No extraordinary security measures for SONA

No extraordinary security measures for SONA

There will be no extraordinary security measures during this year’s state-of-the-nation address (SONA). 

Baleka Mbete_gallo
File photo: Gallo Images

This despite Economic Freedom Fighters threats to disrupt President Jacob Zuma’s address and the ANC Youth League’s (ANCYL) counter threats that the EFF should expect civil war if they followed through with their disruption plans, National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete said on Tuesday.

“It’s not special or anything different this year from 21 years ago when we arrived here where there’s always cooperation between the three arms of the State, including in the area of security forces of the State,” said Mbete at a media briefing where Parliament’s presiding officers outlined the plans for Thursday’s opening of the legislature.

Mbete said the same security precautions employed during previous SONAs would apply this year, but she did warn that new parliamentary rules adopted last year would be strictly enforced. The new rules make it possible for South African MPs who refuse an order by a presiding officer to leave the National Assembly chamber to be hauled off the Parliamentary precinct by members of the parliamentary security services.

“We will apply the rules, yes. Have no doubt about it,” Mbete said in the strongest indication yet that EFF MPs will most likely be booted if they insist, as promised, that Zuma would not be allowed to deliver the SONA until he answers questions on why he fired Nhlanhla Nene last year.

Last year, EFF leader Julius Malema and his fellow MPs were physically removed from the House after demanding that Zuma “pay back the money”, referring to their demands that the President pay back a portion of taxpayers’ money used to effect upgrades to his Nkandla homestead.

Police officers and parliamentary security personnel dressed in white shirt clashed with the EFF MPs inside the House, delaying Zuma’s speech.

Mbete said during last year’s disruption, Parliament did not have the necessary personnel contracted to remove people from the National Assembly. Since then several former police officers were appointed for this purpose.

“We went through a process whereby we acquired the necessary human resources in this regard and we actually got peole who are now part of the parliamentary protection services so we feel better where we are…”

On the ANCYL President Collen Maine’s counterthreat against the EFF that “if needs be, we declare civil war, if people want to attack the revolution and the president”, Mbete at first said the youth league’s comments were not being factored into plannining for the SONA.

She however later condemned the inflammatory statements from the both the EFF and ANCYL.

“First of all to be provocative and be irresponsible and say you are planning to disrupt the state-of-the-nation address cannot be referred to as responsible and be welcomed,” sadi Mbete.

“To then say there’s going to be a civil war is also totally out of order and I believe the ANC has said as much after this incident of the youth league leader.”

Mbete said there would be no major changes to the ceremonial part of the SONA, which would see Zuma’s motorcade driving through the city centre, before he starts his walk on the red carpet at the gates to Parliament.

She confirmed that some of the dignitaries that have RSVP’d for the event included former President Thabo Mbeki and his wife, chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and his wife and former speaker Frene Ginwala.

The economic crunch and the need for the State to cut down on costs would however put a damper on post-Sona celebrations. MPs will this year not be treated to a post-SONA dinner to “make a saving in that regard”, said Mbete. - ANA

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