Concerns raised over Presidency’s decision to deploy SANDF at Sona

The Presidency on Tuesday night announced that President Zuma has authorised 441 SANDF members to be deployed at Parliament.

FILE: President Jacob Zuma makes his way up the steps towards Parliament for Sona 2016 while the ceremonial guard stands at attention. With him is Speaker Baleka Mbete. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN..

CAPE TOWN – Concerns have been raised over the Presidency’s decision to deploy South African National Defence Force (SANDF) troops to Parliament during the State of the Nation Address (Sona), with the Democratic Alliance (DA) criticising the move and the Right2Know Campaign calling it controversial.

The Presidency on Tuesday night announced that President Jacob Zuma had authorised 441 SANDF members to be deployed at Parliament between 5 and 10 February to maintain law and order.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen says it will seek an urgent meeting with National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete on the matter.

“We have already had several rulings from the courts around the use of military and the army on the precinct and the potential it has for tyranny and intimidation. This is a people’s precinct, it should be a precinct of democratic discourse, discussions and debate.”

The Right2Know Campaign’s Murray Hunter says, “It’s a very controversial thing to bring the military. Even the South African Police Service has operational command. We know that the military is there for different purposes.”

But the Presidency’s Bongani Ngqulunga says the request to deploy the military officials came from the Defence Department.

“Normally when the president deploys troops, the Presidency doesn’t communicate on it, because the request comes from the Defence Department."

He says, “They are bound by law and the Constitution that they should ask the president when they want to deploy troops, and that’s the reason why it becomes the president’s decision.”

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)