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#Sona2015: Opposition parties accuse ANC of turning SA into police state

EFF members were forcefully removed from Parliament allegedly by plain-clothed policemen.

Julius Malema and other EFF members dance and sing at Parliament after they were thrown out of the State of the Nation Address on 12 February 2015. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN

CAPE TOWN - In the wake of an ejection, a walkout and a delayed State of the Nation Address (Sona), opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) have accused the African National Congress (ANC) of turning South Africa into a police state in a bid to protect President Jacob Zuma.

The president's Sona was delayed last night when Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) members delivered on their threat to disrupt his speech with the question on when he'll pay back the money spent on upgrades to his Nkandla home.

EFF leader Julius Malema and his Parliamentary caucus were physically forced out of the National Assembly chamber last night.

Watch: _ Malema dragged from Parliament._

The stand-off ended in a brawl between the red berets and men alleged to having been plain-clothed police officers.

"When we were scuffling with them, they asked us outside not to fight back because they are police."

Watch: Malema hits back after Sona scuffle

As National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete ruled that EFF MPs Malema, Floyd Shivambu and Mbuyiseni Ndlozi must leave, Parliamentary staff tried to talk to them.

Suddenly groups of men erupted into the chamber from four different doors.

They went immediately to the EFF members and the fighting started.

One elderly MP fell to the floor, right into the way of the shoes and feet of the people around him, another person fell headlong off a desk, right into the middle of the melee and suddenly Malema was trying to hit the hand off someone with his hard hat.

There were gasps of shock from other MPs who couldn't believe what they were seeing, some had to run out the way to avoid getting hurt.

The force was brutal and effective.

Within just a few minutes, the entire EFF caucus was out of the chamber and the security personnel just disappeared.

DA STAGES WALK OUT

Democratic Alliance (DA) Parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane, whose caucus staged a walkout last night, says the ANC is trying to protect the president.

"The job of the ANC here is no longer to protect the Constitution of the Republic, the job of the ANC is to protect one person alone and that's Zuma."

Watch: DA walks out of National Assembly

But Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe says the ANC-led government is not creating a police state, he says the EFF arrived in Parliament armed with the intention to disrupt.

"Well, it was embarrassing but I'm sure it happens around the world and people behave or react differently to what they see there."

Radebe explains why the speaker called for the EFF to be removed.

"The speaker indicated on many occasions for members to leave, when they could not leave, the Sergeant at Arms was asked to assist, they failed to do so. We called the security of Parliament together with security forces as described in the Constitution."

However, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe says Parliament's presiding officers dealt with the EFF's disruption according to the rules.

"We have been watching the race to the bottom where they are actually outdoing each other and how they can be as much of a hooligan as possible."

Meanwhile, the South African National Editors Forum says it's disgusted by the cut off in communications inside the National Assembly chamber.

Political analysts say the jamming of signals is a worrying sign of the times, where Parliament is being dominated by the executive and explanations are needed.

Watch: 'Bring back the signal'

Political analyst Richard Calland says, "It's a breach of the Constitution, it's a breach of the right to freely interact with information and expression."

Political analyst Judith February says answers are needed from those who issued the order to jam the signal inside the National Assembly.

She says it's a sad day for democracy.

"It's going to be very difficult for Parliament to recover from this. It's going to be very difficult for all of us. It's been a difficult night and Zuma for all his laughing and his amusement seemingly at this. This is a difficult night and at some parts disgraceful."

In his speech, the president addressed the burning issues of job creation, electricity, infrastructure, small business, tourism and overall economic growth.

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