It all started when the members of the Economic Freedom Fighters were ejected from the Gauteng Legislature for not conforming to the parliamentary dress code. On July 1, the speaker of the House, Ntombi Mekgwe, ordered the members of the EFF to leave the house if they were not prepared to discard the attire they were wearing. The EFF members of the Gauteng legislature had, as is the party national policy, attended the house dressed in red overalls and maids’ pull-overs which seemed to have irked Mekgwe, who ordered them to leave the house. In addition, the attire of these members had slogan ásijiki’, which means we do not retreat written on them.
On Tuesday this week, the members of the Economic Freedom Fighters, led by their leader and commander in chief, Julius Malema, stormed the Gauteng Legislature in protest over this expulsion. According to police reports, on their way to the legislature, the more than two thousand EFF members defied police by refusing to turn right into De Villiers Street, and continued straight on to Rissik Street into oncoming traffic. Party supporters allegedly also looted hawkers’ stalls, burnt a mobile police satellite station, and broke windows of several shops on their way to Braamfontein, where they were assembled in the morning.
On arrival at the legislature they broke through the police cordon and stormed into the building, which they vowed not to leave until their members were allowed back into the legislature. In the evening, police had to fire tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the EFF supporters. Stun grenades were thrown inside the foyer. Several people that include Malema, EFF national co-ordinator Mpho Ramakatsa and the party’s media liaison officer Lerato Motsa were injured in the ensuing melee.
However, despite this unfortunate turn of events for the party, the police and other entities are laying charges against the red brigade. According to Lt-Col Lungelo Dlamini, charges of public violence and malicious damage to property were laid against the party at the Johannesburg Central police station. He however, said arrests had been made. In addition to these charges, the Gauteng Legislature itself had laid charges of trespassing, damage to property, and intimidation against the EFF. This was confirmed by the legislature’s acting secretary Hlengiwe Bhengu. These charges, she explained, related to the EFF’s forced entry into the legislature, looting food catered for the sitting, assaulting police officers, throwing broken bottles at the building, and vandalising legislature property. Furthermore, the transport MEC for the province, Ismail Vadi and another person also opened criminal cases against the EFF.