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Mbete appeals to Malema to respect State of the Nation

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete has asked the EFF not to question Zuma during Sona.

EFF leader Julius Malema celebrates after the a successful elective conference in Bloemfontein. Picture:Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete has called on Julius Malema not to use President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation Address (Sona) to demand answers on the Nkandla spending scandal.

But with the Economic Freedom Fighters' (EFF) leader insisting Zuma must be held to account, Parliament's opening next month could be set for drama.

Malema has warned that if Mbete does not grant a special early sitting of Parliament, he and his red beret member of Parliament (MPs) will put the questions to Zuma when he presents his opening address in Parliament on 12 February.

Mbete's turned down Malema's request for an early sitting so that Zuma can finish the question and answer session that abruptly ended with chants of "pay back the money" last August.

Speaking yesterday, she also told Malema his threat to put questions to Zuma during his address could be seen as intimidation under the act governing Parliament, and asked him not to.

She said there's no need for a special sitting as her office is working with the Presidency to finalise the dates when Zuma will answer MP's questions.

Parties get to debate Zuma's speech over two days following his address, after which the President will respond.

In November, 12 MPs were suspended without pay for between 14 and 30 days for disrupting Zuma's question session three months earlier. Another eight were fined two week's salary.

Last month, Western Cape High Court Judge Denis Davis granted the EFF's application to prevent Parliament from implementing sanctions against 20 of its MPs, meaning Parliament had to immediately pay the MPs their salaries.

The ANC in Parliament maintains the correct procedures were followed when sanctions were imposed on the EFF MPs.

Some opposition parties believe Mbete cannot act impartially as speaker because she also holds the powerful position of chairperson of the ANC.

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