CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa’s national assembly was brought to a halt on Thursday as far-left lawmakers noisily chanted “pay back the money” at President Jacob Zuma, after $23 million in public funds was spent on his home.
Zuma was responding to questions in the usually calm parliament about the controversial security upgrade to his residence in Nkandla, which came under heavy criticism in a report by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela in March.
Madonsela’s report said Zuma had “benefited unduly” from some of the upgrades, which included a cattle enclosure and amphitheatre, and should pay back some of the costs of the unnecessary renovations.
Zuma submitted to parliament his response to Madonsela and other reports on the Nkandla upgrades last week and a bi-partisan committee of the national assembly has been set up to carry out a further review.
“When are you paying the money?” asked a finger-wagging Julius Malema, leader of the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a former Zuma protege and expelled former youth head of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
“I’ve responded to all the reports as I‘m supposed to. I’ve responded appropriately,” a stony-faced Zuma replied.
EFF members became increasingly raucous before Speaker Baleka Mbete ordered the session to be suspended as an awkward-looking Zuma faced chants of “pay back the money” from around 20 EFF members and dozens more in the public gallery, most dressed in their trademark red overalls and hard hats.
Zuma and the ANC swept to victory in South Africa’s fifth post-apartheid election in May, picking up more than 60 percent of the vote. The radical EFF collected around 6 percent and 25 parliamentary seats in its first election.
Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Andrew Roche