No chance for cutlery thieves at Sona

Speaker of parliament Baleka Mbete.
Speaker of parliament Baleka Mbete.
Image: THULANI MBELE

Parliament will spend millions of rand on security during the state of the nation address (Sona) next month in a bid to prevent guests from stealing spoons, cups and plates.

"We are losing a lot of property," said acting secretary to parliament Baby Tyawa, following opposition parties' unhappiness about the deployment of extra security for the February 8 speech expected to be delivered by President Jacob Zuma.

Speaking in Kempton Park, Ekurhuleni, yesterday during a dialogue on parliament's revised rules, Tyawa stated parliament wanted to monitor its property. She also said cameras were being set up in and around the parliamentary precinct.

"A lot of staff, with committees going on until after midnight, felt they were completely unsafe. We need to be very conscious of ensuring that we create a conducive environment for everybody to work. This is a long-term project. Our cameras were old.

"They were analogue and we are now converting them into digital."

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete said parliament was correcting what had gone wrong in parliament.

"In other cases we saw how people walk into the houses of parliaments with guns.

"It is for the first time in the fifth parliament that MPs from different political parties and leaders have raised very sharply their concerns on security."

Mbete said at one meeting of political party leaders, African Christian Democratic Party leader Kenneth Meshoe made the point that for the first time ever in parliament he feared for his safety.

Mbete said looking again at parliament's security was not necessarily just about preparing for the Sona.

"There are issues that came up. In fact, on one occasion MPs attacked parliamentary security, including attacking property of parliament.

"The issue had to be looked at with a different perspective from one that says you can't be too security conscious."

Political analyst Somadoda Fikeni said beefing up security in parliament should happen without it intimidating MPs into not exercising their right to raise difficult questions.

"It should be a balancing act without infringing on the constitutional rights of others. Security anywhere else in the world would always be a matter of concern," Fikeni said.

Last year, parliament erupted into chaos when EFF MPs traded blows with security personnel and disrupted the Sona.

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