By John Chimunhu|
Armed riot police stormed the South African parliament on Thursday night to remove militant EFF leader Julius Malema after he heckled president Jacob Zuma, disrupting his state of the nation address.
Malema disrupted Zuma’s speech just before 8 pm local time. He and other members of his party started shouting and demanding to know when Zuma would “pay back” the money used for unauthorized upgrades on his Nkandla rural home in KwaZulu Natal.
Parliament speaker Baleka Mbete was heard summoning inhouse security and riot cops to deal with Malema. Several fights broke out inside the chamber, between EFF and ANC MPs. Malema, dressed in red overalls and holding a miner’s helmet, eventually left. His deputy, Floyd Shivambu and EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi were also thrown out.
“This is a direct threat to democracy,” Malema said outside parliament, blaming the government for using the police to settle political differences.
The opposition Democratic Alliance walked out in protest over the police presence.
“Tonight the ANC and EFF have turned parliament into a national embarrassment,” said DA’s parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane. He said speaker Mbete had violated the constitution by calling in armed police, hence the walkout in protest. He said the assault was pre-planned as the security forces had earlier jammed the mobile phone signal in parliament.
MP and DA national spokesman Marius Redelinghuys and Cape Metro chair Shaun August were arrested while police fired water cannons to disperse crowds gathered on a street outside parliament.
Cope’s Mosioua Lekota and Bantu Holomisa also walked out in solidarity with Malema.
“This is not the democracy we fought for,” said Lekota, a former minister of defence who broke away from the ANC.
Holomisa said the ANC had turned SA into a police state.
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