EFF leader Julius Malema on Monday criticised party members who disrupted a parliamentary public hearing on land expropriation in Polokwane the day before.
The ad hoc committee looking into amending section 25 of the constitution to deal with land expropriation without compensation was forced to cancel its hearing in Polokwane, Limpopo, because some members of the huge crowd refused to adhere to lockdown level 1 regulations by forcing their way into the venue, parliament said.
“I think the EFF was irresponsible in Polokwane. Extremely irresponsible,” said Malema on Monday. “The EFF should have allowed itself to sit outside because it acted irresponsibly and came late. That type of behaviour must never be promoted. We condemn it. It is irresponsible,” he said.
He explained that when EFF members arrived at the venue, it was already packed with ANC supporters who got there much earlier.
Malema suggested that it was not tactical for EFF members to disrupt a process which sought to address land expropriation, which is the party’s top priority. He suggested that local politics may have been at play, but strongly condemned the incident.
“The secretary-general will have to go and find out what really happened. It can’t be the EFF that disrupts a meeting that is supposed to achieve the expropriation of land without compensation,” he said, adding that his party and the ANC were not far from each other on the matter.
ANC MP Bongani Bongo, who led the parliamentary delegation in Polokwane, said MPs and security forces had tried to negotiate a way forward but were unable to do so.
“We were initially supposed to start the public hearings at 11am but because of the large crowd dressed in T-shirts of the EFF who forced their way into the hall that was already filled according to Covid-19 level 1 regulations, the committee decided to delay the hearings until 2pm.
“According to the initial report we received, a big crowd of supporters dressed in ANC T-shirts arrived first at the hall in the morning and as per our rules followed at all public hearings so far, were allowed to register and enter the hall.
“Later, supporters dressed in EFF regalia arrived, only to realise that the hall was almost full and forced their way into the venue, thereby contravening regulations,” said Bongo.
He said when the meeting was supposed to resume, the crowd, about 1,000 people in a venue meant for 250 people in terms of the level 1 requirements, still did not adhere to the regulations and supporters dressed in red barricaded the entrance.
Initial reports said a weapon was brought into the venue, he said.
Bongo said on the advice of parliament security and the police, MPs decided to call off the hearing in the interest of safety and health concerns.
ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina said the EFF disruption exposed “the anarchy and rampant lawlessness that has seen the EFF disrupt private businesses and occupy land illegally”. Majodina described this as a dangerous pattern that seeks to undermine the rule of law and should be dealt with harshly by law-enforcement agencies.