DA mulling court action over #SONASoldiers

2017-02-08 11:40
Soldiers rehearse before a previous State of the Nation Address. (File, Netwerk24)

Soldiers rehearse before a previous State of the Nation Address. (File, Netwerk24)

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Cape Town - The DA is considering legal action over President Jacob Zuma's deployment of 441 soldiers at key points around Cape Town for his State of the Nation Address (SONA), James Selfe, the chairperson of the party's federal executive, said on Wednesday.

"It's one thing to have the military honour the Commander in Chief, it's another thing when the army defends the president delivering a political address," said Selfe.

The Presidency announced on Tuesday that Zuma had authorised the "employment" of 441 soldiers to help the police with "law and order" around activities related to the opening of Parliament on Thursday. The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and police would work together from February 5-10.

There has been an outcry over the show of military force.

- Read more here

Selfe said the SANDF have been deployed to help at SONA before, including last year, but wanted to know why Zuma felt the need to do it again, and why specifically down Plein Street.

"They are now being deployed down Plein Street and that's never been done before," said Selfe, adding that that was where protesters usually congregated.

"Is this for ceremonial purposes, or is this a mechanism to shut down the democratic space for free political expression?"

He said that, when he was in the army, soldiers were trained to only become involved as a last resort when "the shit really hits the fan". 

"And, therefore, inherently there is a problem with the deployment of any member of the SANDF, because their training is not in crowd control and arrest.

"Therefore, when you deploy troops this way, there is an inherent risk something might get out of hand and those SANDF members will revert to their training."

The party's legal team was focusing on establishing whether the Presidency's decision was rational, on which route the soldiers would be posted, and how many would be at the Grand Parade where Zuma was expected to drop in for a meet-and-greet at an African National Congress "People's Assembly".

Selfe added that many people had begged for troops to be sent to suburbs wrecked by gangsterism, and had been told it was not possible.

Read more on:    parliament  |  da  |  sandf  |  cape town  |  sona 2017

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