from DION HENRICK in Cape Town
CAPE TOWN – AN impending legal challenge by an opposition party against the declaration of a national state of disaster.
Legal action by another opposition party against the expulsion and alleged abuse of its members during the disorderly State of the Nation (SONA).
These are the latest twists to South Africa’s increasingly volatile political climate.
Thursday was another explosive day in local politics and the SONA, presented by President Cyril Ramaphosa, in the legislative capital of Cape Town was the epicentre of the ructions.
It was held at Cape Town City Hall for the second year following the devastating fire at Parliament in early 2022. A man is on trial for the inferno.
Typically, chaos preceded the delivery of the president’s SONA address, and characteristically, it was members of the firebrand opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) involved.
The red berets attempted to prevent the head of state from delivering the speech, prompting the security services to step in.
As they exited the chambers, the EFF members attempted to climb on the platform from which Ramaphosa was to read his presentation.
Speaker of Parliament, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, had earlier ordered Vuyo Zumgula, leader of the smaller opposition African Transformation Movement (ATM) to leave.
Mapisa-Nqakula, a member of Ramaphosa’s African National Congress (ANC) defended the decision by the security services to intervene, even though she had not ordered them to step in.
“I asked people politely to leave the house and instead of leaving the house they climbed the stage. It immediately threatens the security of the president,” she said.
Among the security services were members of the Presidential Protection Unit.
Parliament has been the scene of running battles between EFF legislators and security during the SONA, which was Ramaphosa’s sixth.
Like the EFF was hostile towards then president Jacob Zuma over the allegations of corruption against him, the party has been meted out similar conduct towards Ramaphosa, who is embroiled in his Phala Phala farm saga.
Rarely have Ramaphosa’s SONAs gone uninterrupted.
EFF, which condemned the “pure violence and barbaric behaviour” against its legislators, said it would take legal action against Mapisa-Nqakula.
“The EFF will take the National Speaker, Nosiviwe Mapisa Nqakula, to court for violating the rights of Members of Parliament, and mistreating them as a group, instead of individuals who have every right to speak in accordance with the rules,” EFF stated.
The party argued South Africa was descending into a dictatorship under Ramaphosa.
“The votes of our people have been disrespected and trampled upon by the boots of thugs, police and military men, and our democracy sits at the altar of a sadistic puppet of imperialism called Cyril Ramaphosa,” it stated.
Incidentally, the Julius Malema-led EFF was formed in 2013 by youth expelled from the ANC.
Ramaphosa on Thursday delivered his address after calm was restored.
The highlight of his speech was the announcement of a state of disaster, and the upcoming Minister of Electricity, on the back of the crippling power crisis that has escalated this year.
This itself has lurched into legal action, which the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) will take against Ramaphosa.
John Steenhuisen, leader of the DA, confirmed the party had briefed its lawyers to challenge the announcement in court.
“South Africa has been down this road before,” he said.
“During the COVID-19 disaster, we saw the fatal flaws in the National State of Disaster legislation, which allows the ANC unfettered power to loot without any parliamentary oversight.”
The DA is already in court to declare the Disaster Management Act unconstitutional.
“We will now do the same to prevent the ANC looting frenzy that will follow Ramaphosa’s dangerous and desperate announcement like night follows day,” Steenhuisen said.
Some government officials and ruling party officials were implicated in the abuse of funds meant for the response to the continent’s most severe outbreak of COVID-19.
Other opposition leaders, Mmusi Maimane of Build One South Africa and ActionSA’s Herman Mashaba, argued the declaration was a centralisation of more government power in the hands of the Presidency, through the Disaster Management Act.
Mashaba said the “self-created” state of disaster (power crisis) and the actions of EFF was another reminder of how the political establishment and Parliament had failed the people of South Africa.
“A new class of ethical political leadership committed to public service is needed to prioritise the needs of all citizens,” Mashaba advocated.
On the declaration of the state of disaster, Ramaphosa said the energy crisis had become an existential threat to the economy.
“Extraordinary circumstances do call for extraordinary measures,” the president said.
He assured that the Auditor-General will be brought in to ensure continuous monitoring of expenditure, in order to guard against any abuses of the funds needed to attend to this “disaster.”
Ramaphosa also announced the impending, unprecedented appointment of a Minister of Electricity in the Presidency.
Amid the heated political temperatures, South Africans again emerged with their notoriety of using humour to shine the light on serious issues facing their country, and the appointment of the new minister was a source of social media jokes.
Commentator, Olwethu Jones, chuckled, “Minister of Electricity existing alongside the Minister of Energy is what I’d imagine a parallel universe operates.”
“Never imagined that would be our reality. As we await the announcement of the New Ministers of Roads and Potholes working alongside Transport (minister).”
Tech expert, Michael Markovitz, stated, “One thing is certain – the Minister of Electricity will have no power.”
According to Ramaphosa, “The Minister of Electricity will focus full-time and work with the Eskom board and management on ending load shedding and ensuring that the Energy Action Plan is implemented without delay.”
Analyst and macroeconomic advisor, Phumlani Majozi, summed up South Africa’s spectacular decline over the years.
“We once had a beautiful country, and now we have a Minister of Electricity. Can you believe it? What a decline!” Majozi stated.
– CAJ News