SONA 2020 | Groans, delays, an EFF walkout and a surprise vacant seat


There were points of order, a rugby world champion and a Miss Universe in the public gallery, and as the EFF left the House, and the State of the Nation Address got going, someone else was no longer in her seat...

The EFF came into the National Assembly chamber singing, all wearing more or less the same outfits, led by their "commander-in-chief" Julius Malema. By that time most of the other MPs had already trickled in and taken selfies with their colleagues.

Also already seated were Springbok rugby captain Siya Kolisi and Miss Universe, Zozibini Tunzi, who was seated next to Sinoyolo Qumba, a Grade 11 pupil from Lenasia South, who helped President Cyril Ramaphosa write his speech. They were in the presidential box in the public gallery, which also included former finance minister Trevor Manuel.

Tunzi was on her phone, waving at somebody on the floor of the chamber. Also on her phone, and waving in Tunzi's direction, was Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

Also in the public gallery were National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi, Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, and Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago.

Two of the EFF's recent targets - former deputy president and last apartheid president FW de Klerk and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan - seemed rather nonplussed by the EFF's singing. De Klerk was spotted chatting to former president Kgalema Motlanthe, while Gordhan was in conversation with ANC MP Yunus Carrim and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi. 

Points of order

The EFF continued singing while the processions with the premiers and speakers of the provincial legislatures entered the House, but they stopped their singing and stood and applauded when the judiciary entered the chamber, led by a smiling Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.

The whole House, public gallery included, stood and applauded the judges, except what appeared to be Mkhwebane and the two seats next to her.

The EFF ensured that they applauded the judges the longest and then continued with their singing, even when the presidential procession entered.

Soon after National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise allowed the moment of reflection, Malema was on his feet, raising the first of many points of order from the EFF. They wanted De Klerk removed.

Ramaphosa was still in his seat, mostly scrolling through his cellphone while the EFF raised their points of order - expressionless. When Modise laid down the law, he looked up, in her direction, still expressionless.

It was impossible to discern De Klerk's expression from the media gallery. But one thing was for sure, he didn't budge while the EFF had a good go at him.

Seated not far from him was Baleka Mbete. She presided over many an EFF disturbance in the previous Parliament, but is now the former speaker of the National Assembly.

Attacks on De Klerk, Gordhan

Eventually, the EFF let the De Klerk matter go and Ramaphosa got behind the podium. He hardly had time to say hello, before EFF MP Vuyani Pambo got up on a point of order directed at Gordhan. The minster had a little smile.

As the EFF got going with their points of order, Ramaphosa took his seat and paged through a printed copy of, presumably, his speech. After a short suspension of the House, Malema made a speech, calling Gordhan "Jamnandas". Gordhan shook his head.

As the EFF marched out of the chamber, some pointed in Gordhan's direction while singing. He stared them down.

At least two EFF MPs threw bottles at other MPs as they left the chamber.

After short statements by every party condemning the EFF's behaviour, Ramaphosa finally got into his speech.

As he greeted the long list of people, Gordhan was chatting to Police Minister Bheki Cele, who was seated in the bench next to him. With the EFF out, things took on a much more slumberous atmosphere.

Ramaphosa elicited a few cheers from the DA benches when he announced that municipalities would be allowed to procure electricity from independent power producers.

Every once in awhile, there was polite applause from the ANC benches.

"Oooooh," groaned the DA on two occasions when Ramaphosa mentioned his deputy, David Mabuza. The first time Mabuza didn't show any reaction, the second time he grinned at them.

When Ramaphosa spoke about state capture, Jacob Zuma's son Duduzane Zuma, who was seated in the public gallery, showed no emotion.

By this time, Mkhwebane was no longer seen in her spot in the public gallery.

As Ramaphosa left the podium - a full three hours after his speech was due to start - ANC MPs broke out in song, singing about unity.