JOHANNESBURG – The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) said it condemns the “unleashing of the army on the people of South Africa” in apparent reference to the deployment of South African National Defence Force (SANDF) troops to maintain law and order during the State Of the Nation Address (SONA), while the Democratic Alliance (DA) said it “condemns, in the strongest terms possible, the militarisation of this year’s SONA and was seeking an urgent audience with the Speaker over the matter.
In a late night statement on Tuesday the EFF said it took note that President Jacob Zuma had authorised the deployment of 441 members of SANDF for SONA.
Earlier on Tuesday Zuma authorised the deployment of the troops to “maintain law and order” when he addresses the nation on Thursday.
In the statement attributed to party spokesperson, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, the EFF said: “We condemn this 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 the military has no place in the maintenance of law and order. “The South African Police Service are given such a mandate”.
The EFF continued: “The military are people who get deployed for war and whose training is about killing the enemies of the state. We know for sure that this initiative by Zuma is done to intimidate the media and the EFF.”
The EFF called on members of the media to “defy any and all unjust regulations” designed to undermine their freedoms of movement and of the media.
DA Chief Whip John Steenhuisen said: “This announcement is deeply concerning. President Zuma’s deliberate use of the words ‘law and order’ in his statement points to an excessive use of the army outside of their ceremonial role in the annual fanfare of the opening”.
Steenhuisen added: “I will accordingly 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”.
He said the move by the President should be seen in the context of his recent desperate attempts to ensure that he is protected from the criticism.
“No doubt the President hopes to use the SANDF as free security protection for his private party commitments on the day,” said the DA chief whip.
“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.
“Our message to President Zuma tonight is clear: 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.”
– African News Agency (ANA)