ANC is running scared - Steenhuisen

2017-02-07 11:27
John Steenhuisen (Netwerk24)

John Steenhuisen (Netwerk24)

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Cape Town - DA Chief Whip John Steenhuisen says the ANC's decision to host a "People's Assembly" straight after Thursday's State of the Nation Address is proof the governing party is "running scared".

For the first time, the ANC will host a rally at the Grand Parade in Cape Town parallel to President Jacob Zuma's first Parliamentary address of 2017, with the theme being "radical economic transformation".

Zuma is expected to address the rally after delivering the State of the Nation Address.

Steenhuisen said that each party had the right to decide how it went about its business, but that the move was an admission from the ANC that they had "lost the debate in Parliament".

"I do find it very strange that the President will be making his SONA address and then proceed down the road to essentially repeat it," Steenhuisen told News24.

"It will be interesting to see what the actual message is.

"[But] I think the ANC is definitely running scared. They know they can no longer win in the Parliamentary environment.

"They had a very bad year for them in Parliament last year and President Zuma knows the knives are out for him even in his own caucus.

"In politics there's a saying that your opposition sits in front of you and your enemies sit behind you, so he knows its no longer a friendly environment."

He said ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu and others showed last year that the party is not united by taking different stances on the SABC and the dropped fraud case against Pravin Gordhan.

His party's only concern was that Zuma's speech would be different to the one he was obligated to deliver to the country earlier on Thursday, he said.

Security 'completely unnecessary'

He also said that the ANC's decision to host the rally was less a show of strength, and more a desire to deliver a more political speech to a friendlier crowd.

"The ANC knows that people in Parliament no longer believe or take seriously what President Zuma says, given the fact that he has violated his oath of office, the Constitution, and shown remarkable disrespect for Parliament.

"So I think it's a way for them to find a more friendly audience for themselves by removing it out of the Parliamentary precinct and pack it with supporters."

Steenhuisen also described Parliament's security measures for SONA 2017 as "over the top and completely unnecessary".

"Never before in the South African Parliament has there been so much security, so much State Security Agency, so many police personnel deployed on the precinct."

He said Zuma would be sitting in the same seat for three days next week, with none of the same security plans, and that it was a waste of money by Secretary to Parliament Gengezi Mgidlana.

He said Mgidlana has an "obsession" with security.

The Parliamentary Press Gallery Association, meanwhile, said it was very alarmed at the planned restrictions of movement aimed journalists on Thursday.

Journalists 'very alarmed'

PGA chairperson Joylene van Wyk told News24 on Monday that the new security measures were unprecedented.

"We are very alarmed about the 'media squares' that Parliament wants to initiate on SONA day," she said.

"Journalists who want to move between two 'media squares' will need a police escort on the day."

Van Wyk also said that Lelie Street, the street leading to the offices of many of the journalists based in Parliament, would be closed and inaccessible.

However Parliament reassured the media on Monday that they would receive "optimal support" to enable full coverage of SONA.

It dismissed allegations of "more stringent security measures" this year, saying it was in line with previous years.

"Parliament has even improved the management of the Media Bay in the National Assembly, with the introduction of personalised tickets with seat allocations to avoid unauthorised occupation of limited space for about 60 media representatives, by people who are not media workers," the statement read.

It said this was a suggestion from journalists last year, and Parliament had listened.

Mgidlana promised last week that there would be no additional security measures during SONA.

Parliament spokesperson Manelisi Wolela told News24 on Monday that Mgidlana's promises had not changed, and that journalists would be given the "freedom to do their work".

Read more on:    da  |  anc  |  cape town  |  sona 2017

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