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‘We had to act’: Cele defends police action against EFF, likens SONA chaos to Verwoerd assassination


  • Police Minister Bheki Cele lauded the police’s response at the State of the Nation Address on Thursday evening.
  • EFF MPs stormed the stage where President Cyril Ramaphosa was sitting.
  • After the EFF MPs refused to leave the chamber, they were forcibly removed by police officers.

Police Minister Bheki Cele has likened the disruption of the State of the Nation Address (SONA) by EFF members of Parliament on Thursday, to the 1966 assassination of former prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd.

EFF MPs stormed the stage where President Cyril Ramaphosa was sitting during SONA on Thursday.

The party had prevented the president from speaking for more than 30 minutes at the start of his speech and was eventually ordered to leave. Refusing to do so, EFF MPs were forcibly removed by police when they rushed to the stage.

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Responding to questions about using force, Cele said: “Remember, we have a history in this country where the prime minister was killed in the chamber, so we’re not going to take chances. The police got a constitutional mandate to prevent, to protect, to combat any form of illegality, to investigate, to enforce the law, and make sure that the inhabitants are safe. That’s what the Constitution says.”

Cele expressed pride at the police’s response, saying they had to “do something that has never happened before”.

“We had to act, and [I] am very proud of the officers… and again and again, we [will] act the same if the same thing happens again.”

When asked about the possible repercussions for the MPs, Cele directed the question to the presiding officers.

“We did our work, and we’ll do it again to make sure people are protected, especially when people storm the head of state and the presiding officers.”

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National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula called in security as chaos ensued on the stage.

DA leader John Steenhuisen raised concerns about the presence of the security forces. According to him, the actions of heavily armed officers meant to protect Ramaphosa was intimidating for MPs.

Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald said he had to “unfortunately, differ from Steenhuisen”.

He said:

Maybe he does not understand the work and the job of the presidential guard (Presidential Protection Unit). The EFF made a mistake to get onto this stage and make a threat to the president. I want to congratulate the presidential guard.

In terms of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act, members of the security services may enter the parliamentary precincts for the purpose of performing any policing function only with the permission and under the authority of the speaker or the chair.

Furthermore, the act stipulates that when there is immediate danger to the life or safety of any person or damage to any property, members of the security services may enter without obtaining such permission and take action in the precincts insofar as it is necessary to avert that danger.

EFF members being removed by security

EFF members being removed by security at SONA.


“Any such action must as soon as possible be reported to the Speaker and the Chairperson,” the act reads.

International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor called the EFF’s conduct in Parliament “disgraceful”.

“[They] have no regard for conduct that places South Africa in a positive light, and even when there is a national event that the whole world is paying attention to, they exhibit that kind of disgraceful conduct,” Pandor said.

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She said they would have to answer to the international community for their behaviour.

“The international community was watching what happened there. I am going to have to answer as to what is going on, and all I am going to say is, ‘we’ve got members who don’t respect Parliament or