Africa

Malema and EFF MPs suspended for heckling South African leader

Julius Malema speaks as he launches his Economic Freedom Fighters party in Johannesburg, South Africa on 11 July 2013 Image copyright AFP
Image caption The EFF, which was formed by Julius Malema last year, campaigns for radical policies to ease poverty

South African opposition party leader Julius Malema and 11 of his MPs have been suspended from parliament without pay for heckling the president.

During a parliamentary address by President Jacob Zuma in August, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) members had chanted "pay back the money".

They were referring to the use of some $23m (£14m) of state money to upgrade Mr Zuma's private home in Nkandla.

Earlier this month, parliament absolved him of any wrongdoing over the affair.

The EFF says it will fight the suspensions, which range from 14 to 30 days, in court.

'Anarchy'

The sanctions follow an investigation by a parliamentary committee into the EFF members' conduct.

On Thursday night, the National Assembly voted to adopt its recommendations.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The improvements at Nkandla included a swimming pool and cattle enclosure

Another eight EFF MPs were ordered to apologise to the house and forfeit two weeks' salary.

The spokesman for the governing African National Congress (ANC) said the party chief whip's office welcomed the suspensions as it sent "a strong message that anarchy, disruption, total disregard for the rules of the house and the rulings of the presiding officers" could not be tolerated by parliament.

Speaking to his supporters outside parliament, Mr Malema said the move was unacceptable.

"You cannot have a fair process if the ANC is the judge, lawyer and policeman," he said.

Other opposition parties have supported the EFF's position that the powers and privileges committee hearings were not fair.

The official opposition Democratic Alliance described the committee as a "kangaroo court".

A one-time ally of the president, Mr Malema formed the EFF last year following his expulsion from the governing ANC in 2012.

The party has 25 MPs in the 400-member parliament, calls for radical policies to ease poverty and has been very critical of Mr Zuma over the Nkandla affair.

In March, the country's corruption investigator said Mr Zuma had "unduly benefited" from the improvements at his rural residence and recommended he repay money used on non-security features, including a swimming pool, cattle enclosure and chicken run.

The government has always argued that the work was needed to improve security.

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