An address to parliament by South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has been halted by MPs from an opposition party, the new Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) led by Julius Malema, which led to the intervention of riot police.
Malema formed the EFF last year following his expulsion from the ANC in 2012.
A one-time ally of Mr Zuma, he had been sacked after the pair fell out, with Mr Malema calling for radical policies to ease poverty.
The EFF often wear red workers’ overalls in parliament.
Mr Zuma was responding to allegations that he had “unduly benefitted” from an upgrade to his private home in Nkandla which cost taxpayers about $23m.
The EFF MPs were not satisfied with his explanation and started chanting: “Pay back the money.”
Parliament was suspended and security called to oust the EFF group.
Police entered parliament in Cape Town carrying riot shields, tear gas and batons but then aborted their plans to forcibly remove the EFF MPs.
The governing African National Congress (ANC) said it was “appalled” by the behaviour of the EFF parliamentarians.
The Democratic Alliance, the largest opposition party, said the EFF’s “theatrics” meant South Africans “did not get answers from the president, to which they were rightfully entitled”.
Parliamentary session will probably resume on Friday.
Many MPs were waiting to question the president when the session was suspended.
After being pressed by Mr Malema on when he would repay the Nkandla money, Mr Zuma said he had “responded appropriately to parliament” and said it was now in the hands of the government.
The EFF has 25 MPs in the 400-member parliament after gaining 6% of the national vote in May’s election.
It was the first election contested by the EFF.