President Jacob Zuma has reportedly ordered the deployment of more than 400 soldiers to “maintain law and order” during his forthcoming State of the Nation address.
A statement from the presidency to this effect was released late on Tuesday and it reads:
“President Jacob Zuma has authorized the employment of members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) for service in cooperation with the South African Police Service (SAPS) to maintain law and order.”
The statement further added that “Four Hundred and Forty-One (441) members of the SANDF will be employed together with SAPS for the period of 5 February to 10 February.”
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This comes as a result of the aggressive opposition the President faces from the Economic Freedom Fighters who fiercely oppose the President at his state of the Union address to open the parliament every year.
In 2015, some EFF MPs had to be removed by security guards who were in the guise of waiters. Also, in 2016 security officers had to evict the EFF MPs and have them suspended for 5 days due to a brawl which ensued against Zuma.
Jacob Zuma’s deployment of 441 soldiers will be the first time the President deploys military personnel for an unceremonial role.
The President’s decision to deploy soldiers during his state of the nation address has been met with opposition with some calling it a ‘militarisation’ and a ‘declaration of war’.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) said it was not in support of Zuma’s decision and will question the Speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete, for an explanation.
“This announcement is deeply concerning,
“President Zuma’s deliberate use of the words ‘law and order’ in his statement points to an excessive use of the army outside of their ceremonial role in the annual fanfare,” the DA said in a statement on Wednesday.
The United Democratic Movement leader, Bantu Holomisa said it’s a sign that the president is panicking.
President Zuma’s state of the Nation address will hold on 9 February 2017. The theme is “The Year of Oliver Reginald Tambo: Unity in Action Together Moving South Africa Forward.”