Mayhem occurred in the national assembly when Julius Malema demanded that President Jacob Zuma repay the money he wasted on the Nkandla homestead. Malema, the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, caused another rumpus during the meeting.
During a parliamentary session, President Zuma, while answering questions in the National Assembly, did not have time to finish his replies due to the disruption by Malema and his party regarding the money spent on the Nkandla homestead. Malema was only interested in when the president would repay the money spent on upgrades. The National Assembly Speaker, Baleka Mbete, ordered Malema to listen and or he would have him thrown out of the house.
The threat to have Malema removed did not deter the EFF members from chanting and singing, “Pay back the money!” Mbete adjourned the meeting and stated that due to the EFF protest action, Zuma would not finish the presidential question time.
Mbete said respect for Parliament should be agreed upon, and while difference during a political debate was acceptable, it is done with respect. Mbete stated that people cannot behave recklessly and without dignity.
Malema told the media the EFF had a right to freedom of speech and defended the actions of the party, citing that protest was allowed. Malema said President Zuma used Parliament to hide his shenanigans and insisted he return the money spent on Nkandla. Malema said the Gupta scandal was not forgotten and neither was the accountability of money spent on Nkandla.
Parliament, according to Malema, does not hold members accountable and has not done so for the past 20 years. Malema said it was important to focus on getting the parliamentary system to focus on accountability in a more efficient way and again stated that since 1994, it has not happened.
The EFF party is adamant their action was within their right and refused to be removed from the National Assembly when ordered to do so by the National Speaker. After being ordered to leave the meeting, an hour passed while the EFF remained seated, singing and chanting, and ignoring the call to leave the meeting.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) official opposition party referred to the action as mayhem and said it was indeed a sad day for the state of democracy in South Africa. DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimani said Mbete acted too hastily and did not insist that Zuma answer the questions, which the EFF correctly did in terms of the rules. Summoning the Sergeant at Arms to remove Malema and EFF members from the proceedings and calling in heavily armed riot police was done in haste.
Maimani said the Sergeant of Arms’ failure to address the issue was a cause of great concern. The action of the members of EFF failed by not respecting the proceedings and allowing Zuma to not answer questions. The DA will pursue both failures and seek resolution on the matter. Maimani said the real loss was that the people of South Africa did not get an answer from Zuma, and said he would propose a rescheduling of the meeting.
The EFF and Malema are branded as people who have no respect for Parliament and continue to show disregard for following protocol. “Repay the money!” demands by Julius Malema are another action for the leader of the EFF to use the political platform to garner attention.
Opinion by Laura Oneale