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Defence Minister ‘not aware’ of signal blocking

Opposition MPs say they want an investigation into the signal jamming device in Parliament.

Democratic Alliance MPs walk out of Parliament during the 2015 State of the Nation Address on 12 February.

CAPE TOWN - Defence Minister Noziviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says she was not aware the cellphone signal to the National Assembly was jammed on Thursday night during President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation Address (Sona).

Angry Members of Parliament (MPs) also complained of not having the correct password to access Parliament's WiFi.

Service was restored after chants of " bring back the signal" from opposition benches but there are now calls for an investigation into the matter.

Watch: 'Bring back the signal'

MPs and journalists say the Constitutional right to freedom of information was breached.

Mapisa-Nqakula chairs government's security cluster.

"I wasn't aware. Anyway, I have nothing to do with matters of technology so I don't know whether it was jammed deliberately or not. What I do know is that democratic forces of South Africa, the people who fought for this liberation have won."

When plain-clothed security officials removed the EFF MPs, Parliament's cameras were focused on the presiding officers.

Images of the scuffles that ensued only emerged because opposition MPs were able to record them with their cellphones once the signals were restored.

Watch: Malema dragged from Parliament.

At the same time, Democratic Alliance (DA) Parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane is calling for an investigation into the scrambling of the cellphone signal.

He is also calling on the chamber to identity the security officials who forcibly removed the EFF MPs.

Maimane and his entire DA caucus walked out of the chamber after failing to get clarity from the presiding officers on whether the men, dressed in white shirts and black trousers, were police or Parliamentary security staff.

Watch: DA walks out of National Assembly

EFF leader Julius Malema says seven MPs were injured in the scuffle, and that one, Reneilwe Mashabela, was taken to hospital last night.

Maimane says the EFF MPs should have obeyed the speaker's ruling but that their violent removal was also wrong.

"There were men who came in dressed like waiters who then acted in an unparliamentary and unconstitutional manner. They were armed and nobody could tell us who they were."

Picture: @tokelonhlapo via Twitter

Maimane says jamming the cellphone signal was an assault on the right to freedom of information.

Meanwhile, the South African National Editors Forum says it's disgusted by the cut off in communications inside the chamber.

Political analysts say the jamming of signals is a worrying sign of the times, where Parliament is being dominated by the executive and explanations are needed.

Political analyst Richard Calland says, "It's a breach of the Constitution, it's a breach of the right to freely interact with information and expression."

Political analyst Judith February says answers are needed from those who issued the order to jam the signal inside the National Assembly.

She says it's a sad day for democracy.

"It's going to be very difficult for Parliament to recover from this. It's going to be very difficult for all of us. It's been a difficult night and Zuma for all his laughing and his amusement seemingly at this. This is a difficult night and at some parts disgraceful."

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