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DA to rein in Twitter-happy MPs

2019-06-17 01:51

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen is in the process of writing new caucus rules to rein in MPs who continue to display “ill discipline” on social media.

This follows a bad showing of the official opposition in the May 8 national and provincial elections in which the DA not only failed to grow, but lost around 400 000 votes.

Last week the party’s highest decision-making structure between congresses – the federal council – met to take stock of what went wrong.

Infighting, mixed messaging and ill discipline were flagged as the main reasons for the party’s dismal performance at the polls.

Currently matters of conduct are dealt with by the party’s federal legal commission (FLC) but Steenhuisen has plans to put in measures at a parliamentary level as well.

“We are going to be proposing a number of steps that we can use internally which won’t require us to go to the FLC but for which there will be sufficient sanction such as letters of reprimand and admonishment that would then go to the members file and any interview process.

“These will also feature for their performance review and would be considered when scoring that member, particularly on the ‘values and attitude’ section of the party,” the chief whip said.

“I think the digital media policy should be reviewed and I think there needs to be a separate section on particularly social media.

“Currently, it is a bit broad and it needs to be brought down into more specifics...

“If you put a tweet out that is damaging to the party, it affects the electoral prospects of the party and that puts jobs of MPs, MPLs and thousands of councillors at risk.

“Already in this election, five members of parliament didn’t make it back. I have no doubt that the so-called inward-looking squabbling is what switched a lot of voters off.”

The FLC is currently investigating a complaint into MP Ghaleb Cachalia for his tweets and is also finalising a report on former party leader Helen Zille over her tweets.

In the FLC report tabled at the federal council, seen by City Press, at least 20 investigations are underway for a series of misdemeanours by party members.

For those whose cases have been finalised a number of sanctions have been recommended, including the cessation of membership for some members.

Last month Steenhuisen also issued a stern letter to MPs calling on them to toe the line on social media.

He said that the letter was the “final warning” to those who took party brawls to social media, “subtweeted” other party members and those who tweeted content which was “tone deaf”.

Without mentioning names, the chief whip referred to a tweet on the day MPs were sworn in in Parliament which he said did not violate the social media policy but was tone deaf.

On that day, MP Belinda Bozzoli tweeted: “ANC trying to ‘claim’ Parliament as their own by using a recess to dominate the Chamber through sound. Their persistent and relentlessly deafening singing of struggle songs is really irritating.

“They have no idea that this is, and is fully intended to be, a shared place for the exchange of ideas and opinions. In seeking to dominate it they [are] essentially being undemocratic.”

Bozzoli’s tweets were referring to MPs from across all parties who broke into struggle songs while they were waiting for the results of the election of the new speaker.

While the tweets were later deleted they received hundreds of responses with Twitter users expressing shock and outrage.

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July 21 2019