President Jacob Zuma's tribute speech degenerated in chaos as members of the ANC Youth League disrupted him by singing and chanting.
What was supposed to have been a tribute to one of the ANC’s former presidents, quickly degenerated into chaos with chairs flying, a journalist assaulted and police having to intervene as ANC Youth League members disrupted President Jacob Zuma’s address in Cape Town.
From the start of the programme, while ANC Western Cape secretary Songezo Mjongile made introductions, about 300 youths started singing but soon stopped.
They periodically disrupted Zuma’s address, singing pro-Malema songs and making the substitution sign normally seen at soccer matches. They also booed Zuma when the rest of the audience applauded him.
Zuma continued with his address unabated, while senior ANC leaders including a number of Cabinet ministers tried to stop the singing. A few ministers and members of the audience were pacing up and down the hall, panicking. But as Zuma’s speech continued, the youth grew restless and started singing, chanting and stomping their feet, while some took to throwing chairs.
An SABC cameraman was injured when he was hit while filming an anti-Zuma protest.
The police were called in to assist with the chaos, taking a number of youths out of the hall. The ANC said one man had been arrested but the Mail & Guardian couldn’t confirm this with the police.
Despite his absence, suspended league president Julius Malema remained at the centre of the proceedings as league members sang: “Zuma uph’ uJuju, hayi asiphelelanga” (Zuma, where’s Juju? We are incomplete).
Zuma and a number of ANC leaders later apologised for the chaos caused by the league members and pledged to deal with them sternly.
Zuma said: “The party has to address the question of ill-discipline, which has become a common theme, which wasn’t there during the days of the struggle against apartheid”.
“For a long time, the ANC has been understanding and allowed people to cross the line using ANC platforms. But now we will take stern measures.
“We’ll now deal with the people without fear or favour,” said Zuma.
ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said the party would seek help from the television stations that may have caught the culprits on camera to help identify them.
“They will then face the ANC’s disciplinary processes,” he said.
In the midst of the chaos, former Western Cape premier Peter Marais, who was expected to join the ANC on Thursday, was seen striding towards the exit.
He told journalists that he couldn’t stand being around the ill-disciplined youth and would not be joining the ANC.