South Africa: Fight breaks out in parliamnet as opposition party gets ejected

A brutal fistfight broke out in the South African parliament Tuesday as security guards ejected opposition lawmakers in an ugly fracas that underlined heightened political tensions over Jacob Zuma’s presidency. About 20 Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party members, who were wrestled from their seats by plain-clothed guards, had refused to let Zuma speak and furiously shouted down the Speaker, Baleka Mbete.

As Zuma looked on impassively, the radical leftist lawmakers — dressed in their uniform of red workers’ overalls — fought back to try to remain in the chamber until they were physically removed through a side door. Before the guards moved in, the EFF members, led by their firebrand “commander in chief” Julius Malema, yelled that it was the president who should be thrown out.

“He broke his oath of office. Zuma is the one who must go,” they shouted. Outside parliament, Malema told reporters and cheering supporters: “These bouncers must know that if they give violence, we will respond with violence. We are not scared.” The disruption was the latest in a series of showdowns in parliament as pressure mounts on Zuma to resign or be axed as president by the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

He has been urged to step down by a number of senior ANC veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle, which brought liberation icon Nelson Mandela to power in 1994. But he retains widespread loyalty in the party, and ANC lawmakers have regularly rallied to Zuma’s defence. In April, they easily defeated an opposition move to impeach him.

The EFF, which was also ejected from parliament two weeks ago in similar scenes, has vowed that it will not let Zuma speak in the chamber, saying that it does not recognise him as president in the wake of two recent court cases.
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