South African President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Union address became tense Thursday when opposing members of Parliament got into a physical altercation during the speech. Members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party accosted Zuma about a corruption scandal allegedly involving the president spending up to £15 million ($23 million) of taxpayer money renovating his private home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal, for security purposes, several reports indicate.
The charge was led by EFF MP Julius Malema, and the melee ensued after several EFF members were forcibly removed from the chambers. Some MPs suffered injuries and were taken to the hospital. In addition to EFF members leaving, members of the Democratic Alliance (DA) also walked out of the meeting. Zuma gave his address to members of his own party, the African National Congress (ANC), which was met with a positive response. He discussed the progress that has come in South Africa following the end of Apartheid 20 years ago, and also outlined various ANC successes and the party’s plans for the year.
But the opposing parties are adamant about making Zuma own up to the allegations against him, stating that other attempts to get him to pay the charges have been denied. The renovations to his home reportedly included a swimming pool, an amphitheater and a children’s playground. “It’s a profound moment in the history of our nation and it rests on one fact, it’s the fact that there is a president here who refuses to uphold the law of our country,” DA leader Mmusi Maimane told the Daily Telegraph.
He added that Zuma continuing to use the police to protect himself from having to answer questions is dangerous for South Africa.
The South African government released a statement after the speech condemning the actions of the EFF.
“The government of the republic of South Africa is deeply disappointed and disgusted at the despicable conduct by the behavior of some elected members of parliament aimed at bringing our hard-earned democracy into serious disrepute,” it read.
“The democracy we earned today came with serious sacrifices and bloodshed. People died for this democracy for these members to be elected as public representatives. Their actions dishonor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”