SANDF soldiers. Picture: REUTERS
SANDF soldiers. Picture: REUTERS

The deployment of more than 440 soldiers to Parliament ahead of President Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address on Thursday is a breach of the separation of powers‚ constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos says.

It was difficult not to be worried by the decision, he said.

"This‚ at first blush‚ appears to be a flagrant breach of the separation for powers.

"Imagine if the president deployed 450 soldiers to the Constitutional Court while it was busy deciding whether the State of Capture report was valid.

"It would be an outrage."

The separation of powers refers to the principle that the power of the state is divided between the executive‚ the legislature and the judiciary.

Defence analyst Helmoed Heitman said "there seems to be some sort of security paranoia going on".

Speaking on CapeTalk radio on Wednesday‚ he recalled how previous presidents‚ even under National Party rule‚ had an armed driver and one escort car. "Now we have this massive motorcade."

He said there was either a real threat of somebody taking a shot at the president or his security detail "just have delusions of grandeur".

"It’s really strange to deploy that number of troops for law and order for the opening of Parliament or state of the nation address."

A statement from the Presidency on Tuesday night said Zuma had "authorised the employment of members of the South African National Defence Force for service in co-operation with the South African Police Service to maintain law and order". It said 441 troops would be involved.

But in the case between EFF leader Julius Malema and the chairperson of National Council of Provinces‚ the Supreme Court of Appeal found that the use of the army could intimidate members of Parliament and make their oversight roles difficult.

The court ruled: "Parliament is also entrusted with the onerous task of overseeing the executive…. Needless to say‚ for to Parliament properly to exercise its oversight function over the executive‚ it must operate in an environment that guarantees members freedom from arrest‚ detention‚ prosecution or harassment of whatever nature.

"Absent this freedom‚ Parliament may be cowed‚ with the result that oversight over the executive may be illusory."

The Supreme Court of Appeal’s comments came in a ruling in the case between Malema and the speaker of Parliament‚ who said Malema’s comment that the ANC government had "massacred the people in Marikana" was unparliamentary and forced him to leave Parliament when he refused to apologise for it.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said he would seek an urgent meeting with the speaker‚ Baleka Mbete‚ on Wednesday.

Steenhuisen said he wanted a "definitive response on behalf of Parliament that this sort of conduct will not be tolerated by the executive".

"This move by the president should be seen in the context of his recent desperate attempts to ensure that he is protected from the criticism his Presidency is deserving of‚ including his latest stunt of addressing an ANC rally at the Grand Parade immediately after the state of the nation address."

EFF spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said: "Zuma has no constitutional mandate to impose law and order on Parliament; this is a direct violation of the separation of powers.

"The Parliament precinct must be respected as sacrosanct. Only the speaker in consultation with members of Parliament can authorise security measures‚ not Zuma."

TMG Digital

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