Parliament’s speaker, Baleka Mbete, was too soft and should not have waited for an hour before acting against the Economic Freedom Fighters, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said.
Speaking on the steps of Parliament after President Jacob Zuma delivered his state of the nation address, Mantashe said: “The speaker was too patient. She took too long. She should have wrapped it in the first 20 minutes.”
He said it was unacceptable for members to come to Parliament with the intent of disrupting proceedings. “Decorum disappears. If I was a speaker, I wouldn’t have left it that long,” said Mantashe.
Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said that a minority of members should not be allowed to trample on the rights of others, and the majority of people – including those watching from home – wanted to listen to the president deliver his address.
Members of Parliament’s security, the so-called “white shirts”, forcibly and violently removed the EFF an hour after proceedings began.
The EFF had been hurling abuse at Zuma and rising on points of order, preventing Zuma from speaking. After the EFF were removed, the Democratic Alliance and other opposition parties subsequently walked out.
The speaker was due to attend a privately arranged “Speaker’s Ball” at the Bay Hotel in Camps Bay after the president’s address.
DA chief whip John Steenhuisen described the forced removal of the EFF as “like the 1980s” during the state of emergency during apartheid South Africa.
“The full-speed removal of the EFF was done with excessive force that was not justifiable. It is unacceptable to be treated in that manner. The precinct has been turned into a police and military state.”
He said the situation could not continue to deteriorate. “We need a time of introspection, to look at what is wrong.”
After the walkout, Western Cape premier Helen Zille said that the DA had no choice but to leave the chamber, though she respected that Parliament should be allowed to continue business.
Expressing frustration with Zuma, Zille said the DA had tried in the past to get Zuma removed through motions of no confidence, which had been unsuccessful. “We need to get rid of Zuma legally,” she said.
The DA has called a media briefing for Friday to announce a plan of action following what it called a “ground-shifting event”.
Meanwhile, Parliament said it would investigate the use of pepper spray in the public gallery, saying that it was regarded as a security breach.