Voice of America (Washington, DC)

22 August 2014

South Africa: S. African President Walks Out of Parliament Amid Chaos

Johannesburg — The South African parliament was plunged into chaos yet again Thursday, forcing President Jacob Zuma to walk out in the middle of his address to the national assembly.

This was after the Economic Freedom Fighters become unruly and violent during a question and answer session. The ruling ANC is now calling for the strongest punitive sanction to be placed on those involved.

Chaotic scenes erupted during a question and answer session with Zuma concerning his private Nkandla home.

Calls for Zuma to return monies

Early this year, the public protector ordered Zuma to pay back to the state a portion of the $23 million used for security upgrades to the home. Zuma was in parliament to explain his response to the public protector's report. "I have responded appropriately and I am saying people who did the upgrades at Nkandla, they are the ones who always determine who pays, when to pay," he explained.

But the leader of the newly formed Economic Freedom Fighters, (EFF) Julius Malema, who was expelled from the ruling ANC partly for undermining Zuma's authority, demanded a precise response. "The question we are asking today and we are not going to leave here before we get an answer, is when are you paying the money?" he stated.

When President Zuma insisted that he had already answered the question, there was commotion as EFF members refused to take instructions from the speaker of the House of Representatives.

It is at this point that Zuma decided to walk out. The speaker then temporarily adjourned parliament and called in riot police to eject EFF members, who violently refused and instead started chanting "pay back the money."

Chaos: scuffling, shoving

When it was time for parliament to resume, ANC members of parliament charged towards the EFF members, leading to a scuffle as they pushed and shoved each other.

This forced the speaker to adjourn parliament. While the EFF has received praises from those that are anti-ANC, political analyst Angelo Fick disagreed.

"They have moral rights perhaps on their side in the eyes of some of the observers, but they don't have the letter of the law on their side. The president and the African National Congress seem to be following the letter of the law and they will follow the process through the adhoc committee," said Fick.

But Constitutional expert, Shadrack Gutto, blames President Zuma, saying the chaos was a result of his failure to respond to the public protector's report in a timely and precise manner.

"They should have done it much more reasonably than they did, but the substance of it is that, it is the presidency, which is avoiding obeying the laws of the country," he said.

In May, EFF members were ejected from parliament when party leader Malema refused to withdraw a statement in which he accused the ANC of being responsible for killing 34 striking miners shot by police in Marikana. In the Gauteng legislature, EFF members were ordered to march out after coming into the House wearing red overalls and domestic workers clothes.

The ruling ANC is now calling on parliament to slap the EFF members with the strongest sanction possible. In a strongly worded statement, the ANC warned the EFF not to provoke emotions, saying this could lead to political intolerance with dire consequences to the country's democracy.

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