South Africa’s Minister of Women in the Presidency Susan Shabangu had a tough time trying to defend the government’s granting of diplomatic immunity to Zimbabwe First Lady Grace Mugabe after she allegedly assaulted 20-yar-olf Gabriella Engels.
Several Members of the National Council of the Provinces asked the minister what she had done to explain what the diplomatic immunity that was granted to Grace Mugabe meant for Engels.
The debate which was marred by interjections almost degenerated into name-calling as some members felt male members of the Democratic Alliance were abusing the minister just because she was a woman because they would not have treated amale minister the same way.
Here is a transcript of what happened as supplied to The Insider.
Ms D B NGWENYA: Thank you, Chair. Thank you, hon Minister. I just want to find out that when that was done, are there any steps that were taken to talk to this woman, Gabriella Engels who was mercilessly assaulted by the Grace Mugabe and explain to her what the diplomatic immunity granted to her attacker means, and what sort of redress for injuries sustained by her has been offered to her?
The MINISTER OF WOMEN IN THE PRESIDENCY: Chairperson, I think the hon member is very much aware that this matter has been referred to the law enforcement agencies and we need to allow that process to take its course because if you say somebody must go – and I think we have seen it being handled at that level but what makes me feel that due processes are right is that a court case was open, the police were, so all the necessary processes are in place in making sure that the matter is dealt with adequately, in terms of our country.
Ms L C DLAMINI: What are the lessons that we can learn as a country in this case. I am just talking about women in general and violence against women.
Mnr C HATTINGH: Now, is this the government that cares about women? Women still bear the despondent burden of triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment, a life of abuse, discrimination and the violation of the human rights remains the hush reality of the majority of women in South Africa.
Now, Minister – and I will put this in English you don’t need interpretation for that – have you consulted the Minister of International affairs as to the justification of how the granting of diplomatic immunity to the first lady of Zimbabwe was aligned to South African’s constitutional rights values and principles? Have you done so; and if you have done so please explain to this House. This House and South Africa needs to know which constitutional values allowed a decision to not prosecute an abuser somebody who assaulted an innocent young black woman.
Ms C LABUSCHAGNE: On a point of order, hon Chair. This is not a joke – this was not a joke. You looked me in the face and turned you head and did not recognise me. I will not stand the treatment. Please! I don’t want to make this House a circus. But I also want to be treated with respect. Please recognise me I was standing up and I didn’t wave my hand I dint speak, then I called you and waved my hand and you ignored me. I wanted to ask if the Minister would take a question but you didn’t recognise me.
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr A J Nyambi): Hon members, can you take your seat and let me take the point of order, hon Labuschagne what you have done is not appropriate; and secondly, you know very well that we are dealing with supplementary questions – I have noted hands and the Minister is just standing there to take questions, and the next question is coming from hon Gaehler.
L B GAEHLER: Minister, what is it that you have done as a Minister after you have heard about what happened when this child was assaulted by the first lady of Zimbabwe; did you do anything to comfort the family? If not, why not as Minister of this country – the Minister of Women, what have you done as a Minister of this country.
The MINISTER OF WOMEN IN THE PRESIDENCY: Thank you … [Interjections.] … do you want to answer on my behalf? Hon Chair, does she wants to answer on my behalf?
Mr C HATTINGH: (Interjection about something being sub judice)
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr A J Nyambi): Hon Hattingh, what you are doing is not in order. Hon Gaehler has asked a question and instead of allowing the Minister to respond you are just interjecting – it’s not right. And hon Manopole, I don’t need your assistance I have heard the hon Hattingh that is why I am dealing with him. Hon Minister go on.
The MINISTER OF WOMEN IN THE PRESIDENCY: Thank you, hon Chair. Just to indicate … [Interjections.]
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr A J Nyambi): Hon Minister, sorry let me deal with hon Julius.
Mr J W W JULIUS: Thank you, my apologies hon Minister, but I just want to know from you House Chair, are we allowed hackling.
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr A J Nyambi): Yes. It’s part of the rules but once you are hackling you don’t do it in a disorderly manner and drown the speaker so that others cannot hear what is being said.
Mr J W W JULIUS: Yes, it was not drowning.
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr A J Nyambi): It was after the question from the hon Gaehler before even the Minister could start responding to the question and then there was interjection.
The MINISTER OF WOMEN IN THE PRESIDENCY: Thank you Chair. We are a unitary government; action taken from various quarters we do it as government. We don’t do it as individuals. We have a collective responsibility. [Interjections.] You behave like a thug.
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr A J Nyambi): Take your seat. Can you take your seat and let me deal with it?
Mr L V MAGWEBU: … [Inaudible.] … the member directly is unparliamentary and you keep condoning it. You keep condoning it, Chairperson. But, you are quick to deal with those that are heckling or you deem them to be interjecting. You are being unfair and biased. With due respect, this must desist.
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr A J Nyambi): Hon Magwebu, one, you are not even recognised. Can you take your seat, hon Manopole? Hon Magwebu, you are not recognised. I’ve been consistent dealing with hon Minister and hon Hattingh that let them stop talking to each other. Hon Minister, refrain from dealing direct with the heckling that is coming from Hattingh. Hon Hattingh, at the same time in the very same breath don’t do what you are doing because you know what is appropriate and what is allowed in the House in terms of our own rules. Hon Minister, you are protected, can you continue?
The MINISTER OF WOMEN IN THE PRESIDENCY: Hon Chairperson, I am saying that … [Interjections.]
Mr C F B SMIT: Hon House Chair, I want to hear from you, is it parliamentary for the Minister to refer to a member in this House saying that she is behaving like a “vark”?
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr A J Nyambi): What?
Mr C F B SMIT: Is it parliamentary for the Minister to refer to one of the members in this House saying that “you behave like a vark”?
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr A J Nyambi): Hon Minister, have you referred to any member behaving like a thug in the House?
The MINISTER OF WOMEN IN THE PRESIDENCY: I withdraw, Chair.
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr A J Nyambi): No.
The MINISTER OF WOMEN IN THE PRESIDENCY: You are making noise. No, yes, you are disturbing me … [Interjections.]
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr A J Nyambi): Sorry, hon Manopole, I’m recognising you.
Ms G M MANOPOLE: Chair, really I’m worried … [Interjections.]
The MINISTER OF WOMEN IN THE PRESIDENCY: I will do it but … [Interjections.]
Ms G M MANOPOLE: I’m raising a point of order saying that hon Hattingh is being consistent. Yesterday himself … [Interjections.]
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr A J Nyambi): Can you take your seat? Hon Manopole, you are recognised.
Ms G M MANOPOLE: I am saying that we are sitting here as much as I’m not disrespecting you. Sometimes you can’t even hear what hon Hattingh is raising. He has been abusing the Minister. Therefore, when I raise my hand and want to bring to your attention … because he has been consistent. It is not for the first time today what his behaviour is. Earlier on we have raised hon Hattingh’s conduct because you are far from where the Minister is standing and even the speakers who are on the podium are closer to him. Therefore, they could even interject, hence the reason sometimes … [Inaudible.] … as a human being you’ll be subjected that you cannot stand to this. I’m appealing to the Minister, can you please be consistent. This is really … can you protect the Minister.
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr A J Nyambi): Yes, allow me to make a ruling. Hon Manopole! Order, members!
Ms G M MANOPOLE: I must take it op my plek [at my seat] and that thing is an insult to me. He is being consistently abusing us. He has been consistent on his abuse. It cannot be that to be subjected to this kind of abuse, Chair. This abuse … [Interjections.]
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr A J Nyambi): Hon Manopole, hon Hattingh, I’m dealing with the point of order that is being appropriately raised by hon Manopole. Of course, it is true and possible that I can miss what is being said that side. However, it is the responsibility for all of you as members to bring it to my attention so that I can be able to make a proper ruling. Therefore, hon Hattingh, refrain from what you are doing. The other day you were the one, yesterday, who raised the issue of compromising the decorum of the House. Today we are dealing with the very important issue that is affecting all of us as a country and the public is watching us. I’m warning you; refrain from what you are doing. Continue, hon Minister. Hon Koni!
Ms N P KONI: I’m standing on a point of order, Chair, based on your ruling. Had it been the EFF member, they would have been threatened with the rules that they know or they would have been chased out of the House a long time ago. Therefore, I’m just making you aware of your inconsistency.
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr A J Nyambi): Oh, Koni! Just watch the space and see what will happen.
Ms N P KONI: I don’t want to watch the space because my eyes will get tired. I’ve been watching it for a very long time, dealing with hon Dlamini and hon Manopole. They have been misbehaving, they are very ill disciplined and they have been making noise.
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr A J Nyambi): Can you take your seat? Koni, take your seat.
Ms N P KONI: You should have chased them out a long time ago. It has been “Dlamini, Dlamini”. You have not said anything to them. [Laughter.] [Applause.]
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr A J Nyambi): Hon Minister, can you continue?
The MINISTER OF WOMEN IN THE PRESIDENCY: Hon Chair, the response which government has advanced to the family, but also the appropriate action which has been taken, is adequate to make sure that we deal with the matter to its final conclusion. I want to say that, hon member, we need to refrain from personalising such issues because now you are challenging my personality on how I’ve dealt with it. You are not asking me as a personal person, you are asking me as a member of Cabinet of this government. I’ve represented that particular collective. Therefore, I’m responding within that context to say that this matter has been processed through and Minister Mbalula has dealt with it and our justice system is looking at it. So, overall this matter is in front of the courts and I still say that is sub judice.
Mr L B GAEHLER: No, no, that is wrong. I’m talking to you as a Minister, not personally, but as a Minister … [Interjections.]
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr A J Nyambi): No, you are out of order. You are out of order, Gaehler, take your seat. Dlamini, let me hear the point of order.
Ms L C DLAMINI: Hon Chair, on a point of order, I think that the Minister is seriously being abused by hon Gaehler. He doesn’t do what he is doing today in male Ministers. Therefore, I think that he must be called into order.
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr A J Nyambi): Hon Gaehler, you know that that was not a point of order and it was wrong for you to stand up and challenge the response.