S. Africa opposition to 'fight' over MP dress code

JOHANNESBURG – A South African opposition leader has warned that the removal of his party's representatives from the Gauteng provincial legislature over issues related to a dress code for MPs would lead to a fight that would make the province ungovernable.

"We will fight. We are not scared of anything," Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), told a Thursday press conference in Johannesburg.

Earlier this week, police were called in to the Gauteng legislature to evict EFF members who were dressed in overalls commonly worn by miners and domestic workers. The MPs had refused to heed earlier calls by the house speaker to leave the assembly due to inappropriate dress.

"It is shameless that South African parliaments have not accepted that parliament should be about ideas and not dress codes," Malema said.

"They forget that universities used to force students and lecturers into European… suits and ties until they realized that ideas are not about what you wear," he added.

Malema insisted that his party would not apologize for the clothes its members chose to wear.

The party, he said, could mobilize supporters – and even fight physically – if more EFF representatives were removed from the Gauteng legislature.

"The downtrodden and poor masses of our people have for the first time taken interest in what lawmakers are doing in parliament because of the EFF," Malema asserted.

He said EFF representatives in the assembly would continue to wear the red overalls worn by domestic workers.

Malema went on to stress that his party would never surrender to unjust laws, saying it was determined to consolidate its position at the vanguard of the workers' struggle.

"The EFF is taking both the Gauteng and Eastern Cape legislatures to court for an urgent interdict to stop them from expelling EFF members on the basis of dress," he added.

In Gauteng, South Africa's economic capital, President Jacob Zuma's ruling African National Congress (ANC) has 40 members in the provincial assembly opposed to 33 opposition representatives.

Each of South Africa's nine provinces has its own unicameral legislature. The size of these regional assemblies varies from 30 to 80 members, depending on the province's population.

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