Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema and deputy president Floyd Shivambu were removed from Parliament on Thursday during President Jacob Zuma’s eighth State of the Nation Address (Sona).
EFF members demanded to know when Zuma is going to pay back the money towards the costs of security upgrades deemed by the Public Protector to have unfairly benefited him and his family.
Shortly afterwards, members of the Democratic Alliance protested against the presence of what they claimed were armed police officers in the House.
“I ask the Parliamentary service officers to please come in and take out the honorary members,” National Speaker Baleka Mbete said. “I also ask the security officers to assist.” EFF national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi was also asked to leave the house.
At around 7.42pm, Malema, hat in hand, left Parliament.
Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota also left the House, saying, “This is not the democracy we fought for.” He said he supports the EFF walkout.
United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa said: “This is a police state.”
Addressing the media outside, Malema said: This is a direct threat to democracy. Police are used to settle political differences. We are not going to stop demanding answers. Whether they beat us up or not. When people raise legitimate questions, police are called to assault them.”
Maimane has requested an urgent meeting with Zuma and Mbete for them to explain themselves.
It is the first time that a president’s state of the nation address has been disrupted. Presiding Officers, however, put their foot down and defended the institution and to a large extent Zuma.
The disruption will overshadow this important event on political calendar and is likely to make news headlines ahead of the crucial issues Zuma will raise in the address.