Cape Town – Everyone agrees – the anarchy which preceded the State of the Nation address by President Jacob Zuma in Parliament on Thursday night is disgraceful and should never happen again. Political parties across the spectrum and unions are dismayed by the events which rendered the president’s speech irrelevant.
The DA and the EFF have threatened legal action while other opposition parties have called for an investigation into who ordered the jamming of the communication signal and whether armed police were among those used to remove EFF members from the Chamber.
The gloves are off between the ANC government and EFF with the former declaring that Julius Malema’s party embarrassed the country globally with it’s despicable and disgusting conduct.
Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe said on Thursday night the EFF was holding the country to ransom with its behaviour.
He backed the Speaker, Baleka Mbete, saying she acted within the rules of Parliament and the law when she ejected disruptive EFF MPs.
ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe also described the conduct of EFF and DA MPs as anarchist. “Our view is that anarchy will never build the nation,” said Mantashe.
Mantashe described the conduct of both the EFF and DA as that of two parties competing for political space. He commended Mbete for handling the removal of the unruly MPs.
DA leader Helen Zille and Malema said they would look at the legal recourse over the events of of Thursday night.
The two parties described the use of force by security services as turning South Africa into a police state.
But this was denied by Radebe who said the state had to act against unruly MPs.
“It is despicable that elected representatives can behave in such a disgusting and despicable manner,” said Radebe.
He said it was evident from the start that the EFF would disrupt the proceedings as they had indicated in the weeks leading to the Sona.
DA Parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane accused Zuma of failing to account to Parliament and instead using brutal tactics.
“What the ANC is doing in this place cannot be allowed and President Zuma is presiding over it,” he told journalists on the steps of the National Assembly after his party walked out.
Malema accused the ANC of turning South Africa into a police state.
He said seven of his party MPs were injured and taken to hospital during the removal by the police.
“We cannot allow the Speaker to take a unilateral decision. The president said the Speaker will protect him (during the Sona) and he was right, the Speaker protected him,” said Malema.
Zille said the conduct of the ANC government showed the ruling party did not respect the law and the constitution.
IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi said: “I was definitely very disappointed. While I agree with the general unhappiness, I don’t think that is the right way to handle it… to waste our time,” he said after the event.
Buthelezi also expressed his displeasure at the jamming of cellphone signals in the Chamber at the beginning of proceedings.
“I think it was absolutely amazing, because if it was done by intelligence, then God help us.”
The Freedom Front Plus said Zuma was uninspiring and should have commented on the disruptions to his speech.
“A strong leader would’ve said something and made a joke or something, he did not,” leader Pieter Mulder said.
“He inspired no real hope in his speech, he just said old things over again.”
Mulder said there were two main issues on Thursday – the jamming of cellphone signals and who was used to throw out the EFF MPs.
National Freedom Party secretary-general Nhlanhla Khubisa apologised to South Africans for what happened in the National Assembly.
“The integrity of the House was compromised,” he said.
Cosatu general-secretary Zwelinzima Vavi also criticised the actions of EFF.
“No-one I know has disrupted any president… least of all in a democracy such as ours,” said Vavi.
“To disrupt… was absolutely wrong.”
He also criticised the decision to jam cellphone signals in Parliament.
Those who did that were “kicking Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo” who fought for freedom.
“Whoever did that (jammed the signal), deserves the harshest form of action,” said Vavi.