How many cops does it take to protect Parliament? 331 says Nhleko

2015-03-17 11:59

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Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko has revealed that 331 police officers were deployed to “safeguard” Parliament during President Jacob Zuma’s chaotic state of the nation address last month.

The annual event was overshadowed by disruptions to Zuma’s speech when Economic Freedom Fighters MPs demanded that the president answer when he intended to “pay back the money” spent by the state on nonsecurity instalments at his Nkandla private residence.

Matters became worse when EFF MPs refused to leave the National Assembly when ordered to do so, which led to some of the 331 police officers, dressed in black and white, stormed the house and physically removed them.

In a reply to a Parliamentary question, Nhleko revealed that the “unarmed” police officers deployed to Parliament on February 12 were drawn from various police units including protection and security service, the presidential protection service, counter assault team and public order police, and the operational response service.

According to Nhleko only 40 of the 331 police officers, some of whom boasted about being involved in throwing out EFF leader Julius Malema and other MPs, had entered the assembly on orders from Parliament speaker Baleka Mbete.

Responding to a question on whether “whether clear and present danger to life and limb of the members of Parliament had been established before the SAPS members entered the National Assembly”, Nhleko said: “No. The South African Police Service members entered the National Assembly in terms of Section 4(1) of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act”.

The section of the act says that “a person who creates or takes part in any disturbance in the precincts while Parliament or a house or committee is meeting, may be arrested and removed from the precincts, on the order of the speaker or the chairperson or a person designated by the speaker or chairperson, by a staff member or a member of the security services.”

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