Cape Town - The opening of Parliament became a battle of “outwit,outplay and outlast” between President Jacob Zuma, a speech he really wanted tosay, and opposition parties determined not to let that
Proceedings collapsed before they even began – with spectacle, snarky sarcasm,and an undercurrent of seething anger as never seen before in the country’sdemocratic parliament.
"When we come back next time you will not be our president,” warned the EFFas they sashayed out of the chamber, following nearly an hour of planneddisruptions, including the invention and chanting of anew hashtag #ZuptaMustFall.
"Zupta" is a reference to Zuma's close links with the influentialGupta family who secured an interdict against the EFF this week.
With his speech incessantly thrown into disarray through carnivalesqueintrusions, Zuma only began speaking about an hour later than expected.
As the ceremonial flourishes concluded, it was EFF deputy leader Floyd Shivambuwho bounced up first, asking speaker Baleka Mbete for clarity on the rules ofthe house. Soon, the party’s leader Julius Malema and spokesman MbuyiseniNdlozi also entered the fray.
The party seemed to be gunning for the notoriously impatient and fiercelyprotective Mbete from the beginning: When Mbete declared that she would notallow any more points of order, Malema immediately stood up: “Point of order”,he asserted with feigned innocence.
A shouting match soon ensued in which Ndlozi declared Mbete as "myinternational award winning speaker of non-violence".
Mbete received the Martin Luther King Legacy Award for International Servicelast month.
However, somewhat surprisingly, it was in fact Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota whowas the one to interrupt the president during his first attempt to get going.
Lekota arose on a point of order, and was initially shotdown by Speaker Baleka Mbete, who explained that she had already dealt with"spurious" points of order from the EFF. However, Lekotapersisted, eventually declaring that:
"Zuma broke his oath of office and is no longer honourable... We can'tlisten to someone who has broken his oath.
"He is no longer fit to lead our people."
His party was the first to leave the chamber.
And then almost everyone seemed to get in on the act: While IFP leaderMangosuthu Buthelezi wanted a vote on whether the house should continue, theDA’s leader Mmusi Maimane called for the house to proceed – a move whichprompted ANC MPs to clap for him.
And yet, whenever he got a chance, Zuma just kept on ploughing through hislengthy speech.
Showing a resolute spirit to ‘hear no evil and see no evil’, he adopted analmost surreal disposition to avoid eye contact and keep talking – despiteincessant heckling.
‘Let the people listen’
Nevertheless, at brief points, the president did seem tolose his cool, slipping briefly into his infamous “heehee”, having to restartpoints over which he stumbled, and also berating the assembly, in off the cuffside-remarks in Zulu.
"Let the people listen, so they can hear well,"Zuma said in Zulu as DA MPs drowned out his rhetoric. Speaking outside, after his party’s exit, Malemadelivered what he termed the "real" state of the nation address. Hetold reporters that if the ANC did not remove "the chief thug" Zuma,they will start impeachment proceedings.Malema said that by leaving voluntarily, the EFF deniedthe so-called "white shirts" the chance to "suck ourblood", in reference to Parliament's security officials who last yearmanhandled them.
Throughout this week, the EFF promised war hoping tofocus on Zuma's firing of Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister in December, replacinghim with the little known Des van Rooyen at the time - a move that sent therand into a tailspin.
In the afternoon build-up to the SONA, as parliamentarians and otherdignitaries sashayed down a red carpet in sparkling sartorial style – policeand protestors, as well as opposing political supporters, clashed at varioussites in central Cape Town.
At one point EFF supporters gathered in Adderley Street before those wearingANC paraphernalia began hitting them with planks broken off from publicbenches.
Some EFF members tried to pull bricks from the paving. They were alsoheard accusatorily declaring to ANC supporters wearing Zuma T-shirts: “You arewearing a rapist on your shirt”.
Stun grenades were eventually released to separate the groups.
Hundreds of protestors also faced off with riot-geared up policeman – with theangry citizens sticking out their tongues, insulting the police officers’mothers’ genitals and throwing rocks and a glass bottle.
Last year's SONA was marred by disruptions by EFF members who demanded answerson when he would pay back State funds which were used towards the upgrades athis Nkandla homestead. The EFF members were physically removed from theHouse while DA MP's staged a walk out.
At one point in 2015, the cellphone signal in parliament became jammed. OnThursday, Shivambu’s microphone was switched off briefly.
In an about-turn last week, Zuma approached the Constitutional Court to askthat it order the Auditor General and finance minister to determine how much heowed for the non-security upgrades to Nkandla.
However on Tuesday, judgment was reserved in the Constitutional Court in anapplication by the EFF and Democratic Alliance for an order that Zuma repaysome of the R246m spent on his home in Nkandla.
The court was asked this week to find that he violated the Constitution and hisoath of office in his handling of the matter.
On Thursday, opposition parties, the EFF and the DA, stood up cheering andclapping as the judiciary, headed by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng come in.
And when it came to a winning attitude, it was Public Protector ThuliMadonsela, who declared her shimmering beaded canary yellow formal gown, assymbolically representing “the colour of victory".