, and detailed the occurrences from her point of view.

Mr Dyantyi expressed his support for the strengthening of the Joint Rules. He said that the sub-committee had an urgent task, and that firming up the Joint Rules should be a priority so there were no loopholes. He emphasised that when a Joint Sitting was convened, it should be able to proceed for the intended purpose and nothing else. The sub-committee could also attend to issues of decorum, including issues of dress code. He said the NA had recently adopted rules that prevented carrying placards, and asked the Joint Rules sub-committee to do the same. This would add another charge, above storming the stage.

The Chairperson asked Mr Dyantyi to refrain from discussing matters from the next item, as they could be brought up at a later stage.

Mr S Mohai, NCOP Chief Whip (ANC, Free State), expressed his agreement with adopting the report. He reiterated that there should be consequences for grave disorder and undermining the decorum, rules and conduct of the House. He asked for the report to be adopted, and that the suggestions to strengthen the Joint Rules be seriously considered. Anarchy should not prevail in the House, where the public expected to hear structured debates and discussions.

The Chairperson noted that Ms Mokause and Ms Dlakude had their hands up to speak. She said that she would allow them to speak under the precaution that no one tried to respond to another Member. The Committee was trying to determine whether to create a team that would listen to both sides of the issue. She did not want the meeting to become a case of ‘stone-throwing.’ She emphasised that the Members would be allowed to contribute under these conditions.

Ms Mokause stated that she would not speak under any conditions stated by the Chairperson, asserting that the Chairperson did not have the right to stipulate conditions for Members.

The Chairperson said that because she presided over the Committee, she had the authority to stipulate conditions.

Ms Mokause said that the Chairperson did not have the right because the EFF elected Ms Mokause to the Committee. The Chairperson should not impose herself because Ms Mokause was not from the Chairperson’s party.

Ms Mokause commented that Mr Dyantyi had said that the matter had been referred. She asked where the matter had been referred to, before considering the report. Members were speaking past each other and not as a collective. She asked which platform had been used to discuss the report after it had been referred, as was highlighted by Mr Dyantyi. She asked where it had been referred to. She emphasised that the Chairperson should not impose herself on Members of the Committee.

Several Members began speaking over each other.

The Chairperson intervened and stopped the interruption. She pointed out that Members of the Joint Committee were sitting as a structure of Parliament, and not as different political parties. She was not leading a party, she was leading the Committee meeting. She asked Ms Mokause to respect other Members in the same way she wanted to be respected. She indicated that other Members could proceed.

Ms E Nkosi (ANC, Mpumalanga) welcomed the report, and agreed with the call to adopt the report. The report was clear and straightforward. She expressed her support for establishing a sub-committee to deal with the matter. She said removing Members from Joint Sittings as a consequence of disruption was not enough, and agreed that firmer consequences were necessary. She stressed that Members were MPs and were not in the meeting as separate political parties. The Chairperson had to be respected. If something was wrong or a Member was doing something wrong in the meeting, the Chairperson was in the position to bring the meeting to order. The division into political parties did not apply in the meeting.

Ms Dlakude emphasised that the Committee was governed by the rules of the House, and that respecting each other was important.

She said the issue on 9 February had been taken to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). It had been embarrassing to the country when the Speaker was called to a Human Rights Commission by the IPU to account for the incident of 9 February. All the evidence was available, and after viewing the video of the incident, the IPU concluded that the matter brought forward by the EFF was inadmissible. She said that before any matter was taken to an international forum, all internal processes had to be exhausted. Taking the matter to the IPU had been embarrassing to Parliament and the Speaker,and the Speaker had been framed as a dictator. She said that this was uncalled for. She applauded the decision of the IPU’s Human Rights Commission to dismiss the case. She emphasised her support for adopting the report, and said the matter should be dealt with accordingly.

The Chairperson thanked all the Joint Committee Members for their contribution to the discussion on the report by the Speaker. She said that the Committee had to adopt the report, and based on the responses by Members, the report was adopted.

Ms Mokause called out for the Chairperson. The Chairperson continued.
The Chairperson said it had been suggested that the matter be referred to a sub-committee to review the issue and to review and possibly amend the Joint Rules, and this would be done. She reiterated that this was being done to avoid future incidents like what had occurred on 9 February.

