#Sona2016 debate off to a fiery start

MPs will get a chance to respond to the president’s State of the Nation Address this afternoon.

FILE: National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete. Picture: EWN.

CAPE TOWN - Today's parliamentary joint-sitting has got off to a fiery start.

Deputy Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Thabang Makwetla opened proceedings by complaining about Members of Parliament (MPs), who he says have shown "contempt" for the national anthem.

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MPs have refused to acknowledge verses of "die stem" in the South Africa's multi-lingual national anthem.

Makwetla wasted no time and attacked the EFF for their actions during last week's presidential address.

"Now I want to ask the question Madame Speaker, the attitude of the presiding officer is not to protect us, what does it expect us to do?"

He complained about a "political incident" that took place in the Chamber last Thursday.

"When we take office, we are sworn to uphold the Constitution. Upholding the Constitution, Madame Speaker, also involves upholding all the symbols of the public."

Makwetla was on his feet for several minutes, as EFF MPs howled and heckled him.

He also urged the presiding officers to protect speakers from disruptive MPs.

The EFF's Floyd Shivambu fired back.

"It is not the tradition of this house that when a point of order or violation happened two weeks ago, you come here and try to be try to be relevant like Thabang Makwetla is trying to be relevant."

But Speaker Baleka Mbete cited the rules.

"Furious points of order are an abuse of the rules and privileges of freedom of speech."

Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies was first up, when the debate got underway.

MPs will get a chance to respond to the president's State of the Nation Address (Sona) this afternoon.