Johannesburg - The SANDF will not be deployed within the parliamentary precinct and the City of Cape Town unless there is a calamity during the State of the Nation Address, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said on Wednesday.
The 441 South African National Defence force members would merely be on standby in case police needed their help, she told News24 in a telephonic interview. There was nothing untoward or illegal about this.
"The story is that we are deploying the SANDF within the parliamentary precinct. There is no truth to it."
Police would be inside the precinct and, if the need arose, the SANDF would be called in. This would only happen in a worst case scenario.
She was reacting to the uproar that followed President Jacob Zuma’s announcement on Tuesday that 441 soldiers would be deployed at Parliament for his State of the Nation Address on Thursday. The DA said it violated the separation of powers. The EFF called it a "declaration of war".
Mapisa-Nqakula dismissed accusations by opposition parties that the move was an abuse of power.
"If we were abusing state power, people wouldn’t even know, by the way. When you abuse state power, you do it in such a manner that people can't see through what you are doing," she explained.
A defence force source told News 24 that the SANDF had been on standby at the SONA for the past three years.
'It’s none of our business'
Mapisa-Nqakula explained that, according to procedures, the police minister would have to ask Zuma to send in the army. He, in turn, would inform the defence minister, who would need to prepare a "presidential minute", which Zuma would need to sign to authorise the deployment.
The number of soldiers deployed was determined by the national joint operations centre, which did not include the SANDF, she said. The centre based its decisions on information gathered by the intelligence services.
"And they won’t make that public, because it’s none of our business," she said.
News24 reported on Wednesday that intelligence operatives had received warnings of attempts by various groups to join forces to disrupt the SONA.
According to several well placed sources, this prompted Zuma to authorise the deployment, to help police ensure law and order.
Mapisa-Nqakula said Zuma’s approval was not necessary for the ceremonial duties the SANDF normally assumed during the SONA.
Secretary of defence Sam Gulube said various arms of the SANDF would be involved in the deployment, including medical expertise, and those capable of dealing with biological and chemical hazards.