SONA 2016: How events unfolded
Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema has branded President Jacob Zuma a “criminal” and “thug” after his party opted to leave the Parliamentary chamber during last night’s State of the Nation Address (SONA).
In an almost repeat of last year’s chaotic sitting, proceedings became heated after EFF Deputy President, Floyd Shivambu, asked for clarification on the rules, moments before Zuma was due to start his speech
Told by National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete that no points of order would be accepted during the SONA, Malema’s then rose but was denied speaking as the business of the day continued to be tabled.
Wide-spread jeers followed after Mbete announced that parties would be afforded time to raise matters at the post-SONA questions and answers session on February 16th and 17th. This resulted in Shivambu accusing her of not having the power to change the rules.
A shouting match then broke out with both Malema and EFF national spokesperson, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, calling for clarification on her changing of the rules.
“You have made a proposal to change certain rules and you must put it to the House. Now allow us to engage with that proposal,” Ndlozi said cheers from EFF MP’s.
More objections followed with Mbete threatening to eject MP’s from the chamber if they continue to disrupt the business of the House.
“Your conduct is now not only interfering with the ability of Parliament, but you are also disregarding the authority of the chair. If you do not take your seats and co-operate, we will have to ask you to leave,” Mbete said.
Points of order were then raised by African National Congress (ANC) Chief Whip Stone Sizani and Democratic Alliance (DA) Chief Whip John Steenhuisen, who remarked that Mbete must also obey the rules of Parliament.
“We have rules of Parliament to govern the sittings of this house. If you expect us to obey by the rules, then you Madam Speaker must obey by the rules yourself. You have no right to come to the House and remove rules,” Steenhuisen said to claps from opposition benches.
Points of order continued to be raised by EFF MP’s however, with Mbete remarking that they decide whether to remain inside the chamber or leave. More objections followed with DA leader Mmusi Maimane calling for proceedings to continue “as South Africans are waiting”.
Moments later, while Zuma was delivering his introduction, Congress of the People (Cope) leader Mosiuoa Lekota, stood up.
“The President admitted in the Constitutional Court that the broke his oath of office, he is no longer honourable. We cannot listen to somebody who has broken his oath of office. He is no longer fit to lead our people,” Lekota said, before leading his party out of the chamber.
With Zuma resuming his address, EFF Secretary-General Godrich Gardee stood up to demand that the President explain his reasons for firing Nhlanhla Nene as Finance Minister in December last year.
“Sit down Mr Zupta,” Gardee said, referring to Zuma’s close ties with the controversial government connected Gupta family.
“The question is, in four days we have had three ministers [of finance], unprecedented action of the market that actually cost the country R500-billion and four paragraphs have been read and the president has not said anything about it”.
Told by National Council of Provinces (NCOP) Chairperson Thandi Modise that the matter was not relevant, Gardee remarked, “it is relevant, R500-billion gone”, before being told to sit down.
EFF MP Sipho Mbata then rose minutes later with Mbete again appealing for the business of the House to be respected.
“You are disrupting the House,” Mbete said, to which an angry Malema replied, “Don’t address us as a group. You shall address us as individuals. We are elected to be here. You may not agree with us, but we are raising point of order”.
Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor then appealed for Mbete to commence with the business of the day and “not to have extended dialogues with members”.
With points of order from EFF MP’s continuing to be raised, Modise then called out the names of seven members asking them to leave, resulting in Malema jumping to their defence.
“This so undemocratic and you are out of order. Zuma does not deserve the respect of anyone. He has stolen from us, collapsed the economy, made a joke out of this country and then laughed at us,” Malema shouted, before the party started chanting, “Zupta Must Fall”.
Despite Modise calling for the sergeant-at-arms, EFF MP’s left the chamber while still chanting Zupta Must Fall.
“This man who is speaking here is the same who has said that he has breached the oath of office. Therefore we refuse to show respect to a President who does not respect his oath of office,” Malema told journalist outside Parliament.
“As a legitimate leader of a legitimate party elected by the people, we cannot agree to be addressed by a criminal who has admitted to being a thug and stolen money. If the ANC won’t remove him, we will come back and impeach him. He is not fit for the office of the President”.
Speaking in a statement afterwards, Maimane said the SONA proves that Zuma cannot be trusted as he failed to address any shortcomings relating to the economy and spiralling unemployment.
“President Zuma needed to announce fresh, bold and innovative new interventions and plans of action to create jobs for the 8.3 million jobless South Africans, yet he announced no new plan,” Maimane said.
“He lies to the people only to create another red-herring to distract from his growing list of scandals. One thing was made clear tonight – President Zuma has not one shred of legitimacy when it comes to the economy”.
IMAGE sourced from SA Parliament on YouTube
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