Defence force deployment to SONA ‘nothing new’‚ says country’s top cop
Roxanne Henderson | 2017-02-08 17:48:51.0
Police commissioner Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane.
Image by: SIMPHIWE NKWALI
Acting national police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane insists the deployment of soldiers to Parliament this week‚ ahead of the State of the Nation Address‚ is nothing out of the ordinary.
President Jacob Zuma has authorised the deployment of 441 members of the South African National Defence Force to Parliament until Friday.
The SANDF members will help police “maintain law and order” during the opening of parliament‚ the Presidency said in a statement on Tuesday night.
Speaking to Redi Tlhabi on 702‚ Phahlane said the SANDF would play the supporting role it usually plays at the SONA.
“The SANDF in events of this nature play a support role. They are never in the forefront operationally.
“It is not the first time we will be ensuring the safety of everyone during the State of the Nation Address with the SANDF. They have always been there and they will always have a part to play in this process.”
Phahlane said that soldiers would not be performing any duties mandated to the South African Police Service.
“This joint structure‚ it is a structure led by the South African Police Service. The deployment of people tomorrow‚ to secure the SONA‚ is led by the South African Police Service. So there is nothing unusual.
“The police will continue to perform all those functions that you and me know‚ including crowd control. It is not a function that is going to be performed by the national defence force.”
Though Phahlane is adamant that the deployment is business as usual‚ SA National Defence Union National Secretary Pikkie Greeff said the move was “out of the norm”.
“It certainly is unprecedented‚” he said on Tuesday.
Greeff would not comment further on the deployment.
Security is expected to be unusually tight at this year’s address.
At least seven streets are expected to be closed surrounding the parliamentary precinct‚ according to an internal memorandum from secretary to parliament Gengezi Mgidlana to all staff members.
Staff who are not performing any specific duties on the day of the address have been told not to come in.
Parliament has also said journalists will be restricted to a “media square” – a move that has raised concerns about the ability of journalists to cover SONA freely.
The deployment will last until February 10.