National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise was forced to suspend the House ahead of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation address because of disruptions by the EFF.
After an hour of persistently rising on points of order - to first have former president FW de Klerk kicked out of the House and then calling for Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan to be fired - Modise rang the bell to adjourn the first joint sitting before Ramaphosa could start his address.
One minute into proceedings, EFF leader Julius Malema had risen on a point of order, saying De Klerk had “blood on his hands” and called the apartheid leader a “murderer”.
“We please request De Klerk to leave this house,” said Malema.
But Modise rejected the request, saying: “It is convention that all former living presidents are invited to the sitting.”
The EFF then told the president to “sit down” before he could begin his speech, demanding that Gordhan be fired for keeping South Africa in “darkness”.
Modise, who was criticised by parties for failing to maintain order, again shot down the demand, saying that SONA was not the platform to fire ministers.
As proceedings were suspended, the EFF marched off chanting “Pravin must go”.
When the sitting resumed, the red party walked out before protection officers could skop them out.
When Ramaphosa finally took the podium, he painted a bleak picture of the country’s challenges, but chose instead to focus on the positives and action plans.
On education, he noted: “It is about the 81% of learners who passed matric last year, with an increasing proportion coming from rural and township schools. For this great achievement, we applaud the Class of 2019.”
He added: “This year, we will be introducing coding and robotics in grades R to 3 in 200 schools, with a plan to implement it fully by 2022.”
On the power crisis, he said the government would seek to diversify electricity generation, and new regulations would enable “the development of additional grid capacity from renewable energy, natural gas, hydro power, battery storage and coal”.
On Prasa’s problems, Ramaphosa noted the Central line in the Western Cape had been closed for repairs and upgrades.
“We are investing R1.4 billion in each of these lines to provide a safe, reliable and affordable service,” he said.
On policing, he said “Anti-Gang Units will be further strengthened, with priority given to the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and Free State.
“Following the graduation of 5 000 police trainees last year, 7 000 new police trainees have been enlisted this year to strengthen local policing.”
The Domestic Violence Act would be amended to better protect victims in violent domestic relationships.
And the Sexual Offences Act would broaden the categories of sex offenders whose names must be included in the National Register for Sex Offenders.
“We will pass a law to tighten bail and sentencing conditions in cases that involve gender-based violence,” he said
Government will not let up in the fight against corruption and state capture, he added.
On land reform and land redistribution, “government stands ready... to amend section 25 of the Constitution - to table an Expropriation Bill that outlines the circumstances under which expropriation of land without compensation would be permissible”.
“To date, we have released 44 000 hectares of state land for the settlement of land restitution claims," Ramaphosa said.