Malema gives Mbete deadline to withdraw suspension

Cape Town - EFF leader Julius Malema warned National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete in a letter on Friday that unless she withdrew plans to suspend him from Parliament by Sunday noon, he would launch a court challenge.

"You should expressly withdraw your intentions on or before Sunday 31 August 2014 at 12 noon, failing which I will have no other option but to approach an appropriate forum for an appropriate relief," he concluded in the five-page letter.

It is Malema's formal response to a letter from Mbete, sent to all 25 Economic Freedom Fighters MPs in the Assembly, warning that she planned to suspend them ahead of an investigation into their conduct in terms of the Powers and Privileges of Parliament Act.

She asked each EFF MP individually to supply reasons why they should not be barred from the legislature for up to two weeks for disrupting presidential question time.

On 21 August, EFF MPs chanted and sang after Malema asked President Jacob Zuma when he would repay a portion of the public funds spent on upgrading his Nkandla home, in line with the recommendations of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.

Malema: Mbete ac ting beyond her powers

Mbete ordered "members of this House who are not serious" to leave the Chamber, and called the sergeant-at-arms to remove them after the EFF refused to leave, remaining in their benches in protest.

In his letter Malema charged that Mbete was acting beyond her powers, as he had breached neither the act, nor the Constitution.

He said he was never asked by name to leave, and the EFF protest occurred after she had adjourned the house - therefore it was false to say that he had interfered with the authority and functions of the legislature by disrupting a sitting.

"It is my conviction that what we were doing was to hold the president as the head of the executive accountable," he added.

"In performing this task, I was serious, hence your instruction that members of the House who are not serious must leave the House did not apply to me."

Malema said Mbete had prematurely suspended proceedings, as points of order raised after his question to Zuma fell within the provisions of parliamentary rule 58(2), and there was no threat of violence.

Mbete to make formal request for suspension

The incident has ratcheted up tension between the ANC and the EFF, who this week accused the ruling party of bringing supporters to the parliamentary precinct to attack its members.

Mbete is expected to make a formal request to the National Assembly on Tuesday that she be allowed to suspend the EFF MPs.

Malema said on Thursday the party had briefed lawyers to ask the high court for an urgent interdict, possibly on Monday, to prevent their suspension should Mbete not respond positively to their letters.