Cape Town – There was chaos and pandemonium in parliament on Thursday as Zuma delivered the State of the Nation Address (SONA). There were several scenes that brought significant disruptions to the President’s speech.
It all started when the President arrived to deliver his speech when, before a Democratic Alliance Member of Parliament raised concern at the unconstitutionality of the jamming of the cellular signal in the House of Assembly. He went on to quote part of the South African constitution and his call was taken up by several other members of parliament. This rose to a crescendo and the Speaker, Baleka Mbete finally capitulated and called on the parliament’s personnel to look into the issue. After a wait of some minutes, it was confirmed that the signal had been restored and proceedings could proceed.
President Jacob Zuma was called upon to deliver his speech. As he started to talk, there was a disruption from the floor and Speaker Mbete requested the President to take a seat and allow the “Honorable member” to raise his “point of privilege”. A member of the opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters stood and politely requested the president to answer the long-standing question of when he would pay back the money as instructed by the Public Protector with regards to his Nkandla homestead. However, the Speaker of the National Assemply, Baleka Mbete explained that Thursday’s convening of the House of Assembly was meant only for the president to present his state of the nation address. When several other MPs joined the bandwagon and asked the same question, Mbete seemed to be losing her temper and the straw on the camels back was when the leader of the EFF, Julius Malema stood up to ask the same question. It did not take long for the Speaker to threaten to throw the members out of the House of Assembly. When the red clad members did not stop interrupting, the security personnel were called in. They quickly forcibly removed the EFF members from the house and proceedings were set to resume.
This was, however not to be so as the members of the Democratic Alliance had their own point of order. This was regarding the persons that had been brought in to get the members of the EFF out. The parliamentary leader of the DA wanted to find out whether it was the parliamentary security or the members of the police services that had done the job. When the two chairpersons tried to avoid the question, the DA elaborated that the question was critical as it had to do with the question of separation of powers. Thandi Modise finally made a response in which she indicated that both the police and the parliamentary security had come into the chambers to escort the EFF members. At this announcement, all the members of the DA walked out of the Chambers en masse. In his speech soon after their exit from parliament, Mmusi Maimane said that they did not feel that they could associate with a party that condoned the use of police in parliament as this undermined the constitution.
After the two parties had left parliament, the President continued with his speech, which lasted just over an hour.