The Chairperson concluded this item and invited the secretariat to present the second item on the agenda – the Framework for the Review of the Joint Rules.

Ms Mokause indicated that her hand was up.

The Chairperson addressed Ms Mokause, and said the item had been concluded.

Ms Mokause stated that the Chairperson was using her power to suppress her, and that the previous Speaker, Ms Dlakude, had been out of order.

Several Members spoke over each other.

The Chairperson said that Ms Mokause should have called a point of order while Ms Dlakude was speaking.

Ms Lesoma said that if Ms Mokause did not want to participate in the meeting, she should leave the platform.

Ms Mokause replied that she would not leave the meeting.

The Chairperson requested that Members allow her to chair the meeting. She reiterated that she had called upon the secretariat to present the second item. All the Members knew the rules regarding points of order. No point of order had been made at the time that Ms Dlakude was speaking. She said that the meeting would continue with the presentation.

Ms Mokause said that her hand had been up.

The Chairperson responded that Ms Mokause’s hand had not been up -- she had put her hand up after Ms Dlakude had finished speaking. Ms Mokause had interrupted her (the Chairperson) while she had been speaking, before she had raised her hand. She said that the meeting would proceed with the presentation of the second item. She handed over to the secretariat for the presentation.

Consideration of Framework for Review of Joint Rules

Mr Xaso presented the proposed Framework for the Review of Joint Rules to be sent to the Joint Sub-Committee for Rules.

He said that work had been started in the fifth Parliament on the Review of Joint Rules, and some progress had been made, which he outlined in the presentation. However, some of the work had not been concluded, which was why the joint sub-committee was undertaking the issue. He stressed that it was important for any amendments to be finalised before the end of the current term.

He outlined the work to be done by the sub-committee, including public participation, reviewing previous work, and workshops reviewing the NA and NCOP rules.


The Chairperson thanked Mr Xaso for the presentation, and invited Members to comment on the Framework that had been presented.

Ms Mokause stated that this item had not been tabled before the sub-committee on the review of rules, and that, procedurally, the item had to be tabled there before being presented to the Committee. She said that the Committee was not following procedure. She asked how the document had arrived in the meeting, and for the Chairperson to respond to this concern.

The Chairperson said that a response would be given after all the questions had been asked. She asked if Ms Mokause had any further questions, and if she was referring to the Framework.

Ms Mokause said that she had been referring to the Framework. She indicated that she had no other questions, and would like a response to the question she had asked.

The Chairperson repeated that after all the questions and concerns had been raised by the Members, a response would be given.

Ms Lesoma requested that the Committee accept the Framework, with the understanding that it would act as a guideline for the sub-committee. She emphasised that this was an urgent matter, and should be concluded in the stipulated time that had been presented.

Ms Dlakude agreed that the Framework should be adopted. She said that a Joint Rules sub-committee meeting would not occur without the Framework being adopted in the Joint Committee on Rules meeting.

The Chairperson thanked the Members for their responses, and stated that their responses had assisted in coming to a resolution.

The Chairperson responded to Ms Mokause. She stated that the Committee had to sit to refer the Framework to the sub-committee. A review of the NCOP Rules was occurring, and the process was being done in the same manner as the Framework for review of Joint Rules. She asked if there were any other comments.

Closing Remarks

Ms Labuschagne apologised for joining late, and said she had joined only to make a particular point. She said it was difficult to fit joint meetings into the schedule. She asked if the NA and NCOP could consult with each other. She said that starting the meeting at 12 pm had been unfortunate, because many Committee Members had other issues to deal with. She said that a lot of work had to be done, and asked for a time that would be more suitable to the majority of Members.

The Chairperson said this issue had been raised, and that the Whippery should engage and interact on the scheduling of the meetings.

Committee Resolutions

The Chairperson said it had been resolved that a task team would be put together to deal with the report of the Speaker on the removal of Members from the House. The Framework would be referred to the Joint Rules sub-committee. She asked for guidance from the secretariat on the process moving forward.

Mr Xaso said that the Speaker and Chairperson should make the decision on where to refer the matter.

The Chairperson thanked Mr Xaso, and said the issue would be handed over to the presiding officers. She concluded that the Framework was being referred to the sub-committee.

She thanked the Members for their engagement in the discussion, and added that the Whippery should address the issue of the meeting schedule.

The meeting was adjourned.

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