ANC MP 'used discriminatory and derogatory term' in WhatsApp spat

07 December 2021 - 21:06
ANC MP Faiez Jacobs breached parliament's ethics code.
ANC MP Faiez Jacobs breached parliament's ethics code.
Image: Gallo Images/Brenton Geach

The National Assembly has adopted a report that found an ANC MP guilty of breaching the code of ethics for referring to a councillor as a “house-n****r” in a WhatsApp group.

Faiez Jacobs, an ANC backbencher in parliament and former Western Cape party secretary, was guilty of breaching the code for using a term meant to dehumanise black people during the slavery era.

The joint committee on ethics and members’ interest has found Jacobs guilty of using the term in reference to Western Cape ward councillor Angus McKenzie during a squabble in a WhatsApp group last year.

Jacobs is said to have posted on a community WhatsApp group that “if a house-n****r was a person, it would be him”, referring to McKenzie.

He has been ordered to issue a public apology in parliament for “using the derogatory and discriminatory term ... to refer to Mr McKenzie on a WhatsApp group chat that consisted of members of the community and members of various political parties”.

According to the committee, chaired by Bekiziwe Nkosi and Lydia Moshodi, Jacobs did not deny using the term in reference to McKenzie.

The National Assembly on Tuesday adopted the report without any objections.

National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said she would communicate directly with Jacobs on issuing the apology.

“Now that the house has adopted this report, I will directly communicate with the member to ensure that further action required from him is done at an appropriate time,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.

Mapisa-Nqakula also issued a reprimand to several MPs who failed to meet the deadline to disclose their interests in 2019 and 2020.

The ethics committee recommended that the MPs, which included former finance minister Tito Mboweni, deputy minister of human settlements David Mahlobo, minister in the presidency Mondli Gungubele, EFF MPs Floyd Shivambu and Vuyani Pambo, and ANC MPs Ethel Nkosi, Bafuze Yabo and Nompumelelo Mkhatshwa, among others.

Mapisa-Nqakula said the breaches were serious and required an official and public reprimand.

“As members of this house, you undertook to uphold the constitution and to act according to its principles when you took your oath of office. You also undertook to perform your functions as members of the National Assembly to the best of your ability,” she said.

“Parliament has created rules and a code of conduct which are intended to provide terms of reference for members when discharging their responsibilities. The code of conduct sets out minimum ethical standards of behaviour that South Africans expect of public representatives including upholding propriety, integrity and ethical values in their conduct.”

She said the purpose of the code was to create public trust and confidence in the public representatives and to protect the integrity of parliament, which they have now breached.

“Disclosure of financial and other registrable interests is the foundation upon which the public is able to hold MPs to account and it is through this process that the public gain insight into integrity and ethical standard of MPs and the institution of parliament. Thus as members we have a duty to ensure transparency in the manner which we perform our functions and to guarantee that we remain accountable as public representatives.

“By your breach of the code of conduct you have really undermined the principles of trust and transparency and further hindered parliament’s efforts to build and maintain trust in the democratic institution,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.

“As speaker of the house and in terms of sanctions imposed on you I must inform that failure to observe the matter in the spirit of code of conduct is totally unacceptable and I therefore in the public forum issue this reprimand for your failure.”

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