A guide to parliamentary etiquette for MPs behaving badly

Idiot‚ clown‚ sell-out and straat meid. These are just a sample‚ excluding expletives‚ of the insults hurled around Parliament which bring the behaviour of MP’s into sharp focus.

In case MPs have forgotten how to conduct themselves‚ here is a quick recap of the Rules of the National Assembly.
The rules make specific reference to “unparliamentary” or unacceptable language or gestures.

“No member may use offensive‚ abusive‚ insulting‚ disrespectful‚ unbecoming or unparliamentary words or language‚ nor offensive‚ unbecoming or threatening gestures‚” says rule 84.

MPs are encouraged to refer to each other using “respectful terms” that do not impugn the dignity of any member.

The rules call on members to “accord the presiding officers of the National Assembly and members due respect and conduct themselves with dignity” in addition to not having loud conversations during debates.

Grossly disorderly conduct in the house is described‚ among various transgressions‚ as “deliberately creating serious disorder or disruption” and “persisting in making serious allegations against a member without adequate substantiation or following the correct procedure”.

Name-calling has continued‚ with various political parties firing off insults from “hou jou bek” (shout your mouth) to dropping the F-bomb.

Democratic Alliance MP Phumzile van Damme is among the latest victims after an ANC MP called her a “straat meid” (street woman) on Tuesday during the SONA debate. Her party will approach the presiding officers to complain about their lax application of the rules.

Van Damme was on the podium when an unnamed ANC MP shouted the slur. No point of order was raised by the DA so the debate continued.

The incident has again brought up the issue of etiquette and decorum among MPs.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen has accused Speaker Baleka Mbete of being “biased” and turning a blind eye to “misogyny and racial slurs” from the ANC.

“I will be writing to the Speaker of the National Assembly‚ Baleka Mbete‚ and the Chairperson of the NCOP‚ Thandi Modise‚ to object in the strongest possible terms to their lax approach to dealing with misogynistic and racist comments directed at DA members by ANC speakers and backbenchers alike during yesterday’s first State of the Nation debate‚” said Steenhuisen.

Van Damme said she didn’t hear the slur while she at the podium.

“I only heard about it after. If I had heard it you know I wouldn’t have let it go‚” she said.

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