Dan Plato MP
Western Cape Minister of Community Safety:
On Friday, 13 February 2015, I formally requested the South African Police Service (SAPS) National Commissioner, Riah Phiyega, as well as the SAPS Western Cape Provincial Commissioner, Arno Lamoer, to clarify the police’s actions and interventions during the joint sitting of the National Assembly for President Zuma’s State of the Nation Address on 12 February 2015.
I sent this request after having been made aware of complaints from the general public. These complaints stem from the reporting lines regarding the executive and the legislative arms of government, namely that parliamentary security staff report to parliament and its structures and that SAPS report to the executive, yet in this case, it appears that the SAPS entered the house after the Speaker called for EFF MP’s to be removed, which means that the state-controlled police infringed on the independence of Parliament and violated the South African Constitution.
Various media reports to date have alleged that SAPS officers from various units, including Public Order Police (POP) officers, are said to have been used to remove MPs from parliament.
In terms of my oversight role over the SAPS in the province, I have asked for clarity on:
- Whether any SAPS members entered the joint sitting of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces to remove EFF members of parliament,
- If so, under whose instruction this was done,
- Which policing unit/division these officers belonged to, and
- Whether they received training in how to remove MPs from parliament or any additional training in preparation for the State of the Nation Address.
It was also brought to my attention that heavily armed SAPS officers were seen readying in the passages of the National Assembly, outside the chamber, even before the parliamentary proceedings were started. The validity of these claims needs to be confirmed and if true, needs to be explained, particularly, on whose instruction they had gathered outside the chamber, why such extreme measures were adopted and why such an excessive use of force was chosen.
I am equally concerned about the complaints my office received on the excessive use of force by the SAPS leading up to the State of the Nation address outside the parliamentary precinct which resulted in the use of water cannons to disperse people who had gathered peacefully to protest and the violent arrests which followed. I will be taking this matter up with the Provincial SAPS management as well.
I understand that the President’s annual State of the Nation Address requires increased security measures to ensure the safety of the president, executive, judiciary, members of parliament and foreign dignitaries who are gathered in Parliament at the same time. However, Section 205 of the Constitutions clearly defines the objects of the SAPS which include protecting and securing all inhabitants of the Republic and to uphold and enforce the law. It is critical that SAPS is not used as muscle for hire against opposing voices or for party-political gain.
This appears to be what police officers were used for during the State of the Nation address on Thursday night and it is therefore crucial that General Phiyega and Lieutenant-General Lamoer provide answers on this serious matter.