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SA parliament brawl over Zuma heckling

Do Not UseDo Not Use 4/05/2016
South African opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters MP Godrich Gardee (C, in red) is evicted with fellow EFF members during the South African president"s budget speech at the South African parliament in Cape Town on May 4, 2016.: The EFF MPs say they regard Mr Zuma as an "illegitimate" president © AFP The EFF MPs say they regard Mr Zuma as an "illegitimate" president

A brawl broke out in the South African parliament on Wednesday after security officers were ordered to forcibly remove opposition MPs from the chamber.

South African President Jacob Zuma give his state of the nation address in Cape Town, South Africa, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016: Mr Zuma is under pressure over alleged corruption © AP Mr Zuma is under pressure over alleged corruption

Several punches were thrown as members of the left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) were expelled for heckling President Jacob Zuma.

One of the Saab Gripen fighter jets, bought by the South African Airforce, as part of the country's controversial arms deal - Cape Town, South Africa, 2006 © AFP One of the Saab Gripen fighter jets, bought by the South African Airforce, as part of the country's controversial arms deal - Cape Town, South Africa, 2006

It was Mr Zuma's first appearance in parliament since two damning court rulings against him.

On Friday, a court said that Mr Zuma should be charged with corruption.

African news updates

The colourful and controversial Zuma

The case is related to a multi-billion dollar arms deal the government negotiated in 1999.

Mr Zuma denies any wrongdoing, and says he will continue to "shepherd" the nation. His term is due to end in 2019.

Last month, South Africa's highest court, the Constitutional Court, ruled that Mr Zuma had violated the constitution when he failed to repay government money used to upgrade his private home in the rural area of Nkandla.

Mmusi Maimane, leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), was forced to withdraw his description in parliament of Mr Zuma as the "looter-in-chief", following objections from the governing African National Congress (ANC) benches.

ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu said Mr Zuma had "not been found to have looted anything anywhere, by any court of law".

EFF MPs had earlier denounced Mr Zuma as an "illegitimate" ruler who should step down.

"We are going to debate giving him money today, when he is facing over 700 charges of corruption," EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said, South Africa's News24 site reports.

Despite the chaotic scenes, Mr Zuma delivered a speech focusing on government plans to improve South Africa's struggling economy.

"Economic transformation remains pivotal to ensuring a better life for all," he said.

The High Court said on Friday that prosecutors should review their 2009 decision to drop 783 charges of corruption, fraud and racketeering against Mr Zuma over the arms deal.

After the Constitutional Court ruling, the Democratic Alliance failed in a bid to impeach Mr Zuma as the ANC rallied behind him in parliament.

Controversial arms deal: What you need to know

1999: largest-ever post-apartheid arms deal announced with contracts totalling 30bn rand ($5bn; £2.5bn) to modernise national defence force

Deal involved companies from Germany, Italy, Sweden, the UK, France and South Africa

Allegations of bribery over deal dogged governments of President Jacob Zuma and predecessor Thabo Mbeki

Mr Zuma's former financial adviser Schabir Shaik convicted in 2005 for corruption over deal. Found guilty of trying to solicit bribe from Thint, local subsidiary of French arms firm Thales, on behalf of Mr Zuma - then deputy president. Released on parole on health grounds after serving just over two years

Another official, Tony Yengeni, chairman of parliament's defence committee at time of deal and ANC chief whip, convicted of fraud in 2003. Also freed on parole after serving five months of four-year sentence

April 2016: commission of inquiry into deal found no further evidence of corruption or fraud.

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