They have also given assurances to opposition parties that the soldiers will not be deployed inside the parliamentary precinct.
Parliament seemed to backtrack on the army deployment following objections about the larger than usual army deployment‚ which has more than tripled since 2013.
In 2013 there were 168 soldiers deployed to parliament for Sona‚ with 188 in 2015‚ compared to 441 this year.
There is no record of deployment for last year’s Sona in parliament announcements‚ tailings and committee reports.
The governing party’s chief whip Jackson Mthembu on Wednesday came out strongly against the decision to deploy more than 400 SA National Defence Force (SANDF) calling for the matter to be corrected.
“I’ve not heard anything that suggests that the military has been sent to parliament‚ I’ve not heard that. I’ve spoken to the presidency‚ there is not such indication that there is military being sent to parliament. Obviously we will be opposed to any military being sent to parliament. The role of military in parliament is ceremonial as all of us know‚” said Mthembu.
He said those responsible for drafting Zuma’s letter to parliament “must correct the wording” of the letter.
Mthembu spoke just before a meeting between Speaker Baleka Mbete and party chief whips where Mbete is said to have given an assurance that there will be no army deployment inside parliament.
In a letter dated February 2‚ the presidency said the deployment of the SANDF will assist the South African Police Service (SAPS) “to maintain law and order during the opening of Parliament”.
After a meeting with Speaker Baleka Mbete and NCOP chairperson Thandi Modise‚ DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said the opposition raised very strong objections to the deployment of the military.
“I said it’s completely not business as usual. We’ve been given an assurance by the speaker and the chairperson (Modise) that these military people will not be allowed on the parliamentary precinct at all. They said they didn’t request the military to come‚ it’s something the president has done‚ they don’t know why the president has deployed so many people‚” said Steenhuisen.
Opposition parties also feel the Sona will be all talk and no action when President Jacob Zuma delivers his speech on Thursday night.
Opposition parties including the ruling ANC have called for concrete action and tangible results.
The economy‚ or “radical economic transformation” are expected to be the main features. “What we will have is the usual talk. The president talks a good game. There’s gonna be zero follow through. That has typified every one of his Sona addresses. He makes grand political pronouncements‚ grand political promises but never translates. One remembers the one when he said he would create all those jobs‚ it never happened‚ instead we lost jobs‚” said Steenhuisen.
EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said they will hold Zuma accountable‚ even though they don’t recognise him as president.
On what the speech should focus on‚ he repeated the party’s call to expropriate land without compensation.
“That’s the only solution to land reform. You’ve also got to then immediately establish a state bank. Such a state bank must be a proper bank‚” said Ndlozi.
On the army deployment Ndlozi said it was designed to “intimidate us and it’s unconstitutional”.
“Parliament is a separate arm of the state. He wants us to be intimidated and go to parliament with guns on our heads. That’s what it means‚” said Ndlozi.
He said Zuma should be the one walking out of the National Assembly chamber instead of them.
“He must walk out‚ not us. He must go‚” said Ndlozi.
Mthembu said they would like to see more “tangible movement” with regards to black ownership of productive assets of the country.
“We have already spoken on those views at our lekgotla‚ including land. We would like to see serious programmes and progress with regards to these matters.
“We would like to see actual proof. We would like concrete action with regards to these matters of an economic nature‚” said Mthembu.