National 11.9.2016 02:08 pm

Creating ‘Fort Parliament’ expensive and undemocratic, says DA

FILE PICTURE: Members of the South African National Defence Force and Cultural Dance Groups preparing for the State Of The Nation Address (SONA) at the Parliament in Cape Town. 15/06/2014.

FILE PICTURE: Members of the South African National Defence Force and Cultural Dance Groups preparing for the State Of The Nation Address (SONA) at the Parliament in Cape Town. 15/06/2014.

It has been reported that the parliament precinct is being fortified with bulletproof glass, body scanners and perimeter fencing.

Proposed draconian security upgrades to parliament will not only undermine democracy but its exorbitant cost will also threaten the effective functioning of parliament, the Democratic Alliance said on Sunday.

The DA would continue to oppose the costly and unnecessary security upgrades to parliament that did not support the effective functioning of the House, DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said.

“We will not allow the securitisation of parliament, which further separates the people from those who are supposed to serve them. We are deeply concerned over the increasing securitisation of parliament, including mooted security upgrades involving full body scanners and bulletproof glass panels surrounding the public gallery, as reported in the City Press today [Sunday].”

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It had now become commonplace for the parliamentary precinct to be locked down ahead of President Jacob Zuma’s visits to the legislature. These included a familiar influx of uniformed police officers and the spreading of barbed wire along the perimeter, but also involved unidentified members of the intelligence agencies, such as those who famously installed signal jammers in the National Assembly ahead of Zuma’s state of the nation address, he said.

Parliament was a public institution and the parliamentary precinct should not become inaccessible to the public wishing to see the work done in the legislature. This was the people’s parliament and the people should be able to exercise oversight over its functioning. It should be made as easy as possible and as safe as possible to do.

“The proposed draconian security upgrades will not only undermine democracy, its exorbitant cost will also threaten the effective functioning of parliament. The parliamentary budget is already overextended, notably through unrestrained and unchecked spending by Secretary to Parliament Mr Gengezi Mgidlana and costly labour disputes involving the same. We cannot allow dysfunction to take root at this institution,” Steenhuisen said.

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According to City Press, among the plans being mooted are the erection of a perimeter fence around parliament, along with full body scanners at all entrances and a drop-down bulletproof glass panel around the public galleries in the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces to protect MPs from members of the public sitting in the gallery.

This was the latest twist in increasing security, which now requires visitors to carry photo IDs and has seen an increase of uniformed police officers seconded to control access, City Press reported.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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