22 August 2014

South Africa: Malema's EFF Stirs Political Upheaval in South Africa

South Africa's parliament is to appoint a special committee to investigate lawmakers of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). The party disrupted parliamentary proceedings.

Lawmakers from the radical Economic Freedom Fighters party led by Julius Malema caused a political storm on Thursday (21.08.2014), when they hurled chants at President Jacob Zuma.

South Africa's leader was being grilled over the controversial security upgrades for his private Nkandla residence which had cost the taxpayer $24 million (18 million euros).

The speaker of parliament ordered the chanting members to leave the parliament building. When they refused, riot police were called. Observers worry such incidents could damage South African democracy.

President Zuma is facing growing criticisms inside and outside the ANC

Economic Freedom Fighters have the right to raise issues in parliament, but their tactics could diminish the parliament's reputation in the eyes of ordinary South Africans, a prominent political analyst based at the University of South Africa (UNISA), Professor Somadoda Fikeni told DW in an interview.

"At a time when you have serious socio-economic challenges, afflicting a greater part of our population and many stories of corruption involving politicians, the country needs to have a difficult conversation in order to retrieve itself and get back from the detour it has taken," Fikeni said.

Calls for accountability

South Africa's main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), said it wants President Zuma to take responsibility for Nkandlagate, a reference to the lavish upgrade of his Nkandla residence.

Mmusi Maimane, parliamentary leader of the DA, called on Zuma to be accountable."We agree that the President must account on this matter. We agree that without fail we will set a committee that will be able to subpoena the president, " Maimane said.

Malema's EFF party has caused uproars ever since it entered parliament

He said they were taking this step because they believed in the constitutionality and the application of the rule of law. "We don't want that in the long run that the very law we must undermine so that we don't have a law to hold onto."

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) accused EFF lawmakers of wanting to hijack South Africa's hard-earned democracy. They accused Malema's party of seeking to bring about destruction and anarchy in the country.

Democracy at stake?

ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa called on parliament to take the strongest action possible to defend its integrity. "Their (EFF) action and conduct does not only undermine the values of parliament but also democracy," Kodwa said. "It has brought the house and South Africa into disrepute."

While not agreeing with the actions by EFF, Judith February, a political analyst with the Institute for Security Studies, believes President Zuma's lack of accountability is to blame.

"The president did not respond properly, lost the debate and caused this embarrassment," Judith told DW. "At the heart of all this is that the President does believe that he doesn't owe South Africa answers on Nkandla," Judith said.

Zuma's Nkandla residence security upgrades cost more than initially planned

In her opinion, Thursday's parliamentary uproar " is the chicken coming home to roost both in the ANC's internal politics, the President's lack of accountability on Nkandla, Guptagate, and on the 13 South African soldiers killed in the Central African Republic."

Julius Malema, leader of the EFF, remained defiant and unrepentant concerning the negative reactions to what happened in parliament. Instead he chose to emphasize his opposition credentials towards the government. "We are not employed by the ANC and we will never be told by the ANC how we must oppose them, the firebrand politician said. "We are fighting them. This is just the beginning."

Some political observers say Zuma has become a victim of his own political machinations. He was the one credited with nurturing Malema's political ambitions. Malema was an ally of Zuma when he was battling to oust his predecessor Thabo Mbeki in 2009.

Author Subry Govender / cm

Editor Mark Caldwell

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