Phahlane: Nothing unusual about SANDF deployment at Sona

The Presidency announced the deployment of 441 SANDF members during the State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Thursday night.

FILE: Khomotso Phahlane. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Acting National Police Commissioner Kgomotso Phahlane has reiterated that there’s nothing unusual about the deployment of some 441 members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) during the State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Thursday night.

This follows criticism of the announcement made by President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday.

Security is expected to be tighter this year with extended road closures and beefed up police presence to deal with any protests.

Phahlane says the SANDF has always been part of proceedings at the Sona.

“This joint structure is a structure that is led by the South African Police Service. The deployment of people tomorrow to secure Sona is led by SAPS, so there is nothing unusual.”

#Sona2017 road closures

Make sure you avoid these roads on Thursday when President Jacob Zuma delivers the 2017 Sona in Parliament.

Meanwhile, President Zuma’s decision to deploy more than 400 Defence Force members to help police maintain law and order for his Sona has come under fire.

SANDF members have been working with police since Sunday and will only step down on Friday.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) says it’s seeking an urgent meeting with National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete and has condemned what it calls the 'militarisation' of this year’s Sona.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has described the move as 'a declaration of war'.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen says: “It’s quite ridiculous the extent they’re going to lock down the precinct. It really is quite over the top, draconian and harks back to the worst days of the security state in South Africa.”

The EFF’s Mbuyiseni Ndlozi says the move’s intended to intimidate the media and the EFF.

“In expressing serious concerns about the securitisation of the people’s Parliament, it’s regrettable and it must be condemned in the strongest terms.”

Deputy National Assembly Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli has defended the security measures as necessary following previous disruptions of Zuma’s annual address.

(Edited by Winnie Theletsane)