Senior ANC MP John Jeffery formally withdrew his controversial remark about DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko’s weight and apologised to her on Tuesday.
He did so after deputy speaker Nomaindia Mfeketo ruled emphatically that the comment was unparliamentary.
“In the past, many rulings were made on remarks regarding members’ physical appearance, and these have always been found to be insensitive, offensive and a violation of a member’s dignity,” she said.
“I have no intention to depart from this precedent, and I accordingly find that remark not only insensitive, but unparliamentary. It is indeed the responsibility of every one of us to ensure that we exercise the right to freedom of speech in a considerate and responsible manner.”
Jeffery then rose and said: “I withdraw, and I would also like to take the opportunity to apologise. The statement was not intended to be sexist.”
Last week, during the debate on the presidency’s budget vote, Jeffery said: “While the honourable Mazibuko may be a person of substantial weight, her stature is questionable.”
The Democratic Alliance subsequently called on African National Congress chief whip Mathole Motshekga to discipline Jeffery, and fellow ANC MP Buti Manamela, who had criticised Mazibuko’s dress.
The ANC said Jeffery would withdraw his remark, but that Manamela would not be ordered to do the same as the party agreed she was dressed inappropriately.
Mfeketo’s ruling came after Speaker Max Sisulu ruled other recent remarks describing MPs as racist, “clowns” and “darkies” out of order, and appealed to members to choose their words carefully.
“Remarks of a personal, racist or sexist nature are out of order, completely out of order. I therefore appeal to members, as public representatives, to refrain from course, uncouth, or unbecoming language that detracts from the dignity or decorum of the house.” – Sapa