Members of Parliament clashed again during the debate on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Tuesday, with Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema and ANC MPs coming to verbal blows during continuous points of order.
ANC MPs seemed to take a leaf from the EFF caucus in continually interrupting Malema during his speech, at one point accusing the red beret leader of abusing his wife, Mantoa Malema.
A defiant Malema said he would use parliamentary rules to ensure his speech is heard and not be heckled off the podium. “No one is going to tell me what to do. I’m in charge. That is why these fools are running around … There’s nothing you can do: in this house, I’m in charge.”
Malema denied being an abuser, instead taking aim at the president and accusing him of abusing his deceased wife.
Tempers reached boiling point when Malema was ordered to leave the chamber after he refused to withdraw comments relating to Ramaphosa’s alleged abuse of his former wife.
“I will leave the house now. But the fact remains: Nomazizi must rest in peace — she was abused by your president, “ Malema said while leaving the podium.
It is unlikely Malema would be challenged for his remarks, because he is protected by parliamentary privilege.
FW De Klerk furore
Addressing the furore over apartheid’s last president and his presence at the State of the Nation Address on Thursday, Malema accused the ANC of cow-towing to the former statesman.
Last week, the EFF led a call protesting FW De Klerk’s presence at Parliament.
As a former deputy president under a democratic dispensation, De Klerk’s invitation to Sona is standard.
On Monday, De Klerk acknowledged that apartheid was a crime against humanity, after earlier denying that the system of oppression constituted crimes against humanity.
“There is nothing that De Klerk does in terms of nation-building. Many of you are scared to confront this question because De Klerk has your force numbers. You were spies and you are scared when you take De Klerk head-on; your files of being spies will be released,” Malema said.
The ANC also made its voice heard on De Klerk. Deputy ANC chief whip Doris Dlakude said his initial remarks were not in the best interest of the country.
“The statement that was made by the second former deputy president was unfortunate, insensitive and reckless. He should have known that the United Nations flagged apartheid as a crime against humanity. Such statements have a tendency to sow the seeds of hatred, racialism, division and promotion of superiority amongst citizens of this country,” she said.
Throughout proceedings, MPs took potshots at each other while trying to nitpick the president’s policy announcements.
The DA’s response on unemployment
Leader of the opposition in Parliament, John Steenhuisen of the Democratic Alliance (DA), targeted Ramaphosa’s overall record since coming into office in 2018, saying that unemployment and economic growth has worsened under Ramaphosa’s watch.
“Since you delivered your first Sona speech in this house two years ago, well over a million more people have joined the ranks of the unemployed. This number now stands at almost 10.4-million working-age South Africans. I am not going to stand here and say that this happened on your watch, Mister President. That would be far too kind. It didn’t just happen on your watch, it happened by your own hand. You, sir, put us in this situation,” Steenhuisen said.
The interim DA leader said South Africans want tangible answers to the country’s woes, and not grand plans and fantasies.
“You talk of building a smart city in Lanseria when you can’t even keep the lights on in our existing cities. The gap between what you dream of in Sona and what you can deliver grows wider and wider every year. South Africans don’t want fantasies. They want to know how we are going to get through this crisis we’re in,” he said. “Thursday evening was your moment, honourable president, and you blew it. You wasted your last good chance to lead us to the new dawn you once promised.”
‘The ideas of one person’
The most raucous reception was left for Malema, who returned to the National Assembly chamber after leading a walkout of his MPs during Sona.
Although the national address was delayed by almost 90 minutes because of the EFF’s protestations, the EFF leader praised Parliament’s presiding officers, National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise and National Council of Provinces chairperson Amos Masondo.
“The two of you understood that this is a democratic Parliament. And any view that suggests that the view of the minority should never be entertained is undemocratic. The nature of democracy is that we listen to all ideas, even if it is the ideas of one person,” Malema said.
Following the EFF’s outbursts, MPs from most political parties called for the 44-member caucus to be censured for the disruptions.
Malema laughed off suggestions that the EFF be referred to Parliament’s powers and privileges committee and be fined for the upheaval.
“I heard one say they want to amend the rules. The problem is, Mister President, is that your comrades don’t read the rules,” Malema said.
MPs enter into another day of debate on Wednesday before the president responds to the critiques on Thursday.