South Africa opposition pursues assault charges after parliament brawl

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma participates in a panel discussion on the future of Africa during the U.S.-Africa Business Forum in Washington August 5, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's main opposition party said on Monday it had asked law-enforcement authorities to charge a government minister and police with assault after several of its parliamentary deputies were injured during a brawl.

Police entered the chamber during session on Thursday for the first time since the 1994 end of apartheid after a furious debate over alleged graft in a $23 million state-funded upgrade to President Jacob Zuma's house.

Critics said the episode, in which witnesses said lawmakers from the ruling African National Congress cheered as police physically ejected rival deputies, was an example of increased ANC thuggery to chill dissent. The ANC denies such accusations.

The ANC said the disturbance arose from "anarchy" caused by the two leading opposition parties, although TV footage showed members of all three parties trading insults. Police entered the chamber after a live television feed of the debate had ended.

"Three MPs laid charges against the police for assault, and a fourth MP has laid charges against Deputy Minister for Higher Education and Training Mduduzi Manana," the opposition Democratic Alliance said in a statement. "Some of our members of parliament were injured in the assault."

It said Manana had roughed up a DA parliamentarian.

Police spokesmen and officials from Manana's office did not respond to requests for comment.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela reported in March that Zuma had "benefited unduly" from some of the upgrades, which included a cattle enclosure and an amphitheatre, at his residence and should pay back some of the costs of unnecessary renovations.

An alternative parliamentary report, compiled by ANC members only after opposition lawmakers walked out of the committee, cleared Zuma of any blame.

Zuma has spoken of wrongdoing by officials who authorized spending on Zuma's residence and said they should be prosecuted, but has not commented on accusations against himself.

(Reporting by Joe Brock; Editing by Mark Heinrich)