South African President Jacob Zuma received a hostile reception when he opened parliament on Thursday (12 February), as security officers fought with far-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) lawmakers after they disrupted Zuma's speech.

Zuma's first State Of The Nation address since winning an election last May had been billed as an opportunity for him to highlight the achievements of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and its plans for the year ahead.

However, EFF lawmakers, led by firebrand former-ANC youth leader Julius Malema, used the event as an opportunity to pepper Zuma with questions about an investigation into a $23 million state-funded security upgrade to his home.

Malema and speaker of parliament Baleka Mbete, were involved in a heated exchange of words.

Speaker Mbete ordered EFF members not to ask any more questions before ordering they be removed by security officers, prompting a brief brawl in which several people were injured, witnesses said.

Lawmakers from the main opposition Democratic Alliance then walked out of the chamber after calling the removal of EFF members unconstitutional.

Malema struck a defiant note outside parliament.

"We are going to continue holding this executive accountable, we are going to be part of this parliament, we not going anywhere, we will continue to raise our issues without fear or favour."

"When we were scuffling with them, they asked us outside not to fight back because they are police, and fighting them back will mean fighting a law enforcement officer. That's how we came to an understanding and walked away," he said, adding that seven EEF members were injured in the brawl.

South Africa's usually calm parliament has been shaken-up since the EFF won 25 seats in May's election.