African National Congress (ANC) chief whip in Parliament Jackson Mthembu has urged opposition parties to behave when President Jacob Zuma delivers his State of the Nation Address on Thursday night.
Mthembu told The Huffington Post South Africa on Thursday that Zuma has a right to be in the National Assembly and those who fail to afford him the opportunity to carry out his duties should be disciplined in accordance with the rules.
"Whether you like the president or not, that's your business and we don't care. When you're in that Parliament, President Zuma is the president of the Republic. He has every right and every authority to come and address that Parliament as a person who needs to account to Parliament. He has every right and it's enshrined in the Constitution. If anybody wants to curtail that right, such a person must be dealt with in terms of the rules," he said.
Zuma's presence in Parliament has been characterised by chaotic scenes with opposition parties trying to disrupt him. At times, the opposition parties had staged walkouts, refusing to listen to him. The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has been very vocal in the past, refusing to listen to Zuma.
Mthembu called upon the presiding officers to stick to the rules and remove anyone failing to adhere to them, including members of the ANC.
"Our rules say if some people are not cooperative then as a presiding officer you can eject the people from the House ... If there are people who are mischievous, who are chaotic and disruptive, then the presiding officers must do what needs to happen to ensure the work of the House gets done," he added.
Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces Thandi Modise said the EFF had made its intentions clear, but she was confident that the business of the day would continue without glitches. She said that Parliament has not taken exceptional measures to deal with the possibility of disruptions. This was despite the announcement that Zuma has deployed 441 soldiers to assist police officers.
"The EFF was open about it and they said they won't let the president speak. So we can expect some excitement but we are resolute that the business of the day will start and finish on time. The measures in place are the rules. The serjeant-at-arms and the [Keeper of the Black] Rod are there for every sitting so we will simply apply what we have at our disposal. We have not gone out of our way in putting measures in place," she said.
But Democratic Alliance (DA) member and Tshwane Mayor Solly Msimanga said that to put an end to the chaos that erupts in Parliament when he speaks, Zuma must start by acknowledging his failures and apologising to the country.
"I think the president needs to step up and own up to the failures of his government. The moment you do that then you get people to listen to you and not act in the manner that they have been," Msimanga said on Thursday.
Msimanga attributed the actions of opposition parties to frustration with Zuma's administration.
"I think people are now frustrated and they are at their wits-end. We are not condoning acts of violence and we think he should be given an opportunity to explain to the people this country what plans he has to turn things around," said Msimanga.