EFF dragged out of Parliament, DA MPs walk out

ECONOMIC Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema and deputy president Floyd Shivambu were removed from Parliament and the Democratic Alliance (DA) walked out on Thursday during President Jacob Zuma’s eighth state of the nation address.

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Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema and EFF members including deputy president Floyd Shivambu (back left), outside Parliament on Thursday. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema and EFF members including deputy president Floyd Shivambu (back left), outside Parliament on Thursday. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

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“I ask the Parliamentary service officers to please come in and take out the honorary members,” National Speaker Baleka Mbete said.

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“I also ask the security officers to assist.”

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EFF national spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi was also asked to leave the house.

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Mr Malema insisted on Thursday that President Jacob Zuma answer questions regarding upgrades to his private Nkandla home.

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“You not doing me any favours … it is within my right to speak as a member of this House and let me remind you that it is incorrect of you that when the president speaks you suspend the rules,” he told Ms Mbete.

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“We want the president to answer a simple question: when is he paying the money as instructed by the public protector?”

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Fist fights broke out as the EFF MPs were dragged out of the House.

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The MPs tried to stand their ground but officers dragged them out.

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Mr Shivambu confronted a few officers and another fight broke out.

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Some of the protection officers’ shirts were ripped off and they stood bare-chested as a result of the disruption.

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Security officers blocked journalists from going near the EFF MPs.

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Police and protection officers were apparently taking the rowdy EFF MPs to a location in the precinct.

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Mr Malema and some of his MPs had interrupted Mr Zuma’s speech.

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National Council of Provinces chairwoman Thandi Modise explained that the presiding officers had a right to call in security.

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“We have indeed repeatedly called members during a joint sitting to heed the call to take a seat,” she said.

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She said all avenues were exhausted before security was called in.

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“We are also empowered … to ask for security whichever security to act … I think we should allow this House to do its business,” Ms Modise said.

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DA walks out

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The DA left the National Assembly after presiding officers failed to explain whether police were used to remove EFF MPs.

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DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane threatened to leave if the question of whether police were used to remove EFF MPs was not answered.

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Ms Modise said he was welcome to leave but he was not being told to.

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“We did not tell you to leave this chamber, if you want to take that decision, take it on your own.”

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She explained that the parliamentary protection services were called and the security forces working with them.

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“Yes, it isn’t conventional, but it’s not conventional for the joint house to be turned into a question session,” Ms Modise said.

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“Can we proceed please?”

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She said she could not pick out who were police officers and who were not, in the group who removed the MPs.

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All DA members stood up and left the House.

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Inkatha Freedom Party founder Mangosuthu Buthelezi said the disruptions were “disgusting” and “utter nonsense”.

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“I think what we have seen today is disgusting. I think our country is really torn to pieces and I think the struggle didn’t take place for people to play the fool,” he said.

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“[This is] not what the majority of people in this house want to see. If the constitution allows us to vote, why can’t we put this to vote?”

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Parties react

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Mr Shivambu warned the EFF will be armed the next time parliamentary protection officers confront them.

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“They obviously manhandled all of us. Next time, we will be armed,” he said as he walked to the steps of the National Assembly in the rain.

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He joined a group of EFF MPs and supporters dancing and chanting “pay back the money”.

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Mr Malema told journalists: “We have got it on good authority that those were the presidential protection unit. We are not going anywhere. We are part of their Parliament.”

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He accused government of responding to political issues not with “political answers but security apparatus”.

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Six EFF MPs were taken to hospital to have their injuries treated.

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The EFF members said they would hold a strategy session on Friday and then hold a press conference at a time to be announced.

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DA leader and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille said her party’s decision to leave the National Assembly was spontaneous.

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“We did not know that armed people would enter the chamber. It is totally unacceptable,” she said.

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United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa who was the first MP to exit the National Assembly saying: “This is a police state and we want no part of it.”

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“The ugly scenes in Parliament which disrupted the state-of-the-nation, shows that there are self-serving forces at play on all sides that are threatening to disrupt and destabilise policy making,” University of Wits economist Kenneth Creamer said.

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“This has resulted in a situation where there is a lack of focus  on policy issues and where there is not sufficient commitment to doing what needs to be done to solve the country’s economic problems.”

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Creamer was referring to Economic Freedom Fighters being thrown out of Parliament on Thursday.

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Fist fights broke out as EFF MPs were dragged out the National Assembly after they tried to stand their ground after Speaker Baleka Mbete ordered them to leave, but security officers dragged them out.

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EFF MP Floyd Shivambu confronted a few officers and another fight broke out and some of the protection officers’ shirts were ripped off and they stood bare-chested as a result of the disruption.

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EFF MPs disrupted Zuma and asked when he would pay back the money in terms of what the public protector found on his private residence in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.

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EFF leader Julius Malema, Shivambu and MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi was also asked to leave the house.

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Creamer said that during disruptions like that the poor suffer ed  the most.

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“It is the poor who suffer most from South Africa’s failure to lift its economy onto a new path of growth and development, evidenced by the stark fact, shown by official data, that the number of South Africans living in poverty has increased since 2010,” he said.

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Commenting on job creation, Creamer said the 200,000 new jobs created recently was not enough to create jobs.

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He said the 200,000 new jobs were not sufficient to make a serious dent in South Africa’s structural unemployment problem.

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“To create sufficient employment opportunities South Africa needs a step-change in investment levels,” Creamer said in a statement.

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“The state-of-the-nation did not clearly spell out how South Africa is going to lift investment from current levels of around 20  percent of GDP to the National Development Plan’s target where annual investment is valued at 30 percent of GDP.”

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He said to achieve the target a more clear commitment from government that it would do what it took to maximise investment in key sectors like mining, manufacturing and agriculture was needed.

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He said that at the moment investment levels were declining, partly as a result of power shortages and difficult global conditions.

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He said it was also declining due to a range of negative and confusing signals being sent by government.

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“It is not enough to talk merely of the ‘relative stabilisation’  of the mining sector as President Zuma did during his state-of-the-nation speech, there needs to be a commitment to lifting investment in this sector,” he said.

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“Public sector investment has been on the rise, but it has failed sufficiently to stimulate, or crowd-in, private sector investment.”

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Creamer said successful state-led investment should serve as a catalyst for increased levels of private sector investment, but this had not been happening.

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South Africans needed to work together to lift investment in the  country’s future,” he said.