DA stages walkout after security eject EFF MPs
History was made in the National Assembly last night when the state of the nation address (Sona) descended into chaos after Julius Malema and his EFF MPs traded blows with parliament’s security officers, who forcibly ejected them from the House.
In another first, a political party staged a walkout from the address when DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane led his party’s MPs as they walked out of the chamber in protest against the alleged deployment of the police.
The drama unfolded in front of President Jacob Zuma, former presidents Thabo Mbeki and FW de Klerk, and the leadership of the judiciary, diplomats representing foreign countries as well as religious and business leaders.
All hell broke loose when Malema and his party demanded that Zuma should explain when was he going to pay back some of the public money spent on his Nkandla homestead.
But when National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete ruled that the Sona was no occasion for the president to take questions, Malema would have none of that, eventually forcing the speaker to ask him to leave the House.
“I’m not going to leave, chair,” he shouted back.
However, Mbete ordered parliament’s security officers to remove Malema and his MPs.
As the security staff, rumoured to be from the police, walked in, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng walked out.
Attempts by about 24 EFF MPs to form a human shield around Malema failed as security forces applied force to eject them, resulting in fisticuffs. The EFF members used their hard hats to attack security personal.
Desks were overturned and several hard hats remained scattered on the floor of the chamber afterwards.
Veteran MP and IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi registered his disgust when he stood up spontaneously to address the House.
“I think what has just happened is not what we as the majority of this House want to see. We can’t have a fear of
people indulging in fist fights, tearing our country apart. What has happened is utter nonsense,” he said.
Thandi Modise, the National Council of Provinces chairwoman who was co-presiding with Mbete, strongly defended the use of physical force.
“Honourable members, it is understandable that we’ll react to what we’ve just witnessed. It’s something which the rules of parliament never anticipated would happen, therefore let’s agree that such incidents will not happen again in our parliament,” she said.
Speaking to the media after his brawl with the security officers, Malema alleged that he and his MPs had been manhandled by SAPS members belonging to the Presidential Protection Unit and not parliament’s security personnel.
He said he was unshaken and his party would remain a thorn in the side of Zuma.
“It’s a sad day that elected representatives, including women, can be beaten by police.”
Malema said seven members were injured and they had been encouraged to lay complaints with the police.
“This is a direct threat to democracy, that those who don’t agree with the state, they are subjected to the harsh treatment of the security institutions. Police are used to settle political differences.
“This has put our democracy in serious danger but you must be rest assured that is just the beginning. We will continue participating in this parliament up until the executive takes this institution seriously.
“We are not going to stop to demand answers from [the] number one tsotsi.
Everywhere else we meet number one tsotsi, we will ask him questions, whether they beat us or not. We will continue asking relevant questions, when is Zuma paying back the money,” Malema, standing in his torn white vest, said.
The DA, which has always opposed the deployment of police in the debating chamber, walked out in protest after Mbete and Modise could not say whether the people who removed the EFF MPs were indeed from the police.
The UDM’s Bantu Holomisa said: “We are not going to be part of this, to endorse a police state here. More MPs were injured in that fracas. The presiding officers are failing to answer simple questions.”
Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe castigated the opposition for disrupting the speech, calling on parliament to act strongly against them.
And ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe criticised the EFF for the disruption, saying anarchy could never run the nation.
Ashen-faced senior diplomats of major South African trading partners told journalists they were shocked by the events.
-Thabo Mokone, Jan-Jan Joubert, Bianca Capazario and Aphiwe Deklerk