MPs probe presidential notice to deploy army at SONA

Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane speaks during the 2017 State of the Nation Address (SONA) debate at the National Assembly on February 14, 2017 in Cape Town. Photo: Gallo Images / Beeld / Jaco Marais

PARLIAMENT – Parliament’s powers and privileges committee has been asked to investigate a query by the Democratic Alliance on why neither the President nor the Speaker informed the National Assembly of the deployment of the military for security purposes at the 2016 state-of-the-nation address.

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The referral was listed in the legislature’s Parliamentary Announcements‚ Tablings and Committee (ATC) reports document on Thursday.

The question of why the legislature was not informed that the military would not merely act in a ceremonial role but help to maintain law and order, was raised by DA chief whip John Steenhuisen as a point of privilege in March while Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was answering questions in the chamber.

“It is a matter we take very seriously because it sets a very problematic principle,” Steenhuisen said on Thursday.

He said either Zuma had failed to abide by the Constitution and the Defence Act by not informing Parliament of his intention to deploy the army for a purpose outside its normal mandate, or Speaker Baleka Mbete had failed to inform MPs.

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The need to inform Parliament was “a very important principle” to avoid the military being abused for unlawful purposes, he stressed.

There was an outcry from the opposition this year when more than 400 soldiers were deployed to assist the police during the opening of Parliament, which again descended into violence when the Economic Freedom Fighters were forcibly removed from the National Assembly.

African News Agency

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