Economy focus of S. African nation speech, despite heckling

AP News
Posted: Feb 11, 2016 3:15 PM
Economy focus of S. African nation speech, despite heckling

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa's struggling economy was the focus point of the president's state-of-the-nation address on Thursday, which went ahead despite disruptions and heckling from opposition politicians.

President Jacob Zuma outlined various steps to help the economy including plans to increase investment and grow small businesses. Zuma also announced plans to cut the budget by reducing international travel for officials and possibly centralizing the government, which is currently split between two cities.

Opposition parties criticized his strategies, saying the president's nine-point-plan was nothing new.

Earlier in the evening, Zuma had not yet stepped to the podium when opposition parties began to argue about whether the rules of parliament would allow them to interrupt the president.

"We must be governed by rules here, not emotions," shouted Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, the second largest opposition party.

Another opposition party leader walked out of parliament saying he refused to listen to a president who stands accused of violating his oath of office.

Earlier this week, South Africa's highest court heard a case in which Zuma is accused of violating the constitution in a scandal over state spending on his private home.

As the president began to read his speech, broadcast on national television, opposition members continued to interrupt him until they were asked to leave the National Assembly. Those who remained behind continued to heckle him. Zuma did not respond.

Earlier in the day, South African police fired stun grenades at dozens of clashing supporters of the ruling African National Congress and the Economic Freedom Fighters, ahead of the president's address. Other civic groups who tried to march to parliament were pushed back by police.