John Steenhuisen, Democratic Alliance Chief Whip, speaks during talks "Nation in Conversation" at the Nampo Harvest Day Expo in Bothaville on May 15, 2018. - Nampo Harvest Day, the biggest privately owned agriculture Expo in the southern Hemisphere, takes place from May 15 to 18 May 2018 outside Bothaville. (Photo by WIKUS DE WET / AFP) (Photo credit should read WIKUS DE WET/AFP/Getty Images)

“I have never once used my position to line my own pockets. I have never once abused provincial tender processes to make myself and my family rich, as Julius Malema did in Limpopo,” Steenhuisen said in the National Assembly two days after he was mocked by the EFF for his lack of a university qualification.

“I have never stolen the savings of the poor and vulnerable to buy fancy houses and swimming pools, as Floyd Shivambu did with the VBS Bank. And I have never assaulted journalists, or threatened fellow Members of this House, like the EFF does on a regular basis.”

Steenhuisen said the Constitution was clear that “no matter whether you are a mineworker or a brain surgeon, you could seek election to represent your community”.

He added: “Let me be clear: I don’t have a university degree, I have never pretended to. I enrolled for a BA in politics and law at [University of South Africa] Unisa in 1994, however — like many South Africans — I never finished it due to financial and work pressures.

READ MORE: EFF and DA square off on Twitter over Steenhuisen’s lack of qualifications

“I am not ashamed of this.”

He said the EFF’s criticism was redolent of the English class system and meant that the party dressed in workers’ uniforms but would not want those it claimed to represent to hold elected office.

The EFF benches responded by calling him a racist.

Shivambu, the deputy leader of the EFF, on twitter said Steenhuisen’s lack of a degree or diploma explained “his shallowness”.

The row has caused political embarrassment for the DA, which has in the past tackled ANC officials over their qualifications and called for civil servants to be replaced because they did not study beyond high school.

– African News Agency (ANA)