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‘There’s nothing untoward about the presence of SANDF in Parliament'

Jacob Zuma says soldiers’ participation during Sona should not be viewed as a deployment of the SANDF.

FILE: Members of the Parliament look on as members of the Economic Freedom Fighters, wearing red uniforms, clash with security forces during South African President's State of the Nation address in Cape Town on 12 February, 2015.

CAPE TOWN - President Jacob Zuma has finally responded to questions about the presence of South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members in Parliament earlier this year.

Zuma's office today issued a statement containing his replies to Parliamentary questions.

One of the questions, from the Democratic Alliance's (DA) John Steenhuisen, was about the specific functions of SANDF members during Zuma's State of the Nation Address (Sona).

Zuma says there's nothing untoward about the presence of SANDF members in Parliament.

The president says soldiers' participation during Sona earlier this year should not be viewed or interpreted as a deployment of the SANDF.

He says soldiers were carrying out a ceremonial tradition and assisted in securing the parliamentary precinct.

Members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) were violently escorted out of the National Assembly in February, after demanding Zuma pays back the money for security upgrades to his Nkandla home.

In May, it was announced that Western Cape High Court judgment on the use of police to arrest and remove disruptive Members of Parliament (MPs) was destined to be heard in the Constitutional Court.

But Parliament said it was going to initiate an appeal against the court's ruling.

The DA took Parliament to court after EFF MPs were dragged out of the National Assembly chamber by police officers in plain clothes.

The court declared Section 11 of the Powers Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act invalid because it allows MPs to be arrested for what they say in Parliament.

The court referred the matter to the Constitutional Court for confirmation.

But Parliament was appealing because it was concerned about the chaotic degeneration of debates.

Secretary of Parliament Gengezi Mgidlana said, "The issue that we are dealing with was not about arresting members it was about making sure that we have proper decorum."

The DA, Congress of the People (Cope) and the EFF welcomed the judgment.