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Security officials clashed with members of Economic Freedom Fighters during Zuma’s State of the Nation address on Feb. 9.
Security officials clashed with members of Economic Freedom Fighters during Zuma’s State of the Nation address on Feb. 9.

S. African Lawmakers Brawl During President’s speech

S. African Lawmakers Brawl During President’s speech

A session of South Africa’s Parliament convened for a keynote address by President Jacob Zuma descended into chaos on Thursday, as far-left lawmakers brawled with orderlies after interrupting the speech and the main opposition party walked out.

Deputies from the Economic Freedom Fighters party fired questions at Zuma for more than an hour, forcing the president, whose authority has been tarnished by a series of scandals, to halt his state-of-the-nation speech, Reuters reported.

Zuma had earlier authorized more than 400 soldiers to join the security team outside the building during the speech, an unprecedented move his opponents described as a “militarization” of parliament.

Speaker Baleka Mbete ordered the EFF contingent ejected after their leader Julius Malema called Zuma “rotten to the core”.

Exiting the chamber with his deputies a short time later, opposition Democratic Alliance party leader Mmusi Maimane said the president was unfit to hold office.

Previous Zuma speeches in parliament have led to disruptions but Thursday’s was the most violent, with scuffles spilling over into the precinct of the building.

The party holds more than 60% of the 400 seats in parliament, but Zuma faced a revolt by some ANC members in November.

That same month, an anti-corruption watchdog called for a judicial inquiry into alleged influence-peddling in his government. He has denied the allegations.

The Democratic Alliance’s Maimane questioned the deployment of soldiers at the legislature and his party said it would seek a court ruling on whether this breached the country’s basic law.

In the speech he resumed after the fighting ended, Zuma took issue with the distribution of wealth in a domestic economy still mostly controlled by whites more than two decades after apartheid ended in 1994.

“Political freedom is incomplete without economic emancipation,” he said.

“Today we are starting a new chapter of radical socioeconomic transformation. We are saying that we should move beyond words to practical programs.”

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