Press "Enter" to skip to content

Protecting Zuma by force: A dishonourable Parliament

Last night ANC MPs showed South Africa how far they were willing to go when others attempted to hold them to account.

In the hours of bedlam, heckling, and howling[1] the ANC managed to push South Africa’s democracy to the brink. The ANC not only voted to protect President Jacob Zuma, who according the Public Protector’s findings “unduly benefited” from taxpayers’ money, but it also called police clad in riot gear to rip a female Member of Parliament (MP) from the opposition benches. In the ensuing chaos, the riot police tackled Democratic Alliance (DA) MPs and caused damage to several of the benches and equipment in the National Assembly.

This act of force is inexcusable and it is unacceptable.

As Zuma visited learners in Soweto, his party apparatchiks at Luthuli House snapped their fingers and ordered their MPs to vote to protect him. The recent aggressive opposition in Parliament has left Zuma cowering away in another province, but it has also left the ANC desperate. Luthuli House no longer has a handle on how Parliament operates, its Speaker was chased out of her seat, and its members were left to deal with a mostly united front of opposition parties.


The use of police to remove MPs who dared to fulfil their constitutional duty to hold the executive to account is merely an act of desperation. A desperate ANC, forced into the corner, and with an absent president, doesn’t know what to do anymore. When it couldn’t use its parliamentary majority to silence opposition MPs, it turned to racial epithets, and called in the force of the state police to remove the politicians who just wouldn’t let them protect Zuma in peace.

The ANC’s public representatives have been reduced to the likes of Lindiwe Zulu, who allegedly had to be held back from physically assaulting an EFF MP. The party of Albert Luthuli and Nelson Mandela is now the party of bar brawls, and politicians who protect their big boss. Reduced to rubber-stamping party directives and policy, these lame-duck governing party MPs couldn’t handle the new threat to their mechanised assent to everything the Sugar Daddies above demand.

So they called the police in.

Although it is shocking that state-sanctioned violence should take place in the same hallways where the Constitution was finalised and assented to; state-sanctioned violence shouldn’t be unexpected from the same government that allowed the Marikana massacre to take place under its watch.

Yesterday opposition MPs staged an intervention for the sake of our democracy. These public representatives spoke out against Sugar Daddies and their stranglehold over our polity and the way our public institutions work. These opposition MPs refused to collude in covering-up Nkandlagate, while hundreds of ANC MPs chose to listen to the Sugar Daddies who ply them with political power and patronage.

Jacob Zuma’s MPs watched on as voting equipment and microphones were (symbolically) smashed by hulking officers. It wasn’t just an attempt to silence a few rogue opposition MPs. This was an attempt to protect Zuma at the expense of constitutional democracy and a Parliament that holds its executive accountable.

When MPs were ripped from the benches of the National Assembly by police officers, all of our voices were silenced by the ANC.

And that’s unacceptable.

[1] The IFP’s Liezl van der Merwe was forced to withdraw the statement calling ANC MPs “howlers”, after which she was heckled as an “umlungu”.


  • Thorne Godinho has been a struggling freelance writer, blogger and editor for years. He completed his law degree at the University of Pretoria, and is embarking on an LLM focusing on the intersection between law and democracy at the University of Cape Town where he is a Claude Leon Scholar in Constitutional Governance. Thorne is a committed social liberal. He writes in his personal capacity. Follow him on twitter: @ThorneGo.


  1. Brett Brett 14 November 2014

    Let it be known, Another National Crisis, we the people, will not be silenced by your greed, corruption and disregard of our Constitution. We WILL hold you accountable!

  2. David Sharp David Sharp 14 November 2014

    This entire debacle shames us all. It is a national and international Embarrassment. Our, that is the people’s parliment has been reduced to a one party attempt at Legitimization. Any critique of the president is portrayed as disrespect of his person. The current goverment is on a very slipery slope that will drive itself into oblivion.

  3. Johan Schoeman Johan Schoeman 14 November 2014

    No more! The ANC will not be allowed to pass beyond this point. Enough now!

  4. Adrian Williams Adrian Williams 14 November 2014

    I saw the whole thing and this is not what happened so to set the record straight. During the debate on an energy agreement with the DRC a EFF member made un parliamentary remarks to which a point of order was raised, the house Chairperson asked the member to withdraw the remark, the member refused, and started shouting that she wouldnt withdraw the remark. The house chairperson asked the member repeatedly to withdraw, and the member refused. The house chairperson then as the rules of parliament state, asked the member to leave the house. The member refused , the house chairperson repeated the the ruling that the member leave, but the member still refused,the House chair then instructed the master at arms to remove the member from the house. The member resisted and as per the law the police are then called.

  5. Sterling Ferguson (@Louisth161) Sterling Ferguson (@Louisth161) 14 November 2014

    Unless the government is reformed to establish better checks and balances, there will be more Zumas.

  6. Paul Paul 14 November 2014

    Zuma wasn’t in Soweto visiting learners on 14/11, he was living it up in Brisbane 2 days before the start of the G20 meeting in Brisbane, Australia?

  7. Haiwa Tigere Haiwa Tigere 15 November 2014

    Thorne Gordinho I suppose by now you have read the reply by Adrian Williams and I am sure you are going to apologise to ANC Zuma and parliament for your knee jerk reaction.
    You dont know what you are talking about but you will insist to have your say.
    At one time Malema was the villain of these internet pages- suddenly he and his people are the custodians of democracy.

    Rules of the august house are rules . Disobey them so blatantly and so frequently as the EFF ,DA have done and I am not surprised a size 21 shoe is stuck up their collective behinds

  8. Acronymic Acronymic 15 November 2014

    ANC – African National Congress
    ANC – Arrogance, Nepotism, Corruption
    ANC – ANarChy against the people of South Africa
    The protection of president Zuma and Nkandla – A National cANCer.

  9. Dawn Dawn 15 November 2014

    The EFF member who refused to withdraw her remark or to leave parliament has shown the country as a whole just how far the ANC will go to protect a corrupt president who has no morals or integrity and doesn’t care about the people of South Africa.
    This lady has had the courage to stand up to the ANC and if reducing parliament to chaos is the only way to do that shame on the ANC for not listening to the grievances of the people and leaving them no other alternative.
    None of this would have happened if people of the caliber of Max Sisulu or Frene Ginwala had been in the speaker’s chair and the fact that the ANC have appointment a person like Baleka Mbete as speaker tells a story of its own.

  10. Jon Quirk Jon Quirk 15 November 2014

    It needs to be said that Adrian Williams is one of the ANC members of parliament determined to protect Zuma at all costs; even sacrificing our constitution.

    If he personally had any integrity he would have made that clear in his response.

  11. Thorne Godinho Thorne Godinho Post author | 15 November 2014

    Hi Adrian Williams,

    You’re an ANC Member of Parliament. I suggest you rather turn your attention towards Nkandla and the President’s undue benefit as per the PP’s report, instead of commenting on Thoughtleader articles.

    Be useful.

  12. bernpm bernpm 15 November 2014

    @Johan Schoeman: “The ANC will not be allowed to pass beyond this point. Enough now!….”

    How do you suggest this to happen???
    The state of the nation:
    Zuma is the dictator, the ANC members of parliament are his de facto slaves!
    The “speaker” has been made the lap dog for Zuma and needs the police to keep control.
    The opposition has been useless for years until a few weeks ago and only by creating chaos could they have some influence.

    Who can take control to get out of this chaos? Zuma? The police or the army or both?
    The population? How?
    Would we want SA to become a real African state??
    I do hope there are enough brains and cool minds around who can sort out this mess!

  13. Daan Marais Daan Marais 15 November 2014

    Hi Adrian Williams
    Are we to understand that summoning half a dozen or more fully armed riot police into the highest chamber of our land to remove a single unruly MP is quite in order? I think not, sir. Your better vantage point inside the chamber clearly did not improve your vision.

  14. Ntsiki Jacobs Ntsiki Jacobs 15 November 2014

    Dear Adrian Williams, keep quiet if you don’t have anything to say. What happened in parliament was totally unacceptable. ANC MP’s are not really protecting Zuma, they are protecting their bread. Most of them are just cadres, they have nothing next to their names.

  15. Doug Shrimpton Doug Shrimpton 15 November 2014

    Disgusted. When the anc threw the DA’s papers all over the floor, screamed like banshees and acted like the uneducated morons they all are NOTHING HAPPENED.

  16. Terry Williams Terry Williams 15 November 2014

    Please note that Adrian Williams was, but is not currently, a Member of Parliament.

  17. Thembani Thembani 15 November 2014

    This confusion and mayhem stems from the allegation of the President whose household has been built with multi millions whereas the majority of South Africans are living below poverty line. Compare the previous speakers from Mandela-Mbeki era and their parliamentary speakers. When Mbete was chosen we were informed that she will protect her president and enhance the negative image of the current president. All appointees (senior) were erroneously appointed, education scandals and regionalism are the order of the day. The period between 2009-2017 shall be remembered and kept in archives. We appeal to the ANC to seriously do introspection in their governance and the direction the country is taking. The ratings the country is getting. Please be objective put the country and it’s people first. Your fights as alliance must be secondary.

  18. Mariano Castrillon Mariano Castrillon 16 November 2014

    We have reached our Rubicon : if we do not cross it, Zuma’s legions will take over for ever, on their terms.

  19. John Cameron-Davies John Cameron-Davies 16 November 2014

    Apart from valid comments listed We all miss the point! Until Baleka Mbete is removed also followed by No1 this disgraceful conduct will continue.

  20. Lionel Rudling Lionel Rudling 16 November 2014

    Armed riot police in full armour called in to remove an unarmed member of parliament inside the a chamber guaranteed to be arms free by security procedures?

    You, ANC, have just made the NP look enlightened.

  21. Tony Tony 17 November 2014

    Lekker free and fair ne?

  22. Zeph Zeph 18 November 2014

    De je vu? It’s the eighties all over again. And it proves the point that a democracy is not what the ANC wanted; it was just lip service to keep the support of the West.
    What they were really after was the ‘the tyranny of the majority’ which is easy to maintain – just make the majorities lives miserable and blame others for their lot.

  23. Zeph Zeph 18 November 2014


  24. Baz Baz 18 November 2014

    They over played their British example of heggling in parliment.
    Enough said.

Leave a Reply