SA parly brawl over Zuma heckling


CAPE TOWN – A brawl broke out in the South African parliament on Wednesday after security officers were ordered to forcibly remove opposition MPs from the chamber.

Several punches were thrown as members of the left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) were expelled for heckling President Jacob Zuma.

It was Mr Zuma's first appearance in parliament since two damning court rulings against him.

The case is related to a multi-billion dollar arms deal the government negotiated in 1999.

Mr Zuma denies any wrongdoing, and says he will continue to "shepherd" the nation. His term is due to end in 2019.

Last month, South Africa's highest court, the Constitutional Court, ruled that Mr Zuma had violated the constitution when he failed to repay government money used to upgrade his private home in the rural area of Nkandla.

Mmusi Maimane, leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), was forced to withdraw his description in parliament of Mr Zuma as the "looter-in-chief", following objections from the governing African National Congress (ANC) benches.

ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu said Mr Zuma had "not been found to have looted anything anywhere, by any court of law".

EFF MPs had earlier denounced Mr Zuma as an "illegitimate" ruler who should step down.

"We are going to debate giving him money today, when he is facing over 700 charges of corruption," EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said, South Africa's News24 site reports.

Despite the chaotic scenes, Mr Zuma delivered a speech focusing on government plans to improve South Africa's struggling economy.

"Economic transformation remains pivotal to ensuring a better life for all," he said.

The High Court said on Friday that prosecutors should review their 2009 decision to drop 783 charges of corruption, fraud and racketeering against Mr Zuma over the arms deal.

After the Constitutional Court ruling, the Democratic Alliance failed in a bid to impeach Mr Zuma as the ANC rallied behind him in parliament.

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