South African lawmakers berate Speaker over Zuma home upgrade

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 13, 2014 9:31 AM

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African lawmakers chanted "you must go" at National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete on Thursday as they aired corruption allegations over a state-funded security upgrade to President Jacob Zuma's home.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela reported in March that Zuma had "benefited unduly" from some of the upgrades, which included a cattle enclosure and amphitheatre, and should pay back some of the costs of the unnecessary renovations.

Opposition politicians accused Mbete, a member of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), of bias after she postponed a debate on the $23 million state-funded upgrade.

The usually calm chamber was rocked by chants of "You must go!" from members of the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters, led by former Zuma protege Julius Malema. One of its members shouted at Mbete: "You won't get away with this one."

John Henry Steenhuisen, chief whip of the main opposition Democratic Alliance, said the speaker changed the order of debate at the behest of ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe.

"I am amazed by your excitement," Mbete said, eventually overturning her decision.

The alternative parliamentary report cleared Zuma of any blame over the upgrades but opposition lawmakers were expected to reject the findings and call for the president to resign.

The national assembly probe was compiled only by ANC members after opponents walked out of the committee, saying it was created solely to protect Zuma.

(Reporting by Joe Brock; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)