The multiparty National Assembly Programme Committee, at its regular meeting today, agreed unanimously to strengthen measures to curb disruptive behaviour from members of the public who attend sittings of Parliament.
Clear, easy to understand guidelines for behaviour by members of the public who attend Parliamentary sittings would be published on all public gallery tickets, visitor entry permits and other platforms. Parliament will also strengthen security at sittings of the Houses of Parliament and committees to protect Members of Parliament and the public against unruly elements.
This follows another case of disruptive behaviour during one of the budget vote debates yesterday when certain members of the public made threatening gestures at some Members of Parliament. Members of the Parliament Protection Services strived to bring the recalcitrant group to order while ensuring the business of the House was not interrupted. During the State of the Nation Address, a member of the public sprinkled a powdery substance which caused tearing eyes and coughing in the public gallery and the House.
The matter of disruptive behaviour from members of the public came under close scrutiny recently when Black First Land First leader Mr Andile Mngxitama verbally attacked chairperson Ms Joan Fubbs and threatened to physically assault chairperson Mr Yunus Carrim during the joint public hearings on the transformation of the financial sector.
Parliament will be writing a letter of warning to Mr Mngxitama about his unacceptable conduct at the hearings, when he appeared to make a presentation.
Parliament encourages active public participation and free exchange of diverse views. However, all participants, including the public, are expected to uphold the spirit of the Constitution and the rules of Parliament at all times.
The majority of members of the public visiting Parliament demonstrate good conduct and respect for the rules of the institution. However, there are a few who seem to come to Parliament with an intention to disrupt the work of the national legislature and to undermine its standing.
Parliament condemns, in the strongest terms, such behavior and will in future ensure strong action is taken against anyone interfering with the ability of Members of Parliament to conduct their work – which is regarded unlawful in terms of the Powers and Privileges Act of Parliament.
Issued by Parliament of the Republic of South Africa