The opening of Parliament became a battle of ‘outwit, outplay and outlast’ between President Jacob Zuma, a speech he really wanted to say, and opposition parties determined not to let that happen.
Proceedings collapsed before they even began – with spectacle, snarky sarcasm, and an undercurrent of seething anger as never seen before in the country’s democratic parliament.
“When we come back next time you will not be our president,” warned the Economic Freedom Fighters as they sashayed out of the chamber, following nearly an hour of planned disruptions, including the invention and chanting of a new hashtag #Zuptamustfall.
“Zupta” is a reference to Zuma’s close links with the influential Gupta family who secured an interdict against the EFF this week.
With his speech incessantly thrown into disarray through carnivalesque intrusions, Zuma only began speaking about an hour later than expected.
As the ceremonial flourishes concluded, it was Economic Freedom Fighter deputy leader Floyd Shivambu who bounced up first, asking speaker Baleka Mbete for clarity on the rules of the house. Soon, the party’s leader Julius Malema and spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi also entered the fray.
The party seemed to be gunning for the notoriously impatient and fiercely protective Mbete from the beginning: When Mbete declared that she would not allow any more points of order, Malema immediately stood up: “Point of order,” he asserted with feigned innocence.
A shouting match soon ensued in which Ndlozi declared Mbete as “my international award winning speaker of non-violence”.
Mbete received the Martin Luther King Legacy Award for International Service last month.
However, somewhat surprisingly, it was in fact Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota who was the one to interrupt the president during his first attempt to get going.
Lekota arose on a point of order, and was initially shot down by Speaker Baleka Mbete, who explained that she had already dealt with “spurious” points of order from the EFF. However, Lekota persisted, eventually declaring that:
“Zuma broke his oath of office and is no longer honourable… We can’t listen to someone who has broken his oath.
“He is no longer fit to lead our people.”
His party was the first to leave the chamber.
And then almost everyone seemed to get in on the act: While IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi wanted a vote on whether the house should continue, the DA’s leader Mmusi Maimane called for the house to proceed – a move which prompted ANC MPs to clap for him.
And yet, whenever he got a chance, Zuma just kept on ploughing through his lengthy speech.
Showing a resolute spirit to ‘hear no evil and see no evil’, he adopted an almost surreal disposition to avoid eye contact and keep talking – despite incessant heckling.
Nevertheless, at brief points, the president did seem to lose his cool, slipping briefly into his infamous ‘heehee’, having to restart points over which he stumbled, and also berating the assembly, in off the cuff side-remarks in Zulu.
“Let the people listen, so they can hear well,” Zuma said in Zulu as DA MPs drowned out his rhetoric.
Speaking outside, after his party’s exit, Malema delivered what he termed the “real” state of the nation address. He told reporters that if the ANC did not remove “the chief thug” Zuma, they will start impeachment proceedings.
Malema said that by leaving voluntarily, the EFF denied the so-called “white shirts” the chance to “suck our blood”, in reference to Parliament’s security officials who last year manhandled them. Throughout this week, the EFF promised war hoping to focus on Zuma’s firing of Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister in December, replacing him with the little known Des van Rooyen at the time – a move that sent the rand into a tailspin.
In the afternoon build-up to the SONA, as parliamentarians and other dignitaries sashayed down a red carpet in sparkling sartorial style – police and protestors, as well as opposing political supporters, clashed at various sites in central Cape Town.
At one point EFF supporters gathered in Adderley Street before those wearing ANC paraphernali began hitting them with planks broken off from public benches.
Some EFF members tried to pull bricks from the paving. They were also heard accusatorily declaring to ANC supporters wearing Zuma T-shirts: “You are wearing a rapist on your shirt”.
Stun grenades were eventually released to separate the groups.
Hundreds of protestors also faced off with riot-geared up policeman – with the angry citizens sticking out their tongues, insulting the police officers’ mothers’ genitals and throwing rocks and a glass bottle.
Last year’s SONA was marred by disruptions by EFF members who demanded answers on when he would pay back State funds which were used towards the upgrades at his Nkandla homestead. The EFF members were physically removed from the House while DA MP’s staged a walk out.
At one point in 2015, the cellphone signal in parliament became jammed. On Thursday, Shivambu’s microphone was switched off briefly.
In an about-turn last week, Zuma approached the Constitutional Court to ask that it order the Auditor General and finance minister to determine how much he owed for the non-security upgrades to Nkandla.
However on Tuesday, judgment was reserved in the Constitutional Court in an application by the Economic Freedom Fighters and Democratic for an order that Zuma repay some of the R246m spent on his home in Nkandla.
The court was asked this week to find that he violated the Constitution and his oath of office in his handling of the matter.
On Thursday, opposition parties, the Economic Freedom Fighters and the Democratic Alliance, stood up cheering and clapping as the judiciary, headed by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng come in.
And when it came to a winning attitude, it was Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, who declared her shimmering beaded canary yellow formal gown, as symbolically representing “the colour of victory”.
source: business tech