The controversial and firebrand opposition leader Julius Malema went into a tirade following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Thursday evening, berating how South Africa has become an embarrassing “dictatorship” solely designed to protect one man from facing accountability: the president himself.
Julius Malema, the populist-inclined and charismatic leader of the opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), presided over his party’s unruly behaviour in Parliament.
As President Cyril Ramaphosa was in the middle of delivering his SONA in Cape Town, South Africa’s legislative seat, the EFF, in a show of sheer mayhem and disorder, stormed the stage where Ramaphosa was speaking from.
On Thursday evening, the party’s Members of Parliament (MPs) violently charged at the stage in Cape Town’s City Hall as Ramaphosa was delivering his address, causing serious pandemonium in the process.
The ensuing chaos “prevented” Ramaphosa from delivering his speech for “more than 30 minutes”. It was only after the MPs were forcibly ejected from the building when Ramaphosa resumed his SONA speech with some tenuous semblance of order and calm.
When they stormed to the stage bearing placards, police units were called in to shield Ramaphosa. After some tussle, the MPs were forcibly removed from the House by the police units. The EFF has become notorious for its unruly performances during South Africa’s parliamentary sessions.
In defending his party’s actions that disrupted the SONA proceedings, Malema lambasted the country’s leader for turning South Africa into a wholesome failure; a “dictatorship” all for the protection of one man from accountability.
“Parliament has degenerated, the executive has degenerated, the judiciary has degenerated, in protection of one man,” Malema fumed as he spoke to the media after the SONA proceedings.
Speaking on the exercise of his right to peacefully protest in Parliament, Malema asserted that no one has the power to “evict” him and the EFF from parliamentary proceedings, lambasting the decision of Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to stop the EFF from speaking.
“We cannot be evicted as a group,” Malema remarked.
He added, “I was attacked by police for peacefully protesting in Parliament. This only happens in a dictatorship.”
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) derided the EFF’s actions as “silly antics”. ANC’s MP Hope Papo expressed the party’s full support of the Speaker’s decision to stop EFF MPs from speaking and booting them out from the House.
Cyril Ramaphosa’s legitimacy as South Africa’s president has increasingly become brittle in the wake of the country’s rapidly deteriorating socio-economic and political conditions.
With the country facing unprecedented levels of electricity load-shedding, Ramaphosa is under great pressure to provide feasible solutions to SA’s debilitating power crisis.
On top of this, Ramaphosa, a billionaire president, has found it extremely hard to shake off allegations of rampant and widespread corruption he presides over following the theft of huge amounts of money at his private Phala Phala game farm—a case in which Parliament accused him of serious misconduct.
With surging unemployment, crime, anti-immigrant/xenophobic sentiments, and a general state of decay, South Africa’s opposition parties have not yet managed to pose a massive counter-ideological threat to the ruling ANC—both sides of the political divide inspire minimal confidence not only to South Africa’s citizenry but to the rest of Africa.
As Julius Malema (whose actions mostly border on populist rhetoric coated with a veneer of political eccentricity) announced his threat of a “mother of all protests” against the deplorable state of South Africa, Speaker Mapisa-Nqakula remarked that the EFF has the opportunity to debate matters next week when Parliament debates the President Cyril Ramaphosa’s SONA while ejecting EFF MPs.