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In defence of the opposition to speak freely in parliament without being threatened by the police or

By: Mac T 2014-08-30 17:34
In recent years we have witnessed, among other things; the Militarisation of the Police, the increased securitisation of civil service and public institutions, the continued obscuring and blurring of the lines between the legislature and the executive (and at times, attempts to influence/dictate [to] the judiciary). Without being an alarmist, these trends are worrisome, and the most recent use of the police to "remove the EFF" from parliament illustrates the blurring of the[se] lines aptly. 

Whether I agree with the EEF politically or otherwise, similarly, whether I sympathise with president Zuma or not, is irrelevant when we deal with the following facts. The EFF during a parliamentary question and answer session last week, reacted to the president's inability (read: unwillingness) to respond to questions about his liability for non-security upgrades to his private residence at Nkandla.

It was evident that president (i) did not want to answer the questions put to him by the opposition, particularly those put to him by the EFF, (ii) the president was protected by the Speaker of Parliament (Ms. Baleka Mbete), (iii) the EFF was clearly unhappy with this, and resorted to chanting "Pay Back The Money" and "Pay Back Our Money" – this after the Speaker of parliament suspended the session.

Speaker of parliament attempted to remove EFF parliamentarians - but they (rightly, in my view) refused to go. The said question and answer session was suspended and postponed. During this moment of disagreement, the Police in full gear was called in to remove the EFF. We would later learn that Police Minster, Nkosinathi Nhleko, called in the police. The very same Police Minster whom, the president says, has to decide whether the president has any liable - to "Pay Back The Money".

On Tuesday (26 August 2014) the security cluster - consisting of the Minsters of Defence and Police among others - called a media briefing to inform the nation that they (again, these ministries are part of the executive, and the said incident occurred at parliament, outside of their jurisdiction) have decided to put in place “extra ordinary measures” to deal with future occurrences of that nature. What they were really saying was “we will use the police [to shoot to kill?] dare you disagree with us, or pose difficult questions to the president!

If the so-called opposition is worth their salt, they will unite against – not only the blatant disregard for parliament and its office bearers, but the meddling in of the executive in parliamentary issues, and furthermore an attempt to use the police to silence opposition voices in parliament. Today it may have been the EFF, but tomorrow it could be you, DA.

I am happy to learn that the EFF is not taking this laying down, and will be taking this matter to court. As far as the parliamentary protocols are concerned, I could find not rule that the EFF contravened. On the contrary, they acted within their bounds, and frankly they have the responsibility to continue demand answers to these difficult questions – that other opposition parties failed to get answered – that is after all what they promised South Africans in the run up to the 2014 general elections.

 I have no feelings for Julius Malema or the EFF. However, my fear is that if we remain silent and witness how state institutions (such as the police) continually used to settle political scores, we will reach a point of complete distrust and disregard for the state and its organs. So, to the security cluster ministers, It is not the EFF that is posing a threat to national security but yourselves!

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