ANC’S force show of at Sona

CityPress - - News - ANDISIWE MAKINANA andisiwe.makinana@city­press.co.za

In an un­prece­dented move, Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s state of the na­tion (Sona) ad­dress will run par­al­lel with an ANC event he will ad­dress im­me­di­ately after the tra­di­tional open­ing of Par­lia­ment in Cape Town on Thurs­day.

Sona will take place amid some of the most tight­ened se­cu­rity ever in Par­lia­ment, which in­cludes the in­volve­ment of the State Se­cu­rity Agency (SSA) and a se­cu­rity shut­down of the par­lia­men­tary precinct.

Zuma will then speed off to ad­dress ANC sup­port­ers at the Grand Pa­rade – about five min­utes away – in what the ANC calls a “peo­ple’s assem­bly” where 10 000 peo­ple are ex­pected to at­tend.

The move car­ries echoes of the Free­dom Char­ter process – the use of the term peo­ple’s assem­bly – with rad­i­cal eco­nomic transformation the theme of the gath­er­ing.

For­mer pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela’s first pub­lic ad­dress after his re­lease from Vic­tor Ver­ster prison in 1990 was at the same venue.

It will also be the first time that Zuma, or any pres­i­dent, ad­dresses an ANC rally on the day of Sona.

ANC spokesper­son Zizi Kodwa told City Press the event was about or­gan­is­ing peo­ple around Cape Town in the main to highlight the sig­nif­i­cance of the ANC’s ur­gent task, “things we ex­pect Sona to ad­dress, such as re­turn­ing land to the peo­ple in the con­text of rad­i­cal eco­nomic transformation”.

Kodwa said this was the “main over­ar­ch­ing theme” of the ANC’s mes­sage this year.

He said the ANC’s top of­fi­cials, led by Zuma, would land in Cape Town to­day. The meet­ing of the party’s na­tional work­ing com­mit­tee will also be held in the city this week, ahead of a num­ber of ac­tiv­i­ties lead­ing up to Thurs­day.

Mean­while, op­po­si­tion par­ties and the me­dia have raised con­cerns over height­ened se­cu­rity mea­sures in and around Par­lia­ment for this year’s Sona event.

The DA’s John Steen­huisen re­vealed that his and other op­po­si­tion par­ties op­posed the level of planned se­cu­rity for Thurs­day when they were briefed by par­lia­men­tary of­fi­cials this week.

“We don’t un­der­stand the in­volve­ment of the SSA on the vet­ting process and on the precinct on the day; we don’t un­der­stand why they need to have such a heavy in­volve­ment on what is es­sen­tially an or­di­nary par­lia­men­tary func­tion,” said Steen­huisen.

Steen­huisen said they ques­tioned the “se­cu­rity shut­down” of this one day to pro­tect the pres­i­dent when, the fol­low­ing week, Zuma goes to the same Par­lia­ment for three days for the Sona de­bate with­out the same se­cu­rity re­quire­ments.

“It’s over-the-top se­cu­rity that is not nec­es­sary. Why must par­lia­men­tary guests be vet­ted by the SSA? It doesn’t make sense, but it speaks to this over­se­cu­ri­ti­sa­tion of Par­lia­ment,” he said.

The Press Gallery As­so­ci­a­tion, an as­so­ci­a­tion of Par­lia­ment-based jour­nal­ists, has also voiced con­cerns about how the se­cu­rity plans may im­pede jour­nal­ists cov­er­ing the event.

As­so­ci­a­tion chair­per­son Joy­lene van Wyk said Par­lia­ment had planned to box jour­nal­ists in a hold­ing area next to the Flame of Re­mem­brance and that jour­nal­ists who wanted to move around the precinct would be es­corted by Par­lia­ment se­cu­rity.

An­other first is the al­lo­ca­tion of num­bered seats in the me­dia bay for par­lia­men­tary jour­nal­ists, which will not be trans­fer­able.

At a me­dia con­fer­ence on Thurs­day, the sec­re­tary to Par­lia­ment Gengezi Mgid­lana sought to as­sure jour­nal­ists that they would not be im­peded in do­ing their work.

“In terms of jour­nal­ists do­ing busi­ness, this will not be in­hib­ited and is guar­an­teed in the Con­sti­tu­tion,” he said.

Mgid­lana also said Par­lia­ment would not cut the live TV feed in the event of a dis­tur­bance in the house again, and would re­spect a court judg­ment to this ef­fect.

Re­fer­ring to the ANC rally, sec­re­tary of the ANC’s Dul­lah Omar re­gion, JJ Ty­hal­i­sisu, said they had ap­plied for a gath­er­ing of 30 000 peo­ple, but the City of Cape Town ap­proved a de­creased num­ber of 10 000.

She said other or­gan­i­sa­tions who sub­mit­ted gath­er­ing no­tices for that day were the Na­tional Union of Metal Work­ers for 500 peo­ple and the SA Un­in­te­grated Forces United Front for 100 par­tic­i­pants.

Some ANC mem­bers, how­ever, view the gath­er­ing as a show of force by Zuma loy­al­ists in the ANC.

“This is about de­fend­ing Zuma, and that he must be seen to be sup­ported. It’s actually a gath­er­ing of forces in one area at the same time,” said an ANC mem­ber who wants to see change in the lead­er­ship of the party.

This is about de­fend­ing Zuma, and that he must be seen to be sup­ported. It’s actually a gath­er­ing of forces in one area at the same time

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