South Africa’s far-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) lawmakers protested rowdily in parliament on Thursday, forcing President Cyril Ramaphosa to abandon his annual state of the nation address.
After nearly an hour of disruption, the National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise temporarily suspended proceedings, telling the EFF “when you think you have unlimited freedom of speech to infringe on the rights of others, that is a disruption”.
The EFF demanded F.W. De Klerk, South Africa’s last apartheid-era president, who shared a Nobel Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela for their efforts to end white rule, be ejected from parliament accusing him of being “unrepentant”.
“We have a murderer in the house, we have a man who has got the blood of innocent people (on his hands) in this house,” said EFF leader Julius Malema, the minute Ramaphosa was supposed to deliver his speech.
Malema said parliament was wrong to invite to De Klerk.
It is tradition for former presidents to attend the annual address given by a sitting president.
“De Klerk is an unrepentant apologist of apartheid, who is not willing to accept that apartheid was crime against humanity. It is an insult to those who died and (who were) tortured … under the instructions of De Klerk to have De Klerk sitting in a democratic parliament”.
“I therefore suggest we please request de Klerk to leave this house,” said Malema, whose party has 44 lawmakers in the 400-seat National Assembly.
Modise dismissed the request, saying the presence of De Klerk “is proper” and legal.
The EFF also wanted Ramaphosa to fire the Minister of State Enterprises Pravin Gordhan, alleging he has run down state-owned enterprises.
The EFF disrupted parliament on several occasions during former president Jacob Zuma’s era and at times descending into chaos with the lawmakers being forcibly removed.