It is no news that political humiliation, fury, violence, and disruption marked the opening of Parliament at SONA 2017.
Apart from the economic fighters, who swallowed a mouthful of Parliament security officers’ wrath, the leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) Mangosuthu Buthelezi also had a fair share of the insults during SONA – not from the white shirts anyway, but from National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete.
It happened that during the 2017 State of the Nation Address Mbete referred to Buthelezi as “ikhehla”. The term is an isiZulu word that is commonly translated to “old man”.
Buthelezi apparently took offence at the word “ikhehla” and subsequently wrote to the speaker to correct the phrase.
During Thursday’s proceeding, Mbete took some moment and apologised to the MP for the remark.
Addressing the house, the speaker tendered her apology by saying:
“In reference to the honourable Buthelezi, I used the words, and I quote, ‘nanti ikhehla,’ close quote. The honourable member has indicated to me that he found these words disparaging and offensive.
Honourable Buthelezi, please accept my apologies as I indicated before, it was never my intention to offend of show disrespect to you.”
Her apology was welcomed with a round of applause from members of parliament (MPs).
Mbete also announced that she had earlier conveyed her apology to the MP in paper and that MP Mangosuthu Buthelezi accepted it by giving her a piece of a fatherly advice.
In response, the IFP leader said he accepted Mbete’s apology. He also used the opportunity to throw more light on the meaning of “Ikhehela”.
According to him, “amakhehla” were actually the people that the king of the Zulus, from time to time, would give them rings.
He added: “They were called amakhehla when they were supposed to get married because they couldn’t get married. They were not allowed to marry until the king said so.”
On his age, Buthelezi admitted he’s an old man – which he said is a blessing from God.
“But I realise, honourable speaker, that I am old. Which is a blessing from the almighty God, and I don’t resent that,” he said after which some MPs shouted “yes”.
Just moments before violence broke out during SONA, the IFP leader was spotted moving away from his seat, in a bid to run away from EFF’s clash with Parliament officers.
EFF’s Mbuyiseni Ndlozi had earlier warned him to run for safety before the fighters’ fists and hard hats started flying.
He was subsequently ushered out of the looming ‘danger’ before Parliament’s security personnel entered the chambers to remove members of the EFF.
Mangosuthu Buthelezi is one of Parliament’s oldest MP. He is 89 years old.