Malema: If anything must happen, let it happen now!

Chaos erupted in Parliament as the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) once again exchanged blows with parliamentary security members as they were removed from the National Assembly after refusing to allow President Jacob Zuma to deliver his state of the nation address.

The EFF’s disruption of Zuma’s speech escalated after the red berets refused to heed National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete’s request to leave the house peacefully. As security officers with white shirts entered the house, a brawl erupted with several punches being thrown and EFF members being carried out.

At the National Assembly doors, the fight continued. EFF MPs and security officers pelted each other with helmets and rocks, while at least one person was pushed down the stairs. After the brawl, the EFF’s commander-in-chief Julius Malema was furious as he addressed journalists, with riot police looking on.

“We are prepared to leave this parliament being in a coffin, standing for the truth… If anything must happen, let it happen now. We are ready for anything!” Malema exclaimed, adding that his party had no fear of an increased police presence.

“We are not going to be intimidated by soldiers, police and by criminals who are hell bent on defending a constitutional delinquent … They are ready to chase people out who break the rules of parliament, but are prepared to defend a man who broke his oath of office,” he said.

As Malema spoke, flanked by the senior leadership of his party, stun grenades could be heard exploding near the parliamentary precinct.

“This place has been militarised. The freedom of movement has been suspended. The ANC has suspended the constitution today. This place has been declared under marshal law as a state of emergency,” he claimed.

Shortly after the EFF left the national assembly, they were followed by the Democratic Alliance (DA), who had earlier staged a silent 30-second protest in memory of the victims of the Life Esidimeni tragedy.

Ninety-four mentally ill people died when the Gauteng government decided to move them from private hospitals to run down non-governmental organisations which were found to have been operating unlawfully in an investigation into the deaths.

The DA staged the protest after Mbete refused their request for a moment of silence before Zuma’s speech.

But it was the “tear-gas inside the national assembly that was choking members of the gallery” that was the straw that broke the camels back, and prompted a walkout by the official opposition, DA leader Mmusi Maimane said.

Maimane said he would urgently approach the courts to take the events that took place inside the national assembly on review.

“What is happening in this parliament says the constitution doesn’t matter. You have a president who violates the constitution. He allows for tear gas to be deployed in the gallery, putting members of SA in danger,” Maimane said.

“If we don’t have a constitution in SA, we simply don’t have a country to stand for,” Maimane added, minutes after walking out.

Congress of the People (Cope) leader Mosioua Lekota was disappointed. “I have been disappointed. I expected it to go bad but I never thought it would come to this,” Lekota said.

“Many of our comrades gave our lives fighting to get the ANC into power, only for it to be taken over by these people,” he said.

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Govan Whittles

Govan Whittles is a general news and political multimedia journalist at the Mail & Guardian. Born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape, he cut his teeth as a radio journalist at Primedia Broadcasting. He produced two documentaries and one short film for the Walter Sisulu University, and enjoys writing about grassroots issues, national politics, identity, heritage and hip-hop culture.

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