DA goes to court to have Parliament army deployment declared unconstitutional and illegal


DA goes to court to have Parliament army deployment declared unconstitutional and illegal

Bekezela Phakathi | 2017-02-10 12:36:34.0

Leader of the Democratic Alliance Mmusi Maimane is pictured ahead of President Zuma's State of the Nation Address in Cape Town

Leader of the Democratic Alliance Mmusi Maimane.



The Democratic Alliance (DA) has filed an application in the High Court in Cape Town seeking a declaration that the deployment of the army in the Parliamentary precinct for non-ceremonial purposes was unconstitutional and unlawful.

This is after President Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address descended into chaos on Thursday night amid claims that armed soldiers were deployed to bully opposition MPs and journalists.

EFF MPs were violently ejected from the Chamber by parliamentary protection officers believed to be members of the South African Police Service. The EFF MPs were forced out of the house after they raised numerous points of orders‚ delaying Zuma’s address by more than an hour.

As the chaos continued to unfold in and outside the chamber‚ DA leader Mmusi Maimane led his party in a dramatic walkout after pepper spray was discharged in the visitors’ gallery and what sounded like a stun grenade was detonated outside the National Assembly. Maimane said the army and riot police were deployed to protect one man: President Jacob Zuma.

The DA leader said during a media briefing on Friday that the party was headed to court to ensure “the gradual securitisation and militarisation of Parliament is halted once and for all”.

“The presence of the South African National Defence Force‚ in a way that far exceeded a mere ceremonial role‚ can never be tolerated again. Armed Military Police‚ with live ammunition‚ on the precinct of Parliament is completely untenable in a Constitutional democracy‚” said Maimane.

“Further‚ the excessive use of force by the Parliamentary security forces‚ the use of pepper spray in the public gallery‚ and the Speaker’s flouting of proper procedure for the expulsion of Members from the Chamber; should all be declared unlawful and unconstitutional.”

Maimane added: “Our court action is to ensure that the integrity of parliament is restored‚ and that we can make the work of Parliament about the people of South Africa once more. It ought to be an institution in which we can fight for the poor and the excluded. And an institution which vigorously holds power to account.”

The presidency announced two days before the state of the nation address that 441 members of the SANDF would be deployed until Friday to help the police “maintain law and order” during the opening of Parliament.

However‚ Parliament’s presiding officers insisted before the state of the nation address that the soldiers would not be deployed within the precincts and the Chamber.

“The only time this may happen is when there is a threat to life and property‚that is of such a nature that the South African Police Services (SAPS) cannot handle it. Their deployment in this regard will be at the request of the SAPS‚” Parliament said at the time.

Meanwhile‚ the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation said on Friday the “normalisation” of violence in Parliament will have long-term repercussions for South Africans trying to break the cycle of violence in the country.

“When violence becomes the norm as a way to resolve our problems‚ it eats into the social fabric of our society. This normalisation of violence is a concern. Even if new actors are sworn in to power‚ the act of violence as a way to deal with issues will remain‚” said the Centre’s executive director‚ Nomfundo Mogapi.

“If this is how Parliamentarians deal with difference then what message would it send to ordinary people if those in leadership react with violence to those who disagree with them‚” she said.

TMG Digital/BusinessLIVE

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