Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) councillors undressed in public yesterday after they were told they could not enter the Mahikeng local council sitting wearing their party’s regalia.
Council speaker Pontsho Tabane said EFF councillors had to be locked out of the council sitting because they failed to obey the standing rules and orders of the council.
Tabane said the rules of the chamber were that female councillors must wear formal dress and male councillors a tie and jacket.
Council rules also require that councillors not wear canvas shoes, political party-promoting attire, hats and caps, and that their hair must always be combed .
All 12 EFF councillors arrived wearing their red regalia but were blocked by security guards who told them they were not allowed to enter the chamber.
The councillors argued that their regalia could be defined as formal dress. The women were wearing red dresses, while their male counterparts were wearing overalls with formal shoes and red and white shirts and ties.
Security guards had to push them out of the building after female members undressed and left wearing only their underwear.
“Okay, we will take off our clothes then. Just let us in, the council sitting is about to start,” the group said.
EFF regional secretary Neo Moroeng said the council would have to allow them to wear their regalia or they would take the matter to court.
“We are opening a case of harassment and assault with the police. Some of our female members were manhandled and touched on their breasts,” said Moroeng.
EFF council member Ouma Nkitsing said she felt insulted. “They cannot come and impose English laws on us. They could not even define the formal dress code,” she said.
She said after losing the battle with the bouncers, they decided to undress. “We felt that they will accept us if we wear our natural selves which is our best suits,” she said.
Nkitsing said she was unemployed before becoming a councillor and could not afford new clothes. “I cannot afford their expensive suits that their laws want us to wear, so wearing nothing is the cheapest clothes that I can wear.”
Another EFF councillor, Tumelo Phinda, said African women were not ashamed of their naked bodies. “In my tradition, women are allowed to wear Makgabe [traditional skirts with strings and beads] so I did not feel that there was something wrong to strip naked.
It was also a form of expressing my disappointment with this council.
“I was voted by the public to represent them in council but I was denied my right to do so,” she said.
Phinda was one of the women allegedly manhandled. “The bouncer touched my bums and breasts. I felt cheap and disrespected.
One of them held me between his legs while I was picking up my doek.” Yesterday she was nursing an injury on her right arm as a result of the fracas.
National EFF secretary general Godrich Gardee said it was unlawful for the council to deny entry to his party’s members.
“They were just wearing red overalls and domestic workers’ uniform dresses without an emblem – that cannot be considered as party regalia,” Gardee said.
He said ANC councillors would fail if they tried to enforce a dress code. “That is the colonial decorum of white supremacy.
It means they are saying workers’ clothes are not clothes. It is a demonstration of total disdain for workers.”
He said ANC councillors must focus on better things like service delivery rather than spending time on who is wearing what.
Tabane said the rules had to be applied. He said he held a meeting on Monday with the caucus of the EFF where he explained in detail the standing rules and orders of the council. He said EFF councillors had agreed that they would comply.
“If the EFF members wanted to amend the rules they could do so using the appropriate procedures since they were the official opposition party, he said. “They can bring in a motion.
Today they are grand-standing – we cannot allow that. They must respect the decorum of the house and the laws of this country. We cannot allow anarchy to prevail, that will eat up our democracy,” said Tabane.
“They do not make any impact. Out of 70 council members, ANC has 43. We can run the council without them, we don’t want to use our majority arrogance, we want to co-operate.
But if they do not want to co-operate then we will show them that we are the ANC-led municipality.”