Cape Town – The number of soldiers deployed at the SONA had increased two-and-a-half times since 2013, but Parliament’s principals on Wednesday could not explain why.“The fact that this year, there are 441. Parliament cannot explain the difference from 168 in 2013. Earlier on in our meeting with the chief whips, we undertook to find out why the numbers had increased, because we ourselves cannot explain it,” National Council of Provinces chairperson Thandi Modise said.They did not want to speculate, she said.Parliament went from insisting that the 441 soldiers deployed to the SONA would merely play a ceremonial role, to acknowledging that they would help maintain law and order.Earlier, Parliament was adamant that the soldiers would have nothing to do with maintaining law and order. But by evening, presiding officers said the soldiers had been asked to provide support to the police.But they won’t just be given free reign, Parliament’s principals said.“We are not going to see hundreds of these soldiers milling around Parliament. They simply are allowed to be wherever they ought to be as soldiers,” National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete said.She was addressing reporters alongside her deputy Lechesa Tsenoli and Modise.Almost 24 hours before President Jacob Zuma was due to take the stage for his State of the Nation Address, the day was already marred by controversy due to the deployment of 441 soldiers. “So far, we have not given any instruction for police to run amok in the precinct of Parliament. We have not given any permission for defence or the State Security Agency,” Modise said.Mbete said they did not know where the soldiers would be stationed.“The impression that has been created that they will descend on Parliament is really the wrong impression,” she said.The presiding officers assured media that there would be nothing preventing them from doing their jobs during the SONA.