The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Wednesday said it “condemns, in the strongest terms possible, the militarisation of this year’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) by President Jacob Zuma” and was seeking an urgent audience with the Speaker over the matter.
On Tuesday, Zuma announced that members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) have been deployed in cooperation with the South African Police Service to maintain “law and order” at the Sona.
Reacting to the announcement, DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said: “This announcement is deeply concerning. President Zuma’s deliberate use of the words ‘law and order’ in his statement points to an excessive use of the army outside of their ceremonial role in the annual fanfare of the opening.”
Steenhuisen added: “I will accordingly seek an urgent meeting with the speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, as the head of the legislative arm of the state, over this worrying development and seek a definitive response on behalf of Parliament, that this sort of conduct will not be tolerated by the executive.”
He said the move by the president should be seen in the context of his recent desperate attempts to ensure protection from the criticism.
After the address, Zuma is expected to proceed to the Grand Parade, where African National Congress (ANC) supporters will be waiting to hear from him.
“No doubt the president hopes to use the SANDF as free security protection for his private party commitments on the day,” said the DA chief whip.
“The DA will not stand by and allow for the ‘people’s parliament’ to be turned into a security-state show of force, meant to intimidate opposition both inside and outside of the ANC.
“Our message to President Zuma tonight is clear: no number of SANDF soldiers will deter us from holding you accountable in parliament this week, or any other day of the year. We will not be intimidated.”