Members of South Africa’s opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have been removed from parliament after they tried to block President Jacob Zuma from speaking.
EFF lawmakers heckled and chanted “Zuma leave the house” during the president’s first appearance in parliament since two damning court rulings against him.
The speaker ordered security officers to throw them out.
On April 29, a court said that Jacob Zuma should be charged with corruption.
The case is related to a multi-billion dollar arms deal the government negotiated in 1999.
South Africa’s Constitutional Court ruled that Jacob Zuma had violated the constitution when he failed to repay government money used to upgrade his private home in the rural area of Nkandla.
Jacob Zuma denies any wrongdoing, and says he will continue to “shepherd” the nation. His term is due to end in 2019.
Punches were exchanged and parliamentary benches knocked over as plain-clothed security officers dragged the EFF MPs out of their seats and evicted them from the chamber, AFP news agency reports.
The lawmakers had earlier denounced Jacob Zuma as an “illegitimate” ruler who should step down.
The High Court said on April 29 that prosecutors should review their 2009 decision to drop 783 charges of corruption, fraud and racketeering against Jacob Zuma over the arms deal.
After the Constitutional Court ruling, the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, failed in a bid to impeach Jacob Zuma after the governing African National Congress (ANC) rallied behind him in parliament.
South African President Jacob Zuma will repay some of the $23 million the government controversially spent on upgrading his private rural home in Nkandla.
In 2014, a report by the public protector said Jacob Zuma had “benefited unduly” from the upgrades.
President Jacob Zuma said the auditor-general and finance minister should determine how much he should repay to end the dispute.
The announcement comes a week before a constitutional hearing on the matter.
The refurbishment of the residence in the village of Nkandla, in Jacob Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal, has turned into a major political controversy in South Africa.
Some of the money was spent on building an amphitheatre, swimming pool, and cattle enclosure.
The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) and Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), who have called for a corruption investigation, say they are pressing ahead with their court case regardless of the president’s latest offer.
Following Jacob Zuma’s announcement #PayBackThemoney is trending in South Africa – this was the phrase EFF lawmakers chanted at the president in parliament in 2015.
Many commentators seem skeptical.
Jacob Zuma’s delayed willingness to pay back the money spent on the upgrades to his Nkandla residence could be a calculated move to avoid embarrassment at the Constitutional Court hearing expected next week.
It could also be linked to the forthcoming local government election.
The Nkandla scandal has been a sore point for the governing African National Congress (ANC) which president Jacob Zuma leads, especially as the party faithful go out to campaign for votes.