12/02/2017 13:11 SAST | Updated 12/02/2017 13:55 SAST

Police Disguised As Security Were Used In Parliament During Sona Debacle, Says Report

Courts have ruled it unconstitutional for police to pull MPs out of Parliament, but newspaper claims they did it during last week's State of the Nation Address.

REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham
Security officials remove members of the Economic Freedom Fighters during President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation Address (Sona) to a joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces in Cape Town on February 9, 2017. Where some of them police?

Parliament denied that police were in the National Assembly for President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation Address (Sona) on February 9, but the Sunday Times reported that they were there, disguised as the "white shirts" parliamentary security.

The Cape Town High Court has previously ruled it unconstitutional for police to remove MPs from the chamber during a sitting, following chaos during the 2015 Sona; this was later confirmed by the Constitutional Court.

Opposition parties repeatedly interrupted Zuma, delaying the start of the Sona; the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) were forcibly evicted from the National Assembly chamber and the Democratic Alliance (DA) walked out after that.

The Sunday Times reported that "several separate and independent sources in the security forces" told it that "as many as 60 public order protection police from across the country were deployed into Parliament" for the Sona, apparently on the orders of the national police headquarters.

Police head office referred the newspaper to Parliament for comment. Parliament's spokesperson Manelisi Wolela told the newspaper that "only members of the parliamentary protection services entered the chamber to execute a directive of the presiding officers to assist some MPs to leave the chamber. Parliament rejects the suggestion or allegation that police had entered the National Assembly chamber to remove MPs."

The newspaper reported allegations that riot police were driven to Cape Town, including in transport usually used for prisoners, and taken to a parliamentary parking lot where a tent was erected and where some of them changed into the black-and-white clothing used by the parliamentary security services. Police in black-and-white "white shirt" garb and in police uniforms were then sent to Parliament, where those in uniform remained in the basement as a reserve. "The riot police helped chamber staff forcibly remove EFF MPs from the chamber," said the newspaper.