PARLIAMENT, February 9 (ANA) – Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said the state asserted its authority when it physically and violently removed Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MPs from the National Assembly chamber for disrupting President Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address (Sona) on Thursday night.
“Even though you have the right to express your views…but at least you should not trample on the rights of other individuals and I think that’s what happened inside there,” Mapisa-Nqakula said shortly after Zuma completed his Sona following a chaotic first hour of proceedings.
“I think the rule of law and the State asserted its authority to make sure that what was planned for today goes ahead.”
The EFF MPs were booted after an hour of disruptions, in which they called for protection from Speaker Baleka Mbete, claiming they had information that parliamentary security personnel were planning to cuff them with cable ties, assault them and even inject them with “biological weapons”.
Hard hats flew and blows were exchanged as parliamentary security dragged and carried MPs from the House. Female MPs were heard crying as they were forced out of the National Assembly chamber.
Mapisa-Nqakula defended the deployment of police and 441 soldiers, saying the large contingent was present because of a “threat assessment”.
“Whatever operation, it is always intelligence driven,” she said, while stressing that at no time during the clashes did soldiers enter the parliamentary precinct.
Democratic Alliance MPs who staged a walkout, led by leader Mmusi Maimane, felt differently, threatening court action.
“The Constitution of this Republic makes it clear that the army and the police cannot enter this chamber. Inside there, they pulled teargas, and they protected Jacob Zuma using the military and police. It has become quite clear that Parliament is now a broken institution and that Baleka Mbete is simply there to protect Jacob Zuma,” Maimane said, addressing local and international journalists outside Parliament.
“We will be in court tomorrow applying for a review application. Let us stand up for the Constitution of the Republic.”
A bleeding Julius Malema, EFF leader, said his party would not be approaching the courts, even though several of the party’s members were injured.
“This is a political battle. We will fight it on the ground. No, we will not be going to court.
“I am injured, I’m not sure how I can be able to hold the pen tomorrow. Our people are injured,” Malema said shortly after the violence erupted.
ANC MPs and a few opposition parties stayed behind after the chaos, and listened intently to Zuma’s speech.
African National Congress secretary general Gwede Mantashe praised Zuma’s speech, saying it spoke to the thinking of the party on radical economic transformation.
He was however critical of how Mbete handled the EFF disruption.
“Actually I think the speaker was too patient. How can you allow that kind of disruption to continue for an hour. She should have waited 20 minutes and be done with it,” said Mantashe, while adding that if he was speaker he would have allowed the DA’s request for a minute of silence for the 94 psychiatric patients who died when the Gauteng health department transferred them from Life Isidimeni to unlicensed facilities.
“On the moment of silence, if I was the Speaker I would have given that…A moment of silence for a disaster is humane and politically correctly…”
United Democratic Movement MP Mncedisi Filtane, was just metres away from the fighting on the National Assembly floor, saying it took all of his energy to stay seated during the fracas.
“It was traumatic to see the way the forces inside had handled the members of the EFF. Some women were literally crying,” said Filtane.
He said he forced himself to stay and listen to Zuma and in the end, Filtane said the president’s speech was a rehash of what other parties had been calling for for many years.
– African News Agency (ANA)