President Jacob Zuma might have little or no worry at the 2017 State of the Nation Address (SONA), scheduled to hold on Thursday, February 9.
Of course, it’s no news that his past SONA appearances were ruined by the members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). But, the story is likely not going to be the same this year, as emerging reports have it that EFF leader Julius Malema might miss Zuma’s SONA address this year.
EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi announced on Friday that Malema is taking a short break from the politics to spend time with his books.
The fighter also disclosed that the Commander-in-Chief of the red block will sit for three exams on 6, 8 and 10 February, all of which he will write at 08:30 in the morning.
He added that Malema’s break takes effect immediately until February 10. Ndlozi categorically stressed that the EFF leader will not make any public appearances or take interviews during the break, except in very special circumstances.
Earlier this week at a press conference at EFF headquarters in Braamfontein, Malema implied that President Zuma and National Speaker Baleka Mbete could have more fights to separate this year. In fact, he spoke elaborately about the possibility of another action-filled SONA in 2017.
He said: “Every time Zuma comes to Parliament, that’s what he must know so that when our children and generations after say to us what have you done with this corrupt president? We will produce evidence that the rest of them accepted him except us because we wanted to save this country, so you can rest assured, Baleka must prepare for action.”
For two years, the EFF was ejected from the National Assembly during Zuma’s SONA address after the party refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of his presidency.
During 2015 SONA, three Economic Freedom Fighters MPs, including party leader Julius Malema, were ejected out of the National Assembly by security officers after they persistently questioned Zuma about misspending taxpayers money on his home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.
SONA 2016 took place on February 11. The event was preceded by an increased police presence outside the parliamentary gates with nyalas, dozens of police vehicles and even a perimeter being formed with barbed wire.
Inside the National Assembly building, the number of members of the parliamentary protection guard, more commonly known as the ‘white shirts boosted in anticipation of a repeat of what happened during Sona 2015. Yet, against all these ‘odds’, Malema and his men (commonly known as Parliament bouncers) were able to disrupt again Zuma’s address.
National Speaker Baleka Mbete and National Council of Provinces chairwoman Thandi Modise had a hard time maintaining order after the EFF severally challenged their patience.
Even Congress of the People (COPE) leader Mosiuoa Lekota joined the EFF in their protests, jumping up on a “point of order”, saying: “Madam Speaker, the honourable president has already admitted before us in the Constitutional Court that he broke his oath of office … he is no longer honourable … we cannot sit here and listen to him. He is no longer fit to lead our people.”
Lekota was later ejected. Some EFF members followed him but this time, they honourably ejected themselves. President Zuma, at last, delivered his speech – but that was like an hour later.
Now, you see Zuma might have little or no stress this year.
The SONA is an annual event in the Republic of South Africa, in which South Africa’s president details the status of the nation to a joint sitting of Parliament (the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces).
SONA is usually attended by political bigwigs including former South African Presidents, the Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court and other members of the judiciary, the Governor of the Reserve Bank, and Ambassadors and Diplomats to the Republic.
The speech marks the opening of the parliamentary year.