While it has been revealed that the members of the ‘security forces’ that entered parliament building in Cape Town on Thursday to remove the members of the Economic Freedom Fighters after they continued to disrupt President Jocob Zuma’s State of the nation address were members of the Public Order Police, there is still a huge debate about whether the speaker and Chairperson were right in throwing out members of the EFF.
In particular, one of the members of this force, appears to stand out due to the fact that he seems to be besotted with leader of the EFF, Julius Malema as he is reported to have had several run ins with him in the last year. Captain Walter Prins was shown in one of the shots taken in parliament with his name tag clearly indicating that he was a member of what is commonly referred to as POPS. When contacted for comment, he said that he could not say anything because they had signed an oath of secrecy. However, his Facebook account is littered with pictures of him and his force in parliament when they were called in to quell the furore that had emanated from the EFF’s refusal to leave the Chamber sometime last year. His comments and those of his friends indicate that he is also besotted with being in parliament itself. In one of his comments to a picture, he says “In the once hallowed halls of parliament, in a hunt for Juju LOL”. In the picture shown in the media of last Thursday’s event, Prins is seen grappling with Shivambu and Malema and later posts a comment on the Facebook page of Members and Ex-members and friends of the Cape Town Public Order Police that says “(I)n the news again! What a day it was!”
This raises concerns about the use of police in Parliament and research conducted by some publications indicates that, according to the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliaments and Provincial Legislatures Act of 2004, ‘security forces’ may enter Parliament in only two circumstances. The first is when they have been directly instructed to do so by the Speaker or Chairperson, in this case, Baleka Mbete or Thandi Modise. The second is that they may do so without permission when in their opinion, there is immediate danger to life or safety or threat of damage to property. They are required by the same act to immediately afterwards, report back to the speaker or the Chairperson.
The next question then is that of whether it was necessary for the Speaker, Baleka Mbete to call in the security forces during the state of the nation address on Thursday. According to some publications, this is an area of uncertainty since the Act is ‘open ended’ on this regard. However, some experts posit that since the EFF MPs did not adopt a violent approach at all, there was no reason why the security forces needed to be called in. One expert, Dr. Christi van der Westhuizen referred to it as “unprecedented” as it has never happened before in the history of the South African democracy.
It has been argued that the Speaker resorted to Section 11 of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities Act, which states that “a person who creates or takes part in any disturbance in the precincts while in parliament or a house or committee is meeting, may be arrested and removed from the precincts, on the order of the Speaker or the Chairperson or a person designated by the Speaker or Chairperson, by a staff member or a member of the security forces.” However, a counter argument is that Julius Malema and his MPs were merely doing their jobs as representatives of the people that voted them into parliament and did not engage in any behaviour that may be construed as disturbing or threatening to life or property. It has been reported that their removal from parliament was planned and rehearsed ahead of the state of the nation address. Some argue that it was wrong of the ‘security forces’ to eject all members of the EFF while only a few of them had been ordered to leave. The arguments rage on!