Secretary to parliament Gengezi Mgidlana apparently confirmed to opposition parties on Wednesday that President Jacob Zuma was in breach of the constitution in 2016 when he failed to write to parliament to inform it that 188 members of the defence force would be deployed for Thursday’s state of the nation address (Sona).
This year, Zuma did write a letter and more than 440 members of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) were on Wednesday putting the finishing touches to their plans to “maintain law and order”.
An undisclosed number of police officers and 441 SANDF members – authorised on Tuesday by Zuma – spent the day fine-tuning procedures, undergoing standing inspections by senior officers and dealing with the hordes of people wanting access to the parliamentary precinct.
Political parties have reacted with fury to the deployment of the SANDF. And the Democratic Alliance has claimed that the Gauteng Provincial Traffic Police sent 20 officers and 18 motorbikes to assist with preparations and strengthen the presence of state at Zuma’s 10th national address.
“It begs the question as to why these provincial traffic police, who should be serving on Gauteng’s many freeways, have been moved out of the province to assist with the Sona,” said Gauteng provincial legislature member John Moodey on Wednesday.
“The Western Cape and the City of Cape Town are fully capacitated to manage Sona with their provincial traffic police and metro police officers.”
The Gauteng department of safety was unavailable for comment on Wednesday.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said on Wednesday the national joint operational and intelligence structure was ready for any eventuality.
“It is in the best interest of our country that a conducive environment is created to enable the delivery of the Sona,” he said.
“All departments within the justice, crime prevention and security cluster, as well as other critical role players have, in accordance with their mandates, been activated to mobilise the resources necessary to ensure the Sona is delivered in a safe and secure environment.”
Any action aimed at disrupting Zuma’s address or causing inconvenience to any law-abiding citizen would be dealt with accordingly, Naidoo warned.
The Economic Freedom Fighters slammed the deployment of troops, describing it as “a declaration of war on citizens, which means Zuma is planning to murder those he disagrees with at the Sona”.
“The military are people who are deployed for war and whose training is about killing the enemies of the state,” added the EFF.