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Stage set for another Parliamentary showdown

The EFF are threatening to disrupt Zuma's Sona after Baleka Mbete refused a request for a special sitting.

The EFF are threatening to disrupt Zuma's Sona after Baleka Mbete refused a request for a special sitting. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN

CAPE TOWN - The stage has been set for another showdown in the National Assembly, with more threats from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) to disrupt the opening of Parliament, and the speaker refusing the party's request for a special sitting.

Baleka Mbete says EFF leader Julius Malema's threat to put questions to President Jacob Zuma during his State of the Nation Address (Sona) next month could be seen as intimidation.

In a letter to Malema released today, she warns him against falling foul of the laws around the powers, privileges and immunities of Parliament.

Mbete says her office and the presidency are working on dates for President Jacob Zuma to come and answer MPs' questions.

In terms of Parliament's rules, the president's obliged to do so four times a year.

Mbete says once finalised the dates will be included in Parliament's programme.

She's told Malema there is thus no reason to convene a special sitting of the National Assembly ahead of Parliament's official opening on 12 February.

With Malema clearly trying to the set the agenda for a fractious start to the parliamentary year, Mbete's made it clear she won't stand for Malema's threats to disrupt Zuma's State of the Nation (Sona) address that evening.

In her letter to Malema released by Parliament today, Mbete says she's been advised that the EFF's intention to insist that the president answer their questions during Sona "potentially constitutes intimidation" in terms of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act of 2004.

"I would urge you to desist from such conduct and instead engage constructively in processing matters relating to the functioning of the (National) Assembly", Mbete writes.

She says she's confident the talks between her office and the presidency regarding Zuma's future question and answer sessions "will yield a positive outcome".

Earlier, the EEF leader said this year the party will make sure Zuma pays back the money for Nkandla.

Malema held a press conference at the EFF's headquarters in Braamfontein today.

Last year, Malema asked Zuma directly when he would pay back the money spent on upgrading his KwaZulu-Natal homestead.

The Nkandla upgrades came under heavy criticism in a report by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela in March last year.

Madonsela's report said Zuma had "benefited unduly" from some of the upgrades, which included a cattle enclosure and amphitheatre, and should pay back some of the costs of the unnecessary renovations.

"The 'Zuma pay back the money' will happen straight during the opening of Parliament. We have to hold him accountable. This 'pay back the money' is not about Nkandla but it's about accountability and corruption."