South Africa 12.2.2015 08:55 pm

Zuma addresses half-full Parly

FILE PICTURE: President Jacob Zuma. (Photo: DoC)

FILE PICTURE: President Jacob Zuma. (Photo: DoC)

President Jacob Zuma started delivering his state-of-the-nation address to a half-full National Assembly on Thursday after the EFF disrupted proceedings.

The Economic Freedom Fighters were escorted out of the House after insisting that Zuma answer questions regarding security upgrades to his private home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.

The Democratic Alliance left the House shortly afterwards.

Zuma had just started his speech when EFF MP Godrich Gardee tried to raise a point of order.

“May we ask the president when he is going to pay the money in terms of what the public protector has said,” Gardee said.

“He [Zuma] has not been answering that question and we hope today he will answer that question.”

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete stopped him, saying the reason they were in Parliament was for the state-of-the-nation and not for a question session.

She said Zuma would answer questions next week when he returned to Parliament.

However, EFF leader Julius Malema insisted on Thursday that the president answer questions, saying it was his right to ask.

“You are not doing me any favours… it is within my right to speak as a member of this House and let me remind you that it is incorrect of you that when the president speaks you suspend the rules,” he told Mbete.

“We want the president to answer a simple question, when is he paying the money as instructed by the public protector?”

Baleka ordered that Malema and his fellow MPs, who started shouting that Zuma answer questions, leave the House.

The rowdy EFF MPs refused to leave prompting Parliament’s presiding officers to call in security.

Fist fights broke out as EFF MPs were dragged out the National Assembly.

The MPs tried to stand their ground and EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu confronted a few officers and another fight broke out.

Some of the protection officers’ shirts were ripped off and they stood bare-chested as a result of the disruption.

Security officers blocked journalists from going near the EFF MPs.

Police and protection officers were apparently taking the rowdy EFF MPs to a location on the precinct.

At around 7.42pm, Malema, hat in hand, left Parliament.

Following the EFF’s removal, the Democratic Alliance threatened to leave as well unless the presiding officers would say whether police officers were used to remove the MPs.

“To remove the members of the EFF… if by police… I request we cannot allow police to enter this chamber,” DA Parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane said.

“We want to be here to get the state-of-the-nation address but we cannot violate the Constitution of this country.”

National Council of Provinces chairwoman Thandi Modise explained the presiding officers had a right to call in security.

“We have indeed repeatedly called on members during a joint sitting to heed the call to take a seat,” she said.

She said all avenues were exhausted before security was called.

“We are also empowered… to ask for security – whichever security – to act… I think we should allow this house to do its business,” Modise said.

This prompted the DA to get up and leave the House.

Speaking outside Parliament, Shivambu warned the EFF would be armed the next time parliamentary protection officers confronted them.

“They obviously manhandled all of us. Next time, we will be armed,” he said as he walked to the steps of the National Assembly in the rain.

EFF MPs and supporters danced and chanted “pay back the money”.

Back inside the chamber African National Congress MP Naledi Pandor said the disruption was a violation of the Constitution.

Speaking to other MP’s she said: “I thought you knew the rules very well and I suggest you read rule seven of the joint rules.”

Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi said the disruptions were “disgusting” and “utter nonsense”.

Just after 8pm Zuma took to the podium for a second time to give his address, an hour after he was meant to start.

The president chuckled as he said “Let me start where I was interrupted from”.

 

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