Juju pics used for target practice

2015-02-15 15:00

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Pictures of Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema, his deputy, Floyd Shivambu, and MPs Godrich Gardee and Reneilwe Mashabela, were used for target practice by the white-shirted security personnel who ejected them from the National Assembly on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa asked State Security Minister David Mahlobo to restore the signal, which had been jammed prior to President Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address (Sona).

Three sources in Parliament’s security service and administration who were close to the security arrangements said the security staff had been trained in Pretoria and on the Cape Flats, as well as inside the National Assembly chamber – where pictures of the four EFF MPs and the DA’s Mike Waters had been displayed and used as targets.

The pictures were intended to help the personnel identify the primary targets for removal once chaos erupted. The training took the form of a mock drill on how to remove people from Parliament.

“It was more about how to remove a person, how to disarm, and a bit of self-defence,” said the parliamentary source, who added training had taken place on Monday.

Mashabela made headlines last year when she was forcibly removed from the House by police officers for calling President Zuma a thief. The EFF said Mashabela had been badly assaulted and was taken to hospital on Thursday, as her jaw was injured during the scuffle.

“It is clear they were targeted,” said a parliamentary insider.

After the EFF MPs were forcibly removed and pushed out of the parliamentary building, and the joint sitting was adjourned, security chief Zelda Holtzman called the police and security officers to a meeting in room V12 at the Old Assembly wing to congratulate them on a job well done.

An insider said: “She said the plan was well executed.”

Meanwhile, Speaker Baleka Mbete called Malema a cockroach during her address to the North West ANC provincial conference. She also said ANC branches had to ready themselves to fight the EFF in their provincial legislatures and municipalities, the party’s next targets.

Parliamentary spokesperson Luzuko Jacobs could not be reached for comment, while Mbete’s spokesperson, Mandlakazi Sigcawu, promised to respond once she had more information, but did not do so.

Those familiar with the security master plan said the burly men sent in to remove the EFF consisted of 16 parliamentary protection services security personnel, and members of the police’s counterassault and public order policing unit.

Parliamentary security officers wore black suits while the police wore white shirts and black pants.

The counterassault team is a specialised unit trained in urban warfare and extraction tactics. It accompanies the president when he visits high-risk areas in Africa.

A security source said the main reason for the master plan was the profile of those present – there was a president, a deputy president and two former presidents in the House, which immediately elevated the threat level to “red”.

Sources said that usually when there was a threat to the president’s life, the VIP protectors moved around him.

On Thursday they moved around the EFF to neutralise and remove the threat they were said to pose.

City Press understands that one of the security managers in Parliament, Deon van der Spuy, held a meeting in Pretoria on January 19 during which the details of the strong-arm security plan were thrashed out.

It was decided at this meeting that the SA Police Service’s counterassault team would be deployed alongside parliamentary protection services inside the National Assembly.

Another insider said parliamentary protection staff were worried about the legality of the action and asked Van der Spuy if they would be protected. “We were concerned about how legally protected we would be. Could we get into the chamber and remove MPs?” the insider asked.

The tightening of security was expected after EFF threats to disrupt Sona by asking President Zuma when he would pay back some of the money spent on nonsecurity-related expansions to his Nkandla residence.

Problems arose, however, when it was discovered that cellphone reception in the National Assembly had been jammed.

Yesterday the presidency released a statement denying that the president and the Speaker had been briefed on the jamming of the signal.

“Zuma condemns the jamming of cellular phones in the National Assembly. Rumours that the president was informed of this are incorrect,” the president’s spokesperson, Mac Maharaj, said in a statement.

The cellphone jamming caused a commotion as journalists, who were later joined by opposition party MPs, chanted and demanded that reception be restored.

Yesterday, the alliance secretariat – a forum at which the secretaries of the ANC, labour federation Cosatu and the SA Communist Party meet – became the latest to condemn the cellphone jamming, calling it a serious error of judgement.

“The secretariat condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the jamming of the signal in the National Assembly,” it said in a statement.

The state security minister was apparently put under pressure by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday night because, sources said, Ramaphosa was unhappy about the jamming of the cellphone signal.

The deputy president was seen scribbling a note, which he then passed to Mahlobo.

“[Ramaphosa] basically told Mahlobo to fix this thing of signal jamming. He told them what they are doing is unconstitutional,” said sources in Ramaphosa’s office.

Mahlobo walked out of the National Assembly chamber shortly after receiving the note and the signal reception returned immediately thereafter.

Contacted by City Press, Mahlobo denied leaving the chamber during the unhappiness about the scrambled signal, but declined to comment on whether he had received a note from Ramaphosa.

Sources said the cellphone signal jammer was a device that travelled with the president and was used in situations that posed a threat to the president’s security.

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Ronnie Mamoepa, referred all queries to Parliament.

Malema told journalists on Friday morning that he and his MPs had been badly assaulted.

“We were face down ... We were assaulted up until we went into the main corridor of Parliament … We were beaten big time,” he said.

An ANC MP said they were told the presidency was responsible for security. In the ANC caucus beforehand, chief whip Stone Sizani told ANC MPs to restrain themselves. “We were told ‘you don’t have to do anything, we have institutions handling this’,” said the MP.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen claimed the police officers had been flown in from across the country and had performed drills at 9pm in the days leading up to Sona.

“The cross benches were laid out and they were doing drills with about 400 people there. It was obviously done under the cover of darkness, so that they were not exposed,” he said.

“The fact that they were dressed in civilian clothing showed there was a need to conceal what they were doing. If they were in uniform it would have been noticeable how militarised Parliament was.”

Steenhuisen said the DA would table a motion, but there was an urgent need for the parliamentary oversight authority to meet before Tuesday’s sitting so that the problems could be resolved.

– Additional reporting by Erika Gibson

» This article was updated after first published.

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