South African parliament hosts another ruckus

AP News
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Posted: Sep 18, 2014 10:59 AM

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A South African opposition lawmaker wanted to get a point across to the deputy president during a parliamentary debate. So he raised his middle finger in a gesture widely recognized as obscene.

South Africa's parliament is supposed to be an enclave of orderly debate, but these days it's better known for ruckuses associated with the Economic Freedom Fighters, a new political party that wants to redistribute resources to the poor.

Floyd Shivambu, a deputy leader of the party, on Wednesday lifted his middle finger toward Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa while accusing him of involvement in the police killings of several dozen people during labor unrest at a mine in 2012.

Shivambu later retracted the gesture Thursday, saying it was not necessary because there were other ways to express his "utter disgust."

In a statement, he said: "I therefore publicly withdraw the middle finger."

The lawmaker made the gesture after he and Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, were asked to leave the parliamentary chamber because Malema had told Ramaphosa that "your hands have got blood" and refused to withdraw the remark.

Ramaphosa, who became deputy president after the ruling African National Congress party won re-election in May, has expressed regret for the 2012 deaths at platinum mine operations, but he has denied any wrongdoing. At the time, he was a mining company director and shareholder.

Last month, members of the Economic Freedom Fighters heckled President Jacob Zuma during a parliamentary session in which questions were raised about more than $20 million in state spending on his private home. The uproar forced parliament to suspend the session.

Malema was the former head of the youth league of the African National Congress, but was kicked out of the party several years ago after he was deemed to be to be divisive.

His deputy, Shivambu, said ruling party members have behaved poorly in parliament, describing fellow lawmakers as "fascists" and "charlatans."