South African opposition party, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), has threatened to interrupt President Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address that is scheduled to take place in early February.
Members of the Economic Freedom Fighters complain that President Zuma has not accounted for the excessive upgrades at his Nkandla residence and that is the main reason why they plan to disrupt Zuma’s upcoming state of the nation address. To find out more about what impact this could have, DW spoke to South African analyst Ralf Mathegka.
Mr Mathegka, are such disruptions legal under South African law?
If you look at the sequence of events, the state of the nation address is one of the openings of parliament. You cannot go straight into the opening of parliament while there are other outstanding issues. Since the president left parliament following disruptions [in August 2014], he has never come back to parliament to account for the issue of Nkandla. Logically, what the EFF is saying is, they cannot give the president an audience in parliament while he has not dealt with outstanding issues from last year.
It is not illegal to do that (disrupt parliament) and I’m not saying it is legal. The essence of their conduct is that the president has failed to discharge his responsibilities in parliament. And for them it is within their rights to do so if the president cannot come to parliament for a special question and response session on Nkandla. They are members of parliament, they do have a say as to who comes to parliament and under what conditions.
Why exactly are members of the Economic Freedom Fighters pursuing these tactics of disruption in parliament?
This is a party that entered parliament on the ticket that it is not going to be business as usual in South African politics. For that purpose, they have identified the question of Nkandla – where the president has to pay a certain amount of money according to the Public Protector’s report – as a good issue that could give them more political capital. We know that they have been suspended last year but they have actually been able to obtain an urgent interdict in court against that suspension. The judge ruled in December that the suspension which involved them having to forfeit their salaries and also being suspended from parliament needs to be set aside. The merit of the issue has not been dealt with or argued in court but as things stand, the court felt that the suspension had to be set aside. If the court is of the view that their interruption is not entirely unreasonable, then they would have much ger legs and push this further.
But by flouting parliamentary rules, isn’t the EFF party doing itself more harm than good?
They have been able to gly push the idea that the ANC has abused parliamentary rules to protect the president. To put it differently, the ANC has abused parliamentary rules to actually prohibit parliament from carrying out its core responsibilities. I think that the Economic Freedom Fighters have realized that they are getting a g amount of visibility in South African media and even in the international media from doing what they are doing. Politically, it works for them. It is a strategy that seems to be giving them that sort of visibility that they so need.
Who supports them in South Africa?
Less than seven percent of the population supports the EFF as it was demonstrated in last year’s elections. I think the majority of the party’s supporters are the disgruntled, unemployed youth in the country and those who believe that the ruling African National Congress is no longer discharging its responsibilities well.
Are there more potential voters who will be willing to support them in the next general election?
New political parties such as the EFF can enter South African politics and get six to seven percent of the popular vote. The question has to do with their sustainability. The challenge in South Africa is that the only party that has been able to increase its electoral share is the Democratic Alliance. There was another party known as COPE, Congress of the People, which came into politics on a similar platform to the EFF. It obtained about seven percent in its first elections but it was decimated in last year’s election where it got only around one percent of the vote. Those parties that have splintered from the ANC have never demonstrated the ability to grow and garner more electoral support. We are yet to see if the EFF will be able to garner more voters but it’s going to be difficult.
Ralph Mathegka is a South African independent political analyst.
Interview: Mark Caldwell
Source : Deutsche Welle