Sona disintegrates into chaos

2015-02-12 21:56

The state of the nation address lived up to the hype and delivered more drama and chaos than was expected.

Hard hats and water bottles were used as weapons by EFF MPs when armed parliamentary protection services moved into the National Assembly to remove them from the House.

Journalists, at times joined by opposition MPs, protested the jamming of the mobile networks’ signal. But it was the dramatic removal of EFF MPs from the House by protection services personnel that left MPs and guests shocked. Former Speaker of the National Assembly Frene Ginwala, former presidents Thabo Mbeki and FW de Klerk were among those who attended the event and watched an event they have previously peacefully addressed or peacefully presided over disintegrate. State of the Nation Address: Joint Sitting, 12 February 2015

EFF MPs were thrown out of the state of the nation address by protection services following an order by the National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete as they sought to interrupt President Jacob Zuma’s speech.

When about 40 protection services personnel approached the EFF MPs, there were a few seconds of a stand-off, before the security officers manhandled the MPs.

They dragged them out of the House kicking, biting and screaming, literally, in dramatic scenes which lasted about six minutes.

It is not clear who exactly constitutes the parliament protection services.

In fact, when DA MPs, led by their parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane demanded answers from the presiding officers on who exactly constituted the people who entered the chamber, there was no clear answer.

"There is no way I could sit here and be able to pick who is a police and who is not police," said Thandi Modise, the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces.

But Maimane and Steenhuisen pressed on, rising on a point of order, demanding an answer saying that having police on the floor of the chamber was a violation of the constitution.

They too, joined by the rest of the DA’s caucus and their guests who were sitting in the gallery walked out.

ANC MPs loudly applauded the removal of EFF MPs and the departure of DA MPs from the house.

Mbete quickly moved to render her apology to Zuma, the remaining MPs and the guests in the gallery for the chaos.

Zuma resumed his speech from which “I was interrupted” with a cackle.

The delivery of Zuma’s speech was delayed by 20 minutes as Parliament had to open up the mobile network signal which was jammed in the House, rendering communication devices useless.

Steenhuisen, backed up by Freedom Front Plus MP Corne Mulder, warned the presiding officers that the joint sitting could not proceed until the matter was sorted.

They said that the hindrance amounted to a breach of the constitution.

In the hour building up to the 7pm start of Sona, journalists who packed the press gallery held a protest – a series of minute long chants to “bring back the signal”.

The journalists’ protest was at times joined by the DA and EFF MPs who chanted from their seats. The ANC MPs in response chanted: “ANC, ANC, ANC!”

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