EFF leader Julius Malema responds to President Cyril Ramaphosa's State of the Nation Address in parliament, Cape Town. February 18, 2020. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/ESA ALEXANDER
EFF leader Julius Malema responds to President Cyril Ramaphosa's State of the Nation Address in parliament, Cape Town. February 18, 2020. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/ESA ALEXANDER

The EFF staged a walkout of parliament for the second time in as many sessions on Tuesday, after clashing with ANC MPs over allegations that various party leaders had abused their wives.

At the heart of the clash was an allegation by ANC MP Boy Mamabolo that EFF president Julius Malema had abused his wife, Mantwa. Malema dismissed the claims and later accused ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa of physically abusing his late wife Nomazizi Mtshotshisa.

While Malema was responding to Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address on Tuesday‚ Mamabolo, who made a similar claim last week, stood on a point of order and asked Malema to confirm or deny allegations that he had physically abused his spouse. Mamabolo and Malema‚ both from the Limpopo township of Seshego‚ are former political allies turned foes. They served together in the ANC Youth League.

“You are abusing your wife. We want you to stand here in front of the nation and assure us. So my question to you is: are you abusing your wife?” asked Mamabolo. But Malema turned a deaf ear to Mamabolo’s question‚ opting to continue reading his speech. The house was plunged into chaos as ANC MPs repeatedly rose on points of order in an attempt to force Malema to directly respond to Mamabolo’s question and withdraw his claims about Ramaphosa.

Malema said that Mtshotshisa used to complain to former president Jacob Zuma about Ramaphosa’s alleged abuse. “President Zuma can confirm that Nomazizi used to complain ... about being abused by the president‚” he said.

Malema, who led his party’s walkout from the house last week after calling for former president FW De Klerk to be thrown out for showing no regrets for apartheid, asked all male MPs if they had never abused their women in the past 25 years.

“I asked that question precisely because I got information that the president used to beat his wife Nomazizi. May her soul rest in peace,” Malema said. This prompted several points of order from various MPs who said Malema should withdraw his remarks. Malema refused, and the speaker later asked him to leave the house. Malema left parliament and was followed by other EFF MPs.

Other parties raised objections, saying it was disturbing that issues of gender-based violence were being used to score political points. DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone said she felt “physically ill” hearing issues of women abuse being used for political point-scoring.

“Enough is enough,” she said.

In his reply to Sona, DA leader John Steenhuisen said Ramaphosa had failed to lead SA. “Since you delivered your first Sona speech in this house two years ago, well over a million more people have joined the ranks of the unemployed. This number now stands at almost 10.4-million working-age South Africans,” Steenhuisen said.

Steenhuisen said Ramaphosa also needs to pull the plug on National Health Insurance (NHI), “because — and in your heart of hearts you know this — the NHI is a fantasy that your government simply cannot make work.”

“Your third big announcement, Mr President, should have been that you are walking away from the expropriation of property without compensation, and that you won’t interfere with section 25 of the constitution. The sacred protection of property rights is the very bedrock of our economy, and without it everything will collapse.”

The debate continues on Wednesday, and Ramaphosa is due to respond on Thursday.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za