South Africa 15.2.2015 04:45 pm

SAPS drawn into SONA politics

FILE PICTURE: Police officers arrest a Democratic Alliance supporter near Parliament in Cape Town before President Jacob Zuma's state of the nation address, Thursday, 12 February 2015.Picture: Nardus Engelbrecht/SAPA

FILE PICTURE: Police officers arrest a Democratic Alliance supporter near Parliament in Cape Town before President Jacob Zuma's state of the nation address, Thursday, 12 February 2015.Picture: Nardus Engelbrecht/SAPA

Police should not be drawn into political affairs in Parliament, as they were during the state-of-the-nation address, Western Cape community safety MEC Dan Plato said on Sunday.

“It is critical that Saps is not used as muscle for hire against opposing voices or for party-political gain,” Plato said in a statement.

“This appears to be what police officers were used for during the state-of-the-nation address on Thursday night, he said.

Officers who were apparently part of the public order police unit removed Economic Freedom Fighters MPs from the National Assembly when they disrupted President Jacob Zuma’s speech.

Plato said he had asked national police commissioner Riah Phiyega and Western Cape provincial commissioner Arno Lamoer to clarify the police’s actions.

He said parliamentary security staff reported to Parliament and its structures and the police reported to the executive.

On Thursday, however police entered the house when Speaker Baleka Mbete called for EFF MPs to be removed.

“[This] means that the state-controlled police infringed on the independence of Parliament and violated the South African Constitution.”

Plato said he had been told that heavily-armed police officers were seen readying themselves before proceedings started.

“The validity of these claims needs to be confirmed and if true, needs to be explained, particularly, on whose instruction they had gathered outside the Chamber, why such extreme measures were adopted and why such an excessive use of force was chosen,” he said.

Plato was concerned about the force allegedly used, including water cannons, to disperse people who had gathered to peacefully protest.

He said while he understood the state-of-the-nation address required increased security to protect the president, the executive, judiciary, MPs and foreign dignitaries, the police were out of their jurisdiction.

Zuma’s speech was delayed by complaints from MPs and the media that the cellphone signal in the National Assembly had been jammed. The device was turned off before Zuma took to the podium.

DA MPs walked out before the speech when Speaker Baleka Mbete and National Council of Provinces chairwoman Thandi Modise failed to explain if police, or Parliament’s security officers, were used to remove the EFF’s MPs.

 

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