President Zuma to deliver Sona amid disruption threats

By Drum Digital
11 February 2015

President Jacob Zuma delivers his eighth state-of-the-nation address on Thursday amid tight security following threats of disruptions.

The Economic Freedom Fighters on Tuesday repeated its threat to interrupt his annual address by asking him questions about his Nkandla homestead.

"The EFF will ask questions to Zuma during the Sona because Zuma has not been coming to Parliament and we do not believe that Zuma will come to be held accountable in Parliament," spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said in a statement.

Despite the threat, Parliament has said it was satisfied with security arrangements for the event. The legislature's presiding officers have vowed to apply rules and conventions strictly during the speech.

Parliament's protection officers and police will be deployed inside the National Assembly building.

"The National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure, which co-ordinates all security and law enforcement for the president's annual state-of-the-nation address... is satisfied with the progress being made with its security planning," police spokesman Lt-Gen Solomon Makgale said in a statement on Wednesday.

The precinct would be closed to the public, except for those accredited to attend the event, including MPs, journalists, and members of the diplomatic corps.

"The nation at large, particularly the community of Cape Town, is advised that there will be limited access in areas surrounding Parliament, meaning that there will be road closures and parking restrictions," said Makgale.

A no-fly zone will be set up over the precinct, except for SA Air Force jets, which will do a fly-over shortly before Zuma's speech.

While security measures had been increased, the withdrawal of parliamentary workers' voluntary services from the Sona could cause some headaches for Parliament's management.

On Tuesday night, talks between Parliament's management and Nehawu over a 13th cheque deadlocked again, prompting the union to announce it would follow through with its plans.

"The secretary to Parliament made commitments that the matters we have raised will be addressed, but when we requested him to put these commitments on pen and paper, he refused," said National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) Western Cape secretary Luthando Nogcinisa.

Nehawu denied it was using Sona to bargain with Parliament.

"Our objective is not to disrupt the Sona as it has been reported by some media houses," Nogcinisa said.

"Our only objective is to highlight the plight of workers in Parliament."

The union has over 900 members employed by Parliament, some of whom perform voluntary services during the Sona.

"They include things like the choir, the ushers who would take guests from the airport to Parliament, and usher MPs and so on," said Nogcinisa.

It was not clear whether Parliament had made alternative arrangements to offset the effects the withdrawal of Nehawu's service would have on the event.

"We are in talks with them and we'll communicate with them directly on issues of mutual concern. We will not conduct our negotiations in the media," said Parliament's spokesman Luzuko Jacobs.

Nehawu is demanding a 13th cheque for workers, and that workers' pay be equalised.

Nehawu's Sthembiso Tembe revealed to Drum that the plan was to get parliament to meet their demands.

"We wish to exert pressure on the management of parliament to respond positively to our demands. That is our objective," Tembe commented.

He also added that their meeting which was scheduled at 2pm had to be more than just a discussion.

"We want a written commitment. We won't accept any verbal agreement," he added.

- Additional source SAPA

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