The traditional decorum accompanying the opening of South Africa’s parliament was shattered when members of the left wing Economic Freedom Fighters, including their leader Julius Malema were forcibly removed from the chamber.
Members of the opposition Democratic Alliance then walked out in protest against the presence of armed police in the House.
The delivery of President Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation speech, traditionally listened to in silence by members in a joint sitting of the upper and lower houses, was delayed by an hour as red-boiler-suited members of the Economic Freedom Fighters rose on questions of privilege.
They asked when Zuma would comply with the Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s ruling that he pay back money used to personally enrich himself from state-funded security improvements to his private home.
Speaker Baleka Mbete responded that this was not the occasion for such questions. When he persisted, she ordered Julius Malema to leave the chamber.
When the Sergeant at Arms from the National Assembly and Black Rod from the National Council of provinces could not move him, Mbete ratcheted up matters.
Parliamentary leader of the Democratic Alliance Mmusi Maimane led a walkout when the speaker would not confirm that the armed men involved in scuffles with the EFF members were police.
He told reporters in the lobby
That having police in the House violated the consitution and the rule of law that Nelson Mandela had worked for.
Zuma who grinned through the ruckus began his speech saying South Africa’s growth target of five percent annually was under threat because of slow global economic conditions.
However the job situation’s more promising with more than 15 million South Africans in employment.