New beady cameras to track EFF in Parliament

(Jenni Evans, News24)
(Jenni Evans, News24)

Big Brother will be watching when Parliament’s protection officers remove disruptive MPs from the parliamentary chamber and the precinct.

In the past the removal of MPs from the House had left in its wake a trail of destruction and a massive bill for taxpayers.

Now Parliament has installed new security cameras along the corridors between the National Assembly chamber and the Poorthuis exit ahead of next month’s state of the nation address (Sona).

The cameras are on what has become the route used by the chamber’s support officials, who were specifically hired in 2015 to remove disruptive legislators.

City Press sources claimed that a total of 36 new cameras had been installed in and around the National Assembly chamber and in the corridors towards Poorthuis, the entrance into the National Assembly building and also the exit point used mainly by opposition MPs.

Parliament said the new cameras would increase the security of its visitors as it was responsible for their safety.

Spokesperson Moloto Mothapo told City Press the upgrade of parliamentary infrastructure, which included security and broadcasting cameras, was an ongoing project.

“The broadcasting infrastructure, for instance, which entails installation of new high-definition cameras in committee rooms and chambers, began four years ago,” he said this week.

Mothapo said the focus was now on public areas within Parliament to ensure appropriate safety for all members of the public who visit the legislature and whose welfare is the responsibility of Parliament.

He said it was necessary to continue to improve safety.

Public areas included public galleries, vicinities of the committee rooms and open spaces of the parliamentary precinct.

Remarkably though, the Marks Building, which houses opposition parties and SABC offices and newsrooms, which was broken into last year, had no new cameras installed.

Mothapo said the building was one of the areas that was fitted with cameras in the immediate vicinity of the committee rooms.

Following the violent scenes at last year’s Sona, Parliament announced that its administrative head, the now-suspended secretary to Parliament Gengezi Mgidlana, would establish an interdivisional committee to investigate allegations relating to the incident.

Glass doors, portraits on the walls of the corridors and pot plants were broken and damaged during the removal of Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MPs from the chamber last year.

While Parliament indicated it wanted the MPs or the party to account for the damages, no one was held accountable.

Mothapo said this week, the disturbance – including malicious damage to property and a potentially toxic powder scattered in the public gallery – was investigated and cases were opened with the police.

He said some were still under investigation.

Others were dropped due to lack of evidence.

Mothapo emphasised that some of the public areas prioritised for camera installation were inclusive of places where in the past malicious damage to property by “certain visiting members of the public” occurred.

He said the project was ongoing and other areas would be included in future.

Mothapo did not answer a question about whether the security camera installation had to do with the removal of EFF MPs, or a question on the costs of the project.

He said the project was funded by the department of public works, the custodian of state infrastructure, and thus Parliament was unable to quantify its costs.

EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi dismissed the project as fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

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