Elite SA police units’ officers removed EFF MPs

2015-03-18 00:00

CAPE TOWN — The so-called white shirts who forcibly removed the EFF MPs during the State of the Nation address, are officers in two elite SA police units.

Police Minister Nathi Nhleko yesterday answered a parliamentary question from DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard, saying 40 police officers had entered the National Assembly (NA) on February 12.

After withholding information on the officers for more than a month, Nhleko yesterday revealed they are enlisted with the police’s public order unit (the former riot police unit) as well as presidential protection services’ counter-assault unit.

He said they had not entered the NA because there was any physical threat, but had acted on the Speaker’s order in terms of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities Act as amended in 2004.

Nhleko said this so-called PPP Act allows the police, army and intelligence services to render policing functions on the parliamentary premises by order of the Speaker.

Policing expert at the Institute for Security Studies, Dr Johan Burger, said he could understand why officers in the public order were deployed, but said the counter-assault unit from the presidential protection services should never have acted on the night.

“There was at no stage any physical threat. It was totally wrong to deploy them in the absence of a threat to life.”

He said Parliament should have used its own security personnel, but in cases police have to be used, the public order unit was the lesser of the two evils.

Burger said the public order unit was formed from the old “riot police”, whose members were trained to handle large meetings and crowds, adding this unit should only be called in when it was clear that the security personnel were not coping with the situation.

Burger said members of the counter-assault unit were more like bodyguards and are part of the VIP protection unit who accompany the president, deputy president and cabinet minister.

“They should have been standing by and only entered into the fray if the president was in direct danger. I see no role for them in the robust debate we saw,” he said.

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