President Jacob Zuma has come under severe attack from opposition parties over his decision to deploy SANDF for his 2017 SONA scheduled for Thursday, February 9.
Zuma, on Tuesday, authorized the deployment of 441 soldiers to assist police in “law and order” activities for the opening of Parliament.
Members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) will be working in cooperation with the state Police Service “to maintain law and order during the Opening of Parliament where the President will deliver the State of the Nation Address 2017”.
BuzzSouthAfrican also gathered that the SANDF deployment would cost the country R204 000 because they are to work for five days – from February 5 to 10.
This decision by the presidency generated many comments from citizens with opposition parties like the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) describing the decision as “a declaration of war.”
While the ANC’s main opposition, the DA described Zuma’s decision as unnecessary and exploitative, the EFF said it shows Zuma is planning to murder those he disagrees with.
John Steenhuisen, the DA’s chief whip, said in a statement that the DA is seeking an ‘urgent meeting’ with Baleka Mbete, the speaker of Parliament, for a response from the House to the SANDF deployment.
“The DA will not stand by and allow for the people’s parliament to be turned into a security-state show of force, meant to intimidate opposition both inside and outside of the ANC,” the party said.
“No number of SANDF soldiers will deter us from holding you accountable in Parliament this week, or any other day of the year. We will not be intimidated,” Steenhuisen said, adding that the party would seek an urgent meeting with the speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, as the Head of the Legislative arm of the State, over this worrying development and seek a definitive response on behalf of Parliament that this sort of conduct will not be tolerated by the executive.
The EFF, on the other hand, condemned the initiative as the unleashing of the army on the people of South Africa. “It must be seen as the declaration of War on citizens, which means Zuma is planning to murder those he disagrees with at the Sona,” the EFF said, accusing Zuma of trying to intimidate the media and politicians, saying that he has no confidence in Constitutional processes and now wants captains and the SAPS to execute his illegal decisions and actions.
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said the deployment of the soldiers in Parliament for the SONA showed that Zuma was a man in panic.
But like the DA and the EFF, Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos said Zuma’s decision appears to be a “flagrant breach of the separation of powers”.
In a statement posted to social media, De Vos said that the executive branch of government (the president) cannot deploy the arm to another branch – in this case the legislature.
“Imagine the president deployed 450 soldiers to the Constitutional Court while it was busy deciding whether the state of capture report was valid – it would be an outrage,” he said citing a Constitutional Court case between the Democratic Alliance against the Speaker of the National Assembly, which makes specific reference to the dangers of the executive abusing the army to intimidate MPs, be it directly or indirectly.
In the ruling, ConCourt noted that Parliament is entrusted with the task to oversee the executive, warning that “tyrannical rule is usually at the hands of the executive,” because it had control over the police and the army.
“Even in a democracy, one cannot discount the temptation of the improper use of state organs to further the interests of some within the executive,” the court said.
To make sure it can fulfill its role of executive oversight, Parliament needs to operate in an environment that guarantees freedom from arrest, detention, prosecution or harassment, “of whatever nature”, it said.
De Vos also made mention of several steps in the process to deploy troops who appear to have been skipped by President Zuma in his order. He specifically questioned whether the president informed Parliament of the SANDF deployment and given reasons for it as required by section 201 of the Constitution.