South African opposition disrupts president's speech

AP News
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Posted: Feb 12, 2015 1:12 PM
South African opposition disrupts president's speech

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Security guards entered South Africa's parliament on Thursday to remove opposition lawmakers who disrupted an annual address by President Jacob Zuma to demand that he answer questions about a spending scandal.

Zuma had just started his speech on the state of the nation when several opposition lawmakers rose to their feet to protest what they said was the president's failure to explain more than $20 million in state spending on his private home, known as Nkandla.

They included Julius Malema, the former head of the youth league of the ruling African National Congress who was kicked out the party.

Malema is now leader of the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters, a new political party that wants to redistribute resources to the poor. He and other lawmakers from his party wore red overalls and plastic red helmets, and scuffled with guards who ejected them from the chamber.

After the removal of Malema's party, lawmakers from the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, protested the ejection and walked out of the chamber. Zuma then resumed his speech.

The start of the speech in Cape Town had been delayed because of opposition allegations that the cell phone signal in the parliament had been jammed. The signal was later restored.

Zuma has denied any wrongdoing in the spending on his home, saying government security officials controlled the project.

Despite the scandal, Zuma led the African National Congress to another comfortable victory in national elections in May.