Parliament, NATJOINTS hit back after EFF threatens to derail SONA 2020
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Parliament - The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) on Tuesday issued a more explicit threat still that it would disrupt president Cyril Ramaphosa's state of the nation address, stealing the spotlight away from policy issues Ramaphosa needs to address urgently 30 years after his African National Congress (ANC) was unbanned as apartheid began to fall.
The EFF claimed it had uncovered a plot by parliament's head of security Deon van der Spuy to smuggle police officers into the precinct to contain its MPs, in flagrant contravention of rules that allow national security forces to be called in if there is a threat to life and limb.
The party's rallying call remains a demand that Ramaphosa fires public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan, a political impossibility even as the deepening crises at Eskom and South African Airways threaten to turn public sentiment against the respected minister, seen by some as the face of resistance to graft.
"The EFF further maintains that we will not allow the proceedings of SONA to continue as long as Pravin Gordhan remains a minister. When Cyril Ramaphosa speaks, we will also speak," warned the party.
Parliament, and Ramaphosa's office, have largely ignored the EFF's threat to re-stage the theatrics that saw its members dragged out of the National Assembly for disrupting Jacob Zuma's state of the nation speeches.
The government signalled with a statement from the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS) on Tuesday afternoon that it was braced for any eventuality, saying measures were in place to "ensure a safe and secure delivery" of Ramaphosa's fourth state of the nation address.
"Let’s remind one another that the Republic of South Africa is a constitutional state and it is important that all laws and regulations are strictly complied with at all times so that this process can unfold in a dignified and befitting manner," it said.
"While the right to protest is respected, any protest action must be conducted in a peaceful, responsible manner, at a designated area and within the confines of the law."
Parliament slapped down the EFF's suggestions of police being brought in under cover as a "conspiracy theory" and said parliament itself had adequate security in place for Thursday.
"Open threats to disrupt the work of parliament, including the propagation of conspiracy theories, are not in the interests of the public. They serve only as attempts to distract parliament from its work."
The EFF may yet, as it did two years ago, find a dignified way of withdrawing its threat after Ramaphosa had a word with Malema.
If not, it would be derailing an event where Ramaphosa should, this year more urgently than ever, confront Eskom's failure to keep the lights on and his government's inability to revive a stalled economy and rampant unemployment, confirmed by Statistics South Africa on Tuesday as having stagnated at 29.1 percent.
Ramaphosa also needs to signal that he has a firm grip on government and his own party.
On November 1, Moody's cut its outlook on South Africa's local and foreign currency debt rating to negative. The most lenient of the three big ratings agencies said in an accompanying statement that it appeared the president lacked the "political capital" to implement vital policy reforms.
Its analysts have said they will wait for finance minister Tito Mboweni to table his national budget in a fortnight to update its prognosis on South Africa.
Mboweni has sounded the alarm on government debt edging towards 80 percent of GDP by the end of the decade and been characteristically blunt in his own assessment of South Africa's present standing.
"If you cannot effect deep structural economic reforms, then game over!” he said last month.
Ramaphosa and Mboweni have yet to signal how they will contain the national wage bill, one of the biggest debt drivers, in the face of continuous pressure from the labour movement, the ANC's ranks and the populist pull of the EFF that is now using reforms at failing state-owned enterprises, and resulting job cuts, as the latest charge against Gordhan.
Democratic Alliance interim leader John Steenhuisen said Ramaphosa had to show the courage Nelson Mandela did when on February 11, 1990, he first addressed a crowd in Cape Town as a free man.
In the historic address, Mandela declared himself a servant of the people and called on all races to work together in peace to rebuild the country whose economy, he noted, lay in ruins.
"There is no better time than right now for him to use this year’s State of the Nation Address on Thursday to press the 'reset' button by announcing bold actions to address the country’s most pressing issues," said Steenhuisen.
"President Cyril Ramaphosa must come out strongly against those who seek to take our country backwards, whether be it trade unions who advocate for labour laws that discourage investment and job creation, the likes of (ANC secretary general) Ace Magashule who are determined to maintain the Eskom monopoly rather than diversifying the energy sector to keep the lights on, or those who seek to reverse the gains of democracy through dangerous policies like the NHI (National Health Insurance) which will collapse our healthcare sector."