South African President Jacob Zuma told lawmakers to halt their “theater and antics” after most opposition parties boycotted a speech the leader gave in parliament.
Political tensions are mounting in South Africa ahead of local elections in August when Zuma’s ruling African National Congress faces a stiff challenge from opponents seeking to capitalize on what they see as the president’s missteps.
Zuma, dogged by scandals during his seven-year presidency, survived an impeachment vote in parliament last month after the Constitutional Court said he had violated the constitution.
The main opposition Democratic Alliance party, the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and others stayed away from Zuma’s speech in parliament on Thursday, saying he had been “discredited” after court rulings against him.
“The drama, theater and antics we see daily in this house will not move South Africa forward,” Zuma said while replying to lawmakers’ questions over a budget to cover the costs of the presidency.
“Commenting as somebody who, from time to time, comes to this house to participate, I believe the house needs to do more to bring this house in order,” Zuma said, adding that the squabbles and scuffles were denting South Africa’s image.
The parliamentary protection services forcibly removed members of the EFF party from the chamber after they tried to disrupt proceedings before another Zuma speech.
Opposition leaders said in a joint statement that their decision to boycott the speech was intended “to send a strong message to the South African people that the opposition won’t allow Zuma to trample on the constitution, ignore court rulings and then come to parliament and ask for more money for his office”.
Parliament, dominated by the ANC, rejected a bid last month to impeach Zuma after the Constitutional Court said he had breached the law by ignoring an order to repay state funds spent on his private home.