Iavan Pijoos, News24
Army personnel take a stroll before the dress rehearsal for the opening of Parliament. (Paul Herman, News24)
On Tuesday, the Presidency announced that 441 soldiers would be deployed to help police maintain “law and order” at the opening of Parliament.
The DA said the move violated the doctrine of the separation of powers, while the EFF called it a “declaration of war” on the country’s citizens. Party spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi on Tuesday said that no amount of security and intimidation would stop the EFF from holding Zuma accountable in terms of the Constitution.
Even Parliament’s presiding officers could on Wednesday not explain why the number of soldiers at the SONA had increased from 168 in 2013 to 441 this year.
Thursday might again see the EFF’s MPs interrupt Zuma and pepper him with uncomfortable questions, as they did for the first time in 2015, when they asked him when he intended repaying the millions spent on his Nkandla homestead. Parliament’s security forcibly removed them from the House.
This year’s SONA will start at 19:00.
The ANC will host a “people’s assembly” at the Grand Parade in Cape Town at 15:00, so people could watch his speech on a big screen, and possibly get to see Zuma and other ANC leaders afterwards. The party had said it was an attempt to break down the impression that its leaders were out of touch with the people.