Parliament beefs up security ahead of Zuma’s address

2015-02-08 10:00
President Jacob Zuma (File: AP)

President Jacob Zuma (File: AP)

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Cape Town - Parliament has sent its security staff – of about 80 people - on a self-defence course in what is seen to be a bid to beef up security ahead of President Jacob Zuma’s  State of the Nation address on Thursday.

According to the Sunday Times, this is in preparation for possible physical assaults on security by members of Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters party.

The newspaper reports that all 80 staff members were collected from their homes on Saturday night for training and it believes the exercise will be repeated tonight.

It has also emerged that 16 of the units most physically strong were sent for a three-day special training camp at an SAPS Academy in Cape Town.

One official reportedly complained that staff were being trained on how to “manhandle a person” – and how to apply force.

Safety and security

However, this comes after News24 reported last week that no extraordinary security measures are being put in place for the opening of Parliament, its secretary Gengezi Mgidlana said on Wednesday.

Briefing the media on preparations for the 12 February opening, which includes President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation address, he said security would be consistent with such a high-level event.

"In terms of safety and security, this is a high-level event. All three arms of the state are present... as well as various dignitaries. So security measures consistent with [this]... have been put in place by the security services."

Parliament's security staff were working with their security service counterparts to make sure the event went smoothly.

Responding to a question on whether reports of increased security for the event were correct, he responded: "If the question is are there extraordinary security measures, the answer is no."

Mgidlana said "appropriate security measures" were being provided.

Asked if there were special plans to deal with disruptions by MPs, Mgidlana declined to be drawn on what he described as possibilities.

Successful event

"We have planned for a successful event... You are talking about possibilities... we can't be planning for possibilities that may or may not happen."

The opening was a state event involving pomp and ceremony.

"You have all role-players playing their specific roles... as far as I know, you do not have a situation where any of the role-players are looking at usurping the roles of others."

The EFF, who have 25 MPs in the National Assembly, have threatened to disrupt Zuma's State of the Nation address, which he is set to deliver from 19:00 on the Thursday.

Mgidlana told reporters on Wednesday that the budget ceiling for the opening was R4m, in line with government's austerity measures.

"We have cut our budget by well over half."

Last year's openings - there were two - cost R9m and R4.6m, he said.

Read more on:    eff  |  jacob zuma  |  julius malema  |  politics  |  state of the nation 2015  |  parliament 2015

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