South Africa’s far-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) legislators yesterday had a protest inside Parliament, forcing President Cyril Ramaphosa to abandon his annual state of the nation address for a while.
Speaker Thandi Modise on Thursday temporarily suspended proceedings, telling the EFF leaders: “When you think you have unlimited freedom of speech to infringe on the rights of others, that is a disruption.”
The EFF demanded FW De Klerk, South Africa’s last apartheid-era president, 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 as Ramaphosa stood to deliver his speech.
Malema said Parliament was wrong to invite De Klerk, who shared a Nobel Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela for their efforts to end the white rule in the country.
It is a 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 a 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,” said Malema, whose party has 44 legislators in the 400-seat National Assembly.
“I, therefore, suggest we please request de Klerk to leave this house.”
The parliament speaker dismissed the request, saying the presence of De Klerk is “proper and legal”.
The opposition legislators were later sent out of Parliament at the resumption of proceedings.
The EFF has disrupted Parliament on several occasions during former President Jacob Zuma’s era and at times, descending into chaos with its legislators being forcibly removed.