09/05/2018 06:49 SAST | Updated 09/05/2018 06:49 SAST

Cyril 'Shut-Up' Ramaphosa: Does The President Need A Thicker Skin?

MPs took to Twitter to debate whether or not Ramaphosa was justified in telling John Steenhuisen to "shut up" in Parliament.

President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks in parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, February 20, 2018.
Sumaya Hisham / Reuters
President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks in parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, February 20, 2018.

Does the president need to grow a thicker skin? Cyril Ramaphosa's "shut up" comment to DA chief whip John Steenhuisen in Parliament on Tuesday has sparked a debate about the limits of parliamentary heckling, and a heated exchange between MPs and experts on Twitter about whether the president was within his rights to lose his temper in the house.

Ramaphosa lost his cool with Steenhuisen during a debate, after Steenhuisen heckled him. Steenhuisen replied that "this isn't the NEC. This is Parliament."

House chairperson Cedric Frolick ordered Ramaphosa to withdraw the comment, which he did.

But that was not the end of the matter, and MPs carried on the debate on Twitter.

His response shocked many, who did not expect that kind of harshness to come from the usually-composed president.

DA MPs called on Ramaphosa to develop a thicker skin. DA MP Phumzile van Damme said even former president Jacob Zuma did not react that way and he was heckled all the time, and said it was "parly culture".

She also pointed out that she had been heckled and insulted in Parliament before, and ANC MPs were silent.

Former spokesperson for Malusi Gigaba, Mayihlome Tshwete, took on Van Damme, arguing that Steenhuisen's heckling was unnecessary.

But van Damme pointed out that it was allowed in terms of the rules of Parliament.

Others agreed with Tshwete, that the heckling from Steenhuisen was a distraction from what the president had to say.

But former Cope leader Mbazima Shilowa was also of the opinion that the entire affair was not news, as "it happens all the time".

Naturally Steenhuisen defended his own behaviour, and his tweets were largely uncontroversial until he said his experience was a freedom of speech issue, which many felt was taking it a step too far.

As expected, Steenhuisen's comment attracted the ire of South African Twitter, and on a lighter note, many saw it fit to give the MP a taste of his own medicine.