‘Tight se­cu­rity was all in your IMAGINATION’

Po­lice say their pres­ence on the par­lia­men­tary precinct this week was no dif­fer­ent from pre­vi­ous years

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

The coun­try’s se­cu­rity agen­cies have dis­missed as “a per­cep­tion” com­men­tary about the strin­gent se­cu­rity mea­sures which were car­ried out in and around Par­lia­ment for this week’s state of the na­tion ad­dress (Sona). Po­lice were highly vis­i­ble, po­si­tioned as they were in Cape Town’s cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict in groups of about 10 ev­ery few me­tres, milling around the area and at en­try points to it. More man­power was de­ployed inside the par­lia­men­tary precinct, in­clud­ing plain-clothed of­fi­cers and mem­bers of the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity.

But those in charge of the se­cu­rity plan claim the num­bers have been ex­ag­ger­ated and noth­ing was ex­tra­or­di­nary about this year’s Sona se­cu­rity plan.

While re­fus­ing to di­vulge how many se­cu­rity per­son­nel were de­ployed in Cape Town for the event, the po­lice’s Vish Naidoo was adamant this Sona was no dif­fer­ent from pre­vi­ous years.

“We will not dis­close num­bers be­cause [do­ing so] would have the po­ten­tial to com­pro­mise our se­cu­rity for fu­ture events of a sim­i­lar na­ture,” he ex­plained, adding: “There wasn’t so much se­cu­rity.”

Naidoo said ob­ser­va­tions over the past few days about the se­cu­rity de­tail in Cape Town had been based on “per­cep­tion”.

“The se­cu­rity plan­ning this year was no dif­fer­ent to pre­vi­ous years. It is the same. It has been the same.”

He said the po­lice were re­spon­si­ble for road, city and venue se­cu­rity, as well as crowd man­age­ment, which were the same du­ties ac­corded to them pre­vi­ously.

He re­fused to re­spond to ques­tions about whether ac­tive po­lice of­fi­cers were part of the se­cu­rity per­son­nel who re­moved Eco­nomic Free­dom Fighters (EFF) MPs from the House, re­fer­ring th­ese to Par­lia­ment.

EFF leader Julius Malema, ris­ing on a point of or­der at Sona on Thurs­day, claimed his party had in­for­ma­tion about 21 ac­tive po­lice of­fi­cers who were de­ployed among the so-called “white shirts”.

Brian Dube, head of com­mu­ni­ca­tions at the State Se­cu­rity Agency, echoed the po­lice’s sen­ti­ments, say­ing while there were per­cep­tions of ex­tra se­cu­rity, the re­al­ity for those in­volved [in se­cu­rity plan­ning] was that noth­ing ex­tra­or­di­nary had hap­pened this year.

“We are not mov­ing to a state that is se­cu­ri­tised. It is al­ways about what the threat is, and we re­spond to that ac­cord­ingly and still al­low peo­ple to hold their views and have their marches, as is al­lowed in the law,” said Dube.

The DA has ap­proached the courts, seek­ing a dec­la­ra­tion that Thurs­day’s de­ploy­ment of SA Na­tional De­fence Force mem­bers to the par­lia­men­tary precinct for non-cer­e­mo­nial pur­poses was un­con­sti­tu­tional and un­law­ful. The party added that it was tak­ing le­gal ac­tion to en­sure that the grad­ual se­cu­ri­ti­sa­tion and mil­i­tari­sa­tion of Par­lia­ment was halted once and for all.

“The pres­ence of the na­tional de­fence force, in a way that far ex­ceeded a mere cer­e­mo­nial role, can never be tol­er­ated again,” said DA leader Mmusi Maimane.

He said the pres­ence of armed mil­i­tary po­lice with live am­mu­ni­tion on the precinct of Par­lia­ment was un­ten­able in a con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy.

“Our court ac­tion is [be­ing taken] to en­sure that the in­tegrity of Par­lia­ment is re­stored and that we can make the work of Par­lia­ment about the peo­ple of South Africa once more.

“It ought to be an in­sti­tu­tion in which we can fight for the poor and the ex­cluded, an in­sti­tu­tion which vig­or­ously holds power to ac­count,” he added.

Na­tional de­fence force spokesper­son Siphiwe Dlamini de­clined to com­ment on whether there were mil­i­tary per­son­nel on the precinct be­sides those who were there for cer­e­mo­nial pur­poses.

He re­ferred the ques­tions to Par­lia­ment, say­ing it was deal­ing with the mat­ter.

In a state­ment is­sued on Fri­day, Par­lia­ment said the Sec­re­tary to Par­lia­ment, Gengezi Mgid­lana, had es­tab­lished an in­ter­di­vi­sional com­mit­tee to in­ves­ti­gate var­i­ous al­le­ga­tions sur­round­ing the in­ci­dents that took place on Thurs­day night and would re­port back early this week.

Par­lia­ment said eight of­fi­cials in the par­lia­men­tary pro­tec­tion ser­vices got in­jured while es­cort­ing EFF MPs out of the cham­ber and were re­ceiv­ing med­i­cal and coun­selling ser­vices.

“The of­fi­cials were beaten with plas­tic hats and bricks, and punched,” read Par­lia­ment’s state­ment.

It went on to say al­le­ga­tions of bru­tal­ity lev­elled at the pro­tec­tion ser­vices of­fi­cials were un­fair, un­founded and base­less, and that ev­i­dence in­di­cated that th­ese of­fi­cials were bru­tally as­saulted while they were merely do­ing their work of re­mov­ing some MPs.

The par­lia­men­tary de­bate about Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s Sona ad­dress will be held on Tues­day and Wed­nes­day, af­ter which he will re­spond.

Yes­ter­day, the SA Na­tional Edi­tors’ Fo­rum (Sanef) strongly con­demned the events which un­folded in Par­lia­ment this week, say­ing it had re­stricted the abil­ity of jour­nal­ists to do their work.

“Some jour­nal­ists were in­ter­mit­tently pre­vented from do­ing their jobs as Sona events un­folded, in­clud­ing the dramatic ejec­tion of par­lia­men­tar­i­ans,” the or­gan­i­sa­tion said in a state­ment.

“Civil­ian-clothed po­lice of­fi­cials pre­vented cam­era per­sons and jour­nal­ists from mov­ing freely through par­lia­men­tary cor­ri­dors as events un­folded,” it added.

“Jour­nal­ists based at Par­lia­ment’s me­dia of­fices were ham­pered in leav­ing and re­turn­ing to their of­fices as a line of riot po­lice blocked off the ac­cess road.

“Po­lice also at­tempted to pre­vent some pho­tog­ra­phers from cap­tur­ing scenes in the precinct.”

The or­gan­i­sa­tion went on to say that at a me­dia brief­ing a week be­fore Sona, “Mgid­lana told jour­nal­ists that there was no foun­da­tion to [claims about] the se­cu­ri­ti­sa­tion of Par­lia­ment and no ba­sis of fact [back­ing up] con­cerns of [such] se­cu­ri­ti­sa­tion”.

“Sanef calls on Par­lia­ment’s po­lit­i­cal and ad­min­is­tra­tive lead­er­ship to se­ri­ously re­con­sider and re­view the pro­gres­sive height­en­ing of se­cu­rity mea­sures and se­cu­ri­ti­sa­tion at Par­lia­ment,” it said.

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