Searching MPs at Sona due to ''exceptional circumstances''

2016-02-18 16:14

Cape Town - Parliament on Thursday defended searching some MPs ahead of the State of the Nation Address, saying it was due to “exceptional circumstances”.

''In normal circumstances this is not the practice. It is only during exceptional circumstances that this approach is taken,'' National Council of Provinces chairperson Thandi Modise said.

There had been increased security, including barbed wire, at the parliamentary precinct over the past few weeks.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen had complained about MPs being searched on entering the building that houses the National Assembly.

Modise said according to the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament Act, members of the security services may enter or remain on the precinct if presiding officers allowed them.

Police were responsible for access control and security in the House. The act provides that, for their own safety, members are required to have all their possessions X-rayed or manually searched.

According to Section 191 of the Constitution, ''security services'' are a single police service which includes a VIP protection unit. When necessary, VIP protection unit members may be part of SAPS officers carrying out security services in Parliament.

The incident Steenhuisen complained about was during the SONA last Thursday, in which all arms of state collaborated.

Modise said Steenhuisen had not complained that the screening had hampered his work.

She encouraged MPs to report anything that prevented them from doing their work to the Speaker’s office.

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