Security cluster on alert ahead of Ramaphosa’s Sona debate reply, says Gungubele

'Worrisome' that EFF charged stage and rushed towards president last week during his speech, says minister in the presidency

16 February 2023 - 12:14
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Members of the EFF stormed the stage, charging towards President Cyril Ramaphosa, in an attempt to disrupt the state of the nation address in Cape Town City Hall last week.
Members of the EFF stormed the stage, charging towards President Cyril Ramaphosa, in an attempt to disrupt the state of the nation address in Cape Town City Hall last week.
Image: REUTERS/Esa Alexander

Parliament and the security cluster will be on alert ahead of President Cyril Ramaphosa's parliamentary reply to the recent state of the nation address (Sona) debate on Thursday.

Minister in the presidency Mondli Gungubele told the media that while disruptions and chaos in parliament cannot be predicted, Ramaphosa’s safety was the priority.

“The thing is to get ready when it happens. It must be contained and it must be within the acceptable prescripts. We cannot say it is not going to happen but we stay on alert and parliament has demonstrated to be on top of that, especially the security cluster,” said Gungubele.

The minister was briefing the media after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday. He was asked whether the cabinet discussed the scene which unfolded during Ramaphosa’s seventh address at the Cape Town City Hall, where the EFF stormed the stage, forcing his bodyguards and parliamentary security to spring into action.

Members of the EFF, led by Julius Malema, had been ordered to leave the hall after disrupting Ramaphosa’s speech. They appeared to leave the venue when suddenly they stormed the stage, charging towards Ramaphosa, who remained seated.

Gungubele said there were certain things that were part of the parliamentary sittings.

“The only worrisome thing is when they stretch and border on undermining the security in that precinct. There are a lot of theatrics that happen in parliament that you will never be able to stop. But I know that there were people who were bold enough to say that there was no threat.

“But when you get to the stage where the head of state is sitting, the security are not necessarily hired on the basis that they are prophets or not. They observe circumstances and have a duty to react.

“Where I am sitting, there are a lot of surprises that occurred. I thought the EFF was leaving, I was taken by surprise when they found themselves on the stage. The question I am asking myself is if I was surprised by seeing them on stage. I am not sure other surprises would occur.

“Police act to make sure that the president is safe and I think South Africans are happy the police acted. We will always protect the freedom of expression in parliament. People have called us dumb and stupid, we are not worried about that.”

He said last Thursday the police opted to err on the side of caution by protecting Ramaphosa.

The president is expected to reply to MPs who debated his Sona on Thursday afternoon. 

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