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Watch Video: Fight erupts at South Africa’s State of Nation Address

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Punches have been thrown in South Africa’s parliament as opposition MPs tried to disrupt the State of the Nation address by President Jacob Zuma.

Members of the radical Economic Freedom Fighters’ party (EFF), all dressed in red, scuffled with security guards who ejected them from the chamber.

Mr Zuma had twice got to his feet but was shouted down by EFF MPs.

Outside parliament, police used stun grenades to disperse opposition and government supporters.

Mr Zuma has been dogged by allegations of corruption and cronyism and widely criticised for his handling of the economy.

Previous addresses by him have been marred by MPs demanding his resignation.

As Mr Zuma entered parliament in Cape Town on Thursday he was met by chants of “thief” by EFF MPs, who included their firebrand leader Julius Malema.

Members of the governing African National Congress (ANC) countered them by chanting “ANC, ANC”.

Amid raised voices and chaotic scenes, Speaker Baleka Mbete tried to deal with repeated interruptions and procedural questions.

Police outside parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017Police dispersed rival groups who fought outside parliament

Mr Malema called Mr Zuma “an incorrigible man rotten to the core”.

He also turned on the speaker, telling her: “Your conduct has failed you. You are irrational, impatient, partisan.”

Ms Mbete told the protesting MPs: “We have been patient with you, we have been trying to give you an opportunity to express yourselves but… it is being abused.”

Security guards were called in and the EFF members were forcibly ejected. Members of another opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, then walked out, saying President Zuma was unqualified to hold office.

A smiling President Zuma said “Finally” as he resumed his address, speaking about the economy and other issues.

President Zuma knew it was coming. He stood up to make his speech in parliament with the look of a man braced for a long, uncomfortable evening.

Sure enough, the heckling and the “points of order” began almost immediately, and continued for more than an hour.

In some respects it was pure political theatre – an emboldened opposition seeking to hijack a high-profile televised event in order to humiliate the president and overshadow an increasingly divided governing party.

But there is genuine anger in South Africa about allegations of corruption and cronyism against Mr Zuma – and in particular about last year’s constitutional court ruling that condemned his role in a renovation scandal at his private homestead, Nkandla.

Before long, cries of “criminal” and “racist” were being hurled across the floor between rival MPs, and pepper spray was released in the public gallery.

EFF leader Julius Malema, in red, is guarded after he was removed from parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, Thursday, Feb 9, 2017 Leader Julius Malema, in red, was among those ejected from the chamber

It was only a matter of time before the security guards were deployed. They charged into the hall – a donut of white shirts quickly surrounding the red-suited MPs of the EFF.

A few fists swung. Bodies were dragged over plump parliamentary furniture. And within seconds the red suits had been ejected from the chamber.

The DA’s MPs quickly stood up and left under their own steam.

Mr Zuma, looking tired but managing the occasional smile, finally began his speech, focusing on familiar plans to address the legacy of racial apartheid and to accelerate the transfer of South Africa’s economy into the hands of the black majority.

But the atmosphere in the chamber felt flat, while outside, opposition leaders were busy speaking in angry, urgent tones to crowds of journalists.

The State of the Nation address had, as planned, been sidelined.

Mr Zuma had angered some MPs ahead of his speech by ordering the deployment of about 440 troops to maintain law and order in parliament on the day.

Opposition parties condemned the decision as a “declaration of war”.

It was the first time that troops had a security rather than a ceremonial role.

Previous State of the Nation speeches have been marred by chaos in parliament.

Since winning seats in 2014, members of the EFF have caused disruption by chanting and jeering at the president over allegations of corruption.

In 2015, EFF members were removed from the chamber by security guards disguised as waiters.

24 Hours Across Africa

Nato warn Russia to refrain New Missle plan

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Source: Reuters – NATO urged Russia on Tuesday to destroy a new missile before an August deadline and save a treaty that keeps land-based nuclear warheads out of Europe or face a more determined alliance response in the region.

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NATO defense ministers will discuss on Wednesday their next steps if Moscow keeps the missile system that the United States says would allow short-notice nuclear attacks on Europe and break the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

“We call on Russia to take the responsible path, but we have seen no indication that Russia intends to do so,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference. “We will need to respond,” Stoltenberg said.

He declined to go into more details. But diplomats said defense ministers will consider more flights over Europe by U.S. warplanes capable of carrying nuclear warheads, more military training and the repositioning U.S. sea-based missiles.

The United States and its NATO allies want Russia to destroy its 9M729/SSC-8 nuclear-capable cruise missile system, which Moscow has so far refused to do. It denies any violations of the INF treaty, accusing Washington of seeking an arms race.

Without a deal, the United States has said it will withdraw from the INF treaty on Aug. 2, removing constraints on its own ability to develop nuclear-capable, medium-range missile.

The dispute has deepened a fissure in East-West ties that severely deteriorated after Russia’s seizure of Crimea and its involvement in Syria.


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24 Hours Across Africa

Ethiopia mourns top officials after failed coup

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Source: Reuters- Ethiopia held a memorial on Tuesday for the army chief of staff slain with four other senior officials in weekend attacks that posed the biggest threat yet to the prime minister’s reforms.

Abiy Ahmed, who survived a grenade attack at a rally in his honor last year, sat in the front row at the memorial and wiped tears from his eyes with a white handkerchief.

Abiy took power 15 months ago and has won widespread international praise for kickstarting political and economic reforms, but his shake-up of the military and intelligence services has earned him powerful enemies at home.

His government is also struggling to contain discontent from Ethiopia’s myriad ethnic groups fighting the federal government and each other for greater influence and resources.

The foiled plot to seize control of the northern Amhara region and the assassinations in the national capital Adis Abeba underscored the threat of spiraling violence in Africa’s second-most populous nation.

In addition to the killing of the chief of staff in the capital, Amhara state president Ambachew Mekonnen and an adviser were killed in the region’s main city Bahir Dar.

The attacks were led by Amhara’s head of state security General Asamnew Tsige, who had been openly recruiting fighters for ethnic militias in a state that has become a flashpoint for violence.

Asamnew, the alleged coup plotter, was shot on Monday near Bahir Dar, according to the prime minister’s office.


@ Anttention Fresh,                
We work hard to ensure that any news brought to you is legitimate and valuable so we leave out the noise. This material, and other digital content on this website, may be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part BUT give us credit as your source.

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