As the nation braces itself for the most critical State of the Nation Address (SONA) since the advent of democratic rule, there appears to be a number of security concerns inside and around the parliament building, it was learnt on Wednesday. According to information gleaned from the parliamentary and security personnel linked to parliament, there are threats which have been made by an opposition party to disrupt the speech to be made by the president while the parliamentary personnel are planning a boycott of their own.
The opposition Economic Freedom Fighters, the EFF, have announced that they are indeed planning to disrupt the State of the Nation address by State President, Jacob Zuma. According to its national spokesperson, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, ” The EFF will ask questions during the SONA (State of the Nation Address) because Zuma has not been coming to Parliament and we do not believe that will come to be held accountable in Parliament”. He was referring to the fact that the EFF caused many disruptions in Parliament during the last sitting and since the last time when they shouted him down with chants of ” pay back the money”, President Jacob Zuma has not appeared in parliament even when he was required to present himself for question and answer sessions.
However, despite this threat, there was minimal concern in parliament. According to the parliament’s presiding officers, the parliamentary rules, regulations and conventions would be applied very strictly. In addition, the parliament’s protection and security officers will be deployed throughout the parliament building. Police spokesman, Solomon Makgale was quoted in a statement as saying ” The National Joint Operations and Intelligence Structure which coordinates all security and law enforcement for the President’s annual State of the Nation Address, is satisfied with the progress being made with security planning.” He was speaking on Wednesday to the media as preparations for the annual event reach a crescendo. Makgale further advised members of the public that the areas and services around parliament would not be accessible to members of the public except those accredited to attend the event like members of the diplomatic corps, police and journalists.
While this threat of disruptions is imminent from within the parliamentary building, there exists another one that has to do with the functioning of parliament itself. There is a threat of a boycott involving almost a thousand of parliament’s workers. According to the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union, NEHAWU spokesman, Western Cape Secretary, Luthando Nogcinisa, “The secretary to Parliament made commitments that the matters we have raised will be addressed, but when we requested him to put these commitments on pen and paper, he refused.” He said that, unlike what has been reported in the media, the objective of his Union was not to disrupt the SONA but to highlight the plight of workers in Parliament.