Radical S.African lawmakers fight suspension for hounding Zuma
South Africa's radical new Economic Freedom Fighters, who hounded President Jacob Zuma from parliament with accusations that he is a thief, vowed court action Friday over sanctions against its lawmakers.
Firebrand leader Julius Malema and several of his top lieutenants were suspended for 30 days without pay after the most tumultuous parliamentary session since the dawn of democracy 20 years ago.
At the heart of the upheaval was Zuma’s refusal to accept an ombudsman’s decision that he should repay some of the $24 million (19 million euros) of taxpayers’ money spent on “security upgrades” at his private residence.
Riot police were deployed to parliament as the president’s question time collapsed into chaos on August 21, with EFF lawmakers yelling at Zuma: “Pay back the money”.
After their suspension for this incident on Thursday night — the last sitting before parliament broke for the summer recess — Malema said the EFF would take the issue to court and keep the pressure on Zuma.
“We are going to demand that Zuma pay back the money whether they suspend us or not. The only crime we committed was to ask for the money of the people that was stolen by Jacob Zuma.”
A report by South Africa’s public protector had called on Zuma to repay some of the taxpayers’ millions spent on items such as a swimming pool, amphitheatre, cattle pen and chicken run at his rural home in Nkandla.
Zuma has not returned to parliament since the August uproar, giving rise to further fury among all opposition parties who have demanded that he fulfil his constitutional obligations to answer questions four times a year.
The ruling African National Congress welcomed the sanctions against the 20 EFF lawmakers, saying they “were found guilty of contempt of Parliament for their participation in the highly disruptive and disorderly conduct on 21 August 2014.”
The EFF has risen rapidly since its formation by disgruntled former ANC members, riding on the back of populist policies such as the nationalisation of mines and banks and the seizure without compensation of white-owned land.
They accuse the ANC of being lackeys of white minority capital, and appear in parliament dressed in “workers’ solidarity” outfits of red overalls, hardhats and maid’s uniforms.
But in a remarkable example of politics making strange bedfellows, Malema’s radicals won the support of the mainly-white official opposition, the Democratic Alliance, which voted against their suspension.