A violent brawl broke out in South Africa’s parliament Thursday as guards exchanged punches with opposition lawmakers who had shouted down President Jacob Zuma as he tried to deliver his state of the nation address.
In chaotic scenes, about 30 guards dressed in white shirts forcibly ejected about 25 members from the radical leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party who had prevented the president from speaking for about an hour.
“We have been patient with you, we have been trying to give you an opportunity to express yourselves but… it is being abused,” Speaker Baleka Mbete told the EFF before the lawmakers were thrown out.
The state-of-the-nation address has descended in mayhem for the last three years as the EFF — dressed in their uniform of red workers’ overalls and berets — attempt to prevent Zuma from delivering his speech.
Zuma appeared unbothered by the violence unfolding in the chamber and finally took to podium with his trademark chuckle.
Shortly before the guards moved in, EFF leader Julius Malema described Zuma as “an incorrigible man rotten to the core”.
Malema also turned his fire on Speaker Mbete telling her: “Your conduct has failed you. You are irrational, impatient, partisan.”
Police laid out huge coils of barbed wire around parliament in Cape Town, as singing ANC supporters were bussed in from around the country for a street rally.