South Africa ANC MP Mervyn Dirks in the dog box again – for social media slur

Mervyn Dirks
ANC MP Mervyn Dirks

Controversial ANC MP Mervyn Dirks, previously in trouble for his utterances and gestures in the national assembly, has now been found guilty of breaching the code of ethical conduct for MPs for a statement he posted on social media.

Parliament’s joint committee on ethics and members’ interests has found Dirks to have breached the ethical conduct code when he referred to certain MPs as “dogs” on his Facebook page.

Dirks was reported to the committee by deputy speaker Lechesa Tsenoli in August last year.

According to the ethics committee’s report published this week, Dirks explained that he made the remark while defending himself.

“Regarding the allegation that I call members of parliament dogs on social media, I want to state that I was responding to a DA member of parliament who called me a pig on social media,” he is quoted as having said in his defence.

“I have been ridiculed by the opposition since I arrived at parliament to the extent that they vulgarised my surname,” he added.

Opposition MPs normally often heckle Dirks in the house by shouting “dick” whenever he rises to speak.

The ethics committee noted that Dirks did not deny that he used the word “dog” on social media to refer to MPs. “The committee considered the use of the word to be derogatory and that it may attract a strong emotional and oral charge.”

Dirks was found to have breached the code and of having failed to maintain public confidence and trust in the integrity of parliament and thereby engender the respect and confidence that society needs to have in parliament as a representative institution. He was also found to not have eradicated all forms of discrimination in the performance of his duties.

The committee recommended that Dirks make a public apology during a sitting of the house for using the derogatory and discriminatory word to refer to his colleagues.

Dirks has fallen foul of his own party, the ANC, for his behaviour. In December 2017, the ANC in parliament criticised Dirks for insulting and allegedly threatening to assault a female colleague during a parliamentary sitting.

Dirks also flipped a middle finger in the house when the presiding officer sought an explanation from him about what had happened. He apologised days later for the incident.