Lawmakers of South Africa’s far-left Economic Freedom Fighters party brawled with parliamentary orderlies as they were ejected from the chamber for interrupting President Jacob Zuma’s state-of-the-nation speech on Thursday.
Scuffling spilled over into the precincts of the building, Reuters reporters saw, as the lawmakers, clad in their trademark red overalls, continued to push the orderlies ejecting them on the Speaker’s orders.
Police fired stun grenades outside to disperse supporters of the EFF and the ruling African National Congress party.
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BREAKING: Fights break out among lawmakers in South Africa's parliament pic.twitter.com/fCtQtgMbEb (Vid: Katy Katopodis)
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Amid the turmoil, the main opposition Democratic Alliance party walked out of parliament, saying Zuma was unqualified to hold office and questioning the deployment of soldiers at parliament.
Zuma had authorised more than 400 soldiers to join the security team at his annual state of the nation speech, drawing outrage from opponents who called it “militarisation”.
The drama started when the 74-year-old leader started speaking, then sat down as members of the EFF kept up questions for more than an hour.
“Sitting in front of us here is an incorrigible man. Rotten to the core,” EFF leader Julius Malema, a former Zuma protege and leader of the ANC’s Youth League, said pointing at the president.
Before calling in the parliamentary protective services to eject Malema, Speaker Baleka Mbete warned him: “We are not going to allow you to abuse us the whole night.”
Zuma’s popularity has waned after a series of scandals, which led an anti-corruption watchdog to call in November for a judicial inquiry into alleged influence-peddling in his government. He has denied the allegations.