Political tension is mounting in South Africa and things got even more intense in parliament when opposition members resisted police officers who tried to eject them from the chambers. About 20 members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party – dressed in their uniform of red workers’ overalls – were wrestled from their seats by plain-clothed guards.
They had refused to let Zuma speak and furiously shouted down the Speaker, Baleka Mbete.
President Zuma looked on impassively as they were ejected by plain-clothes police officers but not without a scuffle.
Before the guards moved in, the EFF members, led by their firebrand ‘commander in chief’ Julius Malema, yelled that it was the president who should be thrown out.
‘He broke his oath of office. Zuma is the one who must go,’ they shouted.
Outside parliament, Malema told reporters and cheering supporters: ‘Zuma will never find peace in this parliament. Every time he comes here the same thing will happen.
‘These bouncers must know that if they give violence, we will respond with violence. We are not scared.’
The disruption was the latest in a series of parliamentary showdowns as pressure mounts on Zuma to resign or be axed as president by the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
Senior ANC veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle, which brought liberation icon Nelson Mandela to power in 1994 have urged the president to step down but he retains widespread loyalty in the party, and ANC lawmakers have regularly rallied to his defence.
In April, they easily defeated an opposition move to impeach him.
It’s not the first time such an eviction has taken place in parliament, two weeks ago, the EFF was thrown out in similar scenes, it says that it does not recognise Zuma as president in the wake of two recent court cases.
Zuma was found to have violated the constitution by the country’s highest court over the spending of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money on his private rural residence at Nkandla in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal.
In April another court said he should face almost 800 corruption charges relating to a multi-billion-dollar arms deal that were dropped in 2009, shortly before he became president.
The rowdy scenes in parliament was watched by scores of supporters of the opposition Democratic Alliance wearing black T-shirts emblazoned with Zuma’s picture and the slogan: ‘Accused No.1’.
Zuma’s decision to sack two finance ministers in four days leading to the turmoil in the financial market has not helped his cause.
South Africa faces local elections in August and, if the ANC suffers a major drop in support, Zuma could lose support within the party and not serve out the last three years of his final term.