South African Opposition Party Proves itself Toxic, Violent and Stone-Age

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Tue May 17, 2016 6:28PM
Party leader Julius Malema and members of his Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) clash with parliamentary security as they are evicted from the chamber in Cape Town, South Africa, May 17, 2016. ©Reuters

A brutal fistfight has broken out in the South African parliament when about a group of opposition lawmakers disrupted a speech by President Jacob Zuma.  

Parliamentary protection services guards forcibly removed about 20 disrupting red-clad members of the ultra-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party from the chamber on Tuesday as they attempted to prevent Zuma’s address.

The EFF argued that Zuma was not fit to address the house after recent court decisions against the president.

Before the guards moved in, the EFF members, led by their firebrand leader 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.

South African President Jacob Zuma (1st back) listens as Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party members of parliament interrupt the sitting, before being physically removed from the South African parliament after repeatedly ignoring the instructions of the Speaker, on May 17, 2016, in Cape Town. ©AFP

Later after he was ejected, Malema told reporters outside parliament that “Zuma will never find peace in this parliament… We cannot be led by a man who failed to uphold, defend and protect the constitution.”

The opposition party has previously been thrown out of parliament, but the latest confrontation was among the more aggressive.

In reaction, Zuma called for dialogue among political leaders.

In March, the country’s highest court found that Zuma had violated the constitution over the spending of a huge amount of taxpayers’ money on his private rural residence at Nkandla in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal.

In April, another court said Zuma should face almost 800 corruption charges relating to a multi-billion-dollar arms deal that were dropped in 2009, shortly before he became president.

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF, in red) party members of parliament spill watrer as they are physically removed from the South African parliament after repeatedly ignoring the instructions of the speaker, on May 17, 2016, in Cape Town, South Africa. ©Reuters

Tueday’s disruption was the latest in a series of showdowns in parliament as pressure mounts on Zuma to resign or be axed as president by the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

He has been urged to step down by a number of senior ANC veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle, which brought liberation icon Nelson Mandela to power in 1994.

But Zuma retains widespread loyalty in the party, and ANC lawmakers have regularly rallied to his defense.

In April, they easily defeated an opposition move to impeach him.

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