It is hardly surprising that the EFF is seething over what seems very much like a dictatorial edict from the office of the presidency, which baldly states that “President Jacob Zuma has authorised the deployment of members of the South African National Defence Force for service in cooperation with the South African Police Service to maintain law and order during the opening of parliament”, where he will deliver the State of the Nation address on Thursday.
The EFF have not always stuck to the niceties of parliamentary procedure, but it cannot be denied that the red berets bore the brunt of the chaos that followed the party’s forced removal from the House of Assembly by security personnel – at least, one of them identified as a police officer – in 2014.
Zuma has, many believe, overstepped his mandate by bringing in 441 soldiers to “protect” the parliamentary precinct, rather than serve a purely ceremonial function in the House – the sanctity of which is one of the very cornerstones of our democracy.
It also is – the prevailing thinking of the legal experts – against our constitution, which rules strictly on the separation of powers.
“The executive cannot deploy the army to another branch of government – the legislature”, was the feeling of constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos. “Imagine if the president deployed 450 soldiers to the Constitutional Court while it was busy deciding whether the State of Capture report was valid. In both cases, it would be an outrage.”
There is also the parallel issue of whether Zuma should have made the call in the first place. Parliamentary security surely is the prerogative of the Speaker of the House, Baleka Mbete, who seemed to have been bypassed in the considerations.
There are any number of issues on which we would differ strongly with the EFF. This issue, however, is not one of them.