Parliamentary Oral Questions: Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, on Wednesday, explained why members of the South African Defence Force (SANDF) were deployed to Parliament during the 2017 State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Ramaphosa, who was in Parliament to answer questions from MPs disclosed that members of SANDF were deployed to perform their ceremonial duty, not to solely protect President Zuma, as widely allegedly.
He argued that the presence of the SANDF and police was not to threaten opposition parties; stressing that the army was deployed to Parliament to perform a ceremonial exercise as they have always done during the opening of Parliament.
“The presence of the SANDF was not here to protect one individual. They were here to conduct their own ceremonial duties on the opening of Parliament.
I never thought that the members of the SANDF and the police are threatening. Yes, they are often here in numbers…but they always on a ceremonial type of guard,” he explained.
The brain behind the question – DA’s Mmusi Maimane – had wanted to know why the SANDF members were brought to Parliament. He strongly alleged that Zuma deployed the army to unnerve opposition politicians.
The leader of the blue party pointed out that Parliament belongs to the people and not one man. He also asked Ramaphosa what steps he would take to ensure armed soldiers do not invade Parliament again.
Maimane asked: “This should remain the people’s Parliament, not the executive’s Parliament…what steps will you take that the executive never again abuses the state security apparatus to intimidate members of Parliament and the media and that Parliament returns to its place as a separate arm of state?
After it became apparent that Ramaphosa could not strongly convince the DA on why the soldiers were unconstitutionally deployed to Parliament, he [Ramaphosa] said he would await the court ruling on the matter.
The DA had launched a court petition challenging and describing the deployment as “unconstitutional”. The party cited among others, the Speaker of Parliament, the police minister and the defence minister as respondents.
In the petition, it stated that the presence of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) can’t be tolerated; adding that the excessive use of force by parliamentary security officials, the use of pepper spray in the public gallery and the Speaker’s flouting of proper procedure for the expulsion of members out of the Chamber, should all be declared unlawful and unconstitutional.
This is Ramaphosa’s first appearance in the first quarter of Parliament in 2017. He also answered questions on the national minimum wage, Life Esidimeni tragedy in Gauteng which saw deaths of over a hundred mentally ill patients in 2016.