No extra security at SONA, secretary to Parliament promises

2017-02-02 19:50
Gengezi Mgidlana. (Parliament’s website)

Gengezi Mgidlana. (Parliament’s website)

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Cape Town - Secretary to Parliament Gengezi Mgidlana says there will be no additional security measures during the 2017 State of the Nation Address (SONA), and has assured journalists that they will be free to do their work.

Mgidlana was briefing the media on Thursday on Parliament's preparations ahead of President Jacob Zuma's opening of Parliament next Thursday, February 9.

"In terms of our operations, we have not really changed in terms of format from what we have done in the past," he said in answer to a journalist's question.

"When you have a national event, different departments will then run their own processes of managing security in and around Parliament.

"We have the responsibility to manage the issue of security."

He was responding to fears that the "red zone" (the area and roads closed to traffic around the precinct) was bigger than previous years.

Roads will be closed in phases from February 7. 

There has also been focus on the State Security Agency's (SSA) involvement this year, after Parliament asked the agency to vet guests, and also following the now infamous incident at the 2015 SONA when a signal jammer was discovered in the media bay.

READ: Scrap Zuma's SONA speech - EFF

No SONA dinner

Mgidlana promised that members of the SSA, like members of the SA National Defence Force, police, and the Department of International Relations and Co-operation would only be there in their regular capacities.

"We are not sure where the rumours are coming from, but it is not coming from Parliament," he said.

"You and your colleagues will be free to do your work."

He guaranteed freedom of movement for journalists in and around the precinct.

Mgidlana did not want to comment on the possibility of disruptions during Zuma's speech, saying Parliament was hoping to host a successful event.

He also said there would be no SONA dinner this year, as part of government's cost cutting measures.

The budget for the event is set at R4m, down from R4.5m last year.

In 2016, Parliament ultimately spent R2m on the event, down from the R3m spent the year before, he said.

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

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