With the outcry against the SONA military employment, Parliament issued a statement clarifying the circumstances that would warrant the unleashing of the South African Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers.
Parliament said it’s wrong to believe that employing 441 members of SANDF to Parliament, means that State of the Nation Address (SONA) will be under the command of the military.
First, it was specified that no soldier among the 441 soldiers will be deployed within the Parliamentary precinct for the 2017 SONA.
Afterwards, Parliament explained that it’s alright to sometimes, deploy SANDF soldiers to support SAPS.
“As part of planning for SONA, Parliament engages with the relevant departments in the executive at national, provincial and local levels.
“These departments include the South African National Defence Force that has a ceremonial role to play.
“Upon the request of the South African Police Services, the South African National Defence Force is sometimes deployed to support the police in exercising their safety and security function, such as the case in point.
“When such a request has been made and the President of the Republic has issued a declaratory order, it is procedural that the President advises the Speaker of the National Assembly (NA) and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), as has occurred,” stated Parliament.
Parliament added that the Speaker of the NA and the Chairperson of the NCOP dully table the declaratory order in the Announcement, Tabling and Committee Reports which was issued for both houses of Parliament.
In that regard, Parliament reiterated that SANDF members will not be deployed within the precincts of Parliament and the Chamber.
However, it was indicated that “the only time that may happen is when there is a threat to life and property that is of such a nature that the South African Police cannot handle.”
Even at that, their deployment will be at the request of the South African Police Services.
Also, it was specified that the SAPS can only act at the behest of the Presiding Officers, except in instances where there is a total breakdown of law and order that threatens life and property.
Nonetheless, the Democratic Alliance (DA) party has maintained that the SONA military employment is a breach of the Constitution.
According to the party, Gengezi Mgidlana, the Secretary to Parliament confirmed that Jacob Zuma was in breach of the Constitution in 2016 when he failed to write to Parliament informing it that 188 members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) would be employed for service during the opening of Parliament.
DA said the acknowledgement was made during a meeting of opposition parties and the Speaker over the militarization of SONA 2017.
“Section 201(4) of the Constitution states that the employment of the defence force may only be authorized by the President, as head of the national executive, and that the president ‘must provide the information to the appropriate oversight committee,'” DA highlighted.
With that, the party said: “what this means is that the employment of SANDF personnel at Parliament has never been referred to or approved by the Joint Standing Committee on Defence, as required by the Constitution.”
The party also disclosed that replies from parliamentary questions show that the deployment of SAPS members in Parliament during SONA events have increased by almost threefold over a decade.
It increased from 108 in 2004 to 296 in 2014. Similarly, SANDF members employed at Parliament increased from 168 in 2013, to 188 in 2015, and 441 in 2017.