Hon members, before I proceed with the Orders of the Day, I wish to go back to the rulings I indicated I was going to make.
On Tuesday, 12 June 2012, two points of order were put, on which I intended to make my ruling today, which I wanted to do now. However, the relevant members are not in the House today, so I'll have to do so at a later stage.
However, I do wish to rule on two points of order raised on Tuesday, 21 August 2012, during the debate on the Lonmin tragedy. During that debate hon Kohler-Barnard made the following statement in reference to the Minister of Police: "He is nothing but an empty suit." Hon Kubayi rose on a point of order, asserting that this was unparliamentary, and I undertook to study the Hansard. Having now had an opportunity to do so, I wish to rule as follows.
The rules governing unparliamentary language are broadly framed in order to allow as much freedom of speech as possible for hon members. However, one established practice also dictates that any statement or remark that impairs a member's dignity or affronts a member's honour must place a curb on freedom of speech.
In this particular case I find hon Kohler-Barnard's remark does not refer to the personal characteristics of the Minister. Rather, her remark refers to the manner in which the Minister, politically speaking, is perceived to be doing his job as a Minister. As the remark does not constitute an attack on the person of the Minister, it cannot be ruled unparliamentary. [Applause.]
Towards the end of the debate on the Lonmin tragedy, hon Kalyan objected to a statement by hon Van Wyk to the effect that the hon Kohler-Barnard was "a bloodhound" and requested the presiding officer to rule the remark out of order.
This House has on numerous previous occasions decided that any statement or remark associating a member with an animal or linking animal behaviour or sounds to a member is derogatory, insulting and by its very nature unparliamentary.
However, it is my considered opinion that applying such a blanket sanction to all references to animals effectively denudes the English language of its nuances, multi-inferences, and inherent capacity to assign more than one meaning to a word or term, depending on the context in which such a word or term was used.
The term "bloodhound" denotes a specific breed of dog that was exclusively bred to search for its targets by being tenacious and persistent, without ever abandoning the search. [Laughter.] It simply does not understand the concept of giving up. [Laughter.] The argument may be made here, for the purpose of this ruling only, that that is exactly how some members view their role in holding the executive to account: tenacious, persistent and never letting up. [Laughter.]
The use of the term "bloodhound" by hon Van Wyk must be viewed within the context of the debate in question and the hon member to whom it was directed. Furthermore, taking into account the nuances of the English language, it should also specifically be noted that the hon Van Wyk did not refer to the relevant member as a "dog". I would have ruled that out of order without hesitation. Moreover, regard should also be had for the fact that hon Kohler-Barnard did not raise any objection to the use of the term. In fact, hon Kalyan objected because she originally heard the remark as "black hound" not "bloodhound". Had that been the case, I would have immediately ruled it out of order. [Laughter.]
Having studied the Hansard, and having regard for the context of the debate and the role of certain members as they perceive the role of the term "bloodhound" in this context, I rule that hon Van Wyk's remark may stand, as it is not unparliamentary. [Applause.]