S.African parliament descends into chaos during Zuma speech

South African security officers remove far-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) lawmakers from parliament after they disrupted President Jacob Zuma’s State-Of-The-Nation speech and members of the main opposition walk out in protest.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA (FEBRUARY 12, 2015) (ENCA) – The opening of South Africa’s parliament descended into chaos on Thursday (February 12), as security officers fought with far-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) lawmakers after they disrupted President Jacob Zuma’s speech.

Zuma’s first State Of The Nation address since winning an election last May had been billed as an opportunity for him to highlight the achievements of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and its plans for the year ahead.

Opposition members accused the speaker of parliament of blocking the mobile signal and by doing so, a violation of the constitution.

“We simply cannot proceed if unless we disconnect that blocking device, we want to allow, if we can’t, if you rule madam speaker that we must proceed with that blocking device on, we will challenge that ruling in parliament and if needs be, we will take this parliament to court because that’s unacceptable,” said Mmusi Maiman of the Democratic Alliance.

“This is the highest legislative body in this country, in terms of the constitution ma’am, we can not proceed unless we are open, an open society and in terms of the media as well,” added Corne Mulder of the Freedom Front Plus.

However, EFF lawmakers, led by firebrand former-ANC youth leader Julius Malema, used the event as an opportunity to pepper Zuma with questions about an investigation into a $23 million state-funded security upgrade to his home.

Malema and speaker of parliament Baleka Mbete, were involved in a heated exchange of words.

“Allow me to speak .. I’m rising on a point of order, I’m not going to leave. I’m not working for you. I’m not here on your invitation, I’m elected to be here. Never, I’m not going to leave. I’m elected to be here,” Malema said.

Speaker Mbete ordered EFF members not to ask any more questions before ordering they be removed by security officers, prompting a brief brawl in which several people were injured, witnesses said.

Maiman questioned whether the EFF members were ejected by police officers or members of the parliamentary security.

“I want to understand whether the members who were sent in here to remove the members of the EFF, were they in fact members of the South African Police Service and if that be the case, can I request that in fact this, we cannot simply allow for police to enter this chamber, it is a grave constitutional violation, we want to be here to get the state of the nation address but we cannot violate this constitution of the people of this country by allowing the police in this chamber, we can’t accept that, I would like clarity on that madam speaker,” Maiman said.

Lawmakers from the main opposition Democratic Alliance then walked out of the chamber after calling the removal of EFF members unconstitutional.