Opposition Denounces President And Fights Break Out In South African Parliament

Feb 10, 2017
Originally published on February 10, 2017 6:23 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

In South Africa, President Jacob Zuma is facing accusations of corruption. His hold on power is not in question, but his ability to address the nation is, like last night in Parliament. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Parliamentary decorum flew out of the window in Cape Town as MPs from the opposition far-left Economic Freedom Fighters party noisily interrupted President Jacob Zuma's attempts to address the nation, chanting thief, tsotsi and calling him a constitutional delinquent. Then EFF party leader Julius Malema, an erstwhile ally of Zuma and now an implacable adversary, went for the jugular.

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JULIUS MALEMA: Sitting in front of us here, it's a man - an incorrigible man rotten to the core.

QUIST-ARCTON: Zuma has had to repay taxpayer money used to improve his large country estate and faces continuing accusations of corruption. As tempers rose and insults flew, there were heated exchanges between opposition MPs and the parliamentary presiding officers trying to maintain order. After more than an hour's disruption, lower house speaker Baleka Mbete ordered them out.

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BALEKA MBETE: Honorable Malema, please leave the house. May I ask the steward at arms to please escort honorable Malema out of the house?

MALEMA: Call soldiers to come and kill us now. You can kill me. It's fine. Kill me.

QUIST-ARCTON: About 30 security men in white shirts clashed with 25 distinctively red-clad EFF MPs, forcibly removing them from the floor. President Zuma calmly looked on at the chaos before eventually delivering his address to the nation. He later called his opponents unrepresentative.

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PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA: These people only represent 6 percent of the nation. It's not like an overwhelming feeling.

QUIST-ARCTON: South Africa's main opposition Democratic Alliance walked out of the house before the president's speech. The DA says it's heading to court over the excessive use of force during the chaos and the deployment of more than 400 troops to maintain law and order around Parliament. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Johannesburg. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.