Opposition EFF MPs thrown out for heckling Zuma speech


Opposition MPs have been thrown out of South African President Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address after heckling him continuously.

Left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters MPs said they could not listen to someone who had “broken his oath of office”.

The speech is seen as a watershed moment for Mr Zuma, who is facing a court case over the use of $23m (£15m) of state money to upgrade his home.

The opposition has rejected Mr Zuma’s offer to repay some of the money.

Before being ejected from parliament in Cape Town, the EFF MPs chanted “Zupta must fall”, referring to the president’s alleged links to the influential Gupta family.

Earlier, hundreds of opposition supporters took to the streets in Cape Town to protest over a range of issues, including Mr Zuma’s handling of the economy.

Supporters of the governing African National Congress (ANC) also demonstrated to show their loyalty to Mr Zuma.

The EFF staked their claim in parliament, sporting their trademark red overalls and matching hard hats.

This was in contrast to the glamorous ball gowns and national costumes worn by some of the guests on the red carpet.

Singing songs of land ownership and insulting the president with crude songs referring to the Nkandla scandal as they entered parliament, they were the ones everyone here is watching, even if some figures of the governing African National Congress (ANC) studiously tried to ignore EFF leader Julius Malema and his noisy crowd.

The EFF promised to obey the rules of parliament but challenged Mr Zuma’s speech with interruptions.

Police used stun grenades after clashes broke out between rival protesters in the city’s central business district.

Riot police also set up barricades to keep protesters away from parliament.

Intense pressure

When he was eventually able to speak, Mr Zuma said there was work to be done to turn the economy around and cut wastage.

“We will have to go through a difficult time for a while,” he said.

Mr Zuma is under intense pressure to deliver a plan to improve the country’s struggling economy, the BBC’s Milton Nkosi in South Africa says.

Other problems he faces include high unemployment, poverty and a resurgence of public racial animosity.

To cut costs, Mr Zuma said South Africa would reconsider maintaining two capitals – the administrative capital in Pretoria and the legislative capital in Cape Town.

Another measure includes the creation of a state-owned pharmaceutical company that would compete with local firms in supplying medicines to public hospitals.

Mr Zuma also announced that South Africa would procure nuclear energy “on a pace and scale we can afford” to address chronic electricity shortages.

Court case

Opposition parties have brought a case over Mr Zuma’s expenditure to the Constitutional Court, hoping it may open the way for impeachment proceedings against him.

In court papers, Mr Zuma said he was prepared to repay money for non-security features, including the building of a swimming pool and an amphitheatre at his home in rural Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal province.

However, opposition parties have pressed on with the case, asking judges to rule that Mr Zuma had violated the constitution and his oath office by failing to repay the money when an anti-corruption watchdog first ruled in 2014 that he had “unduly benefited” from the renovations to his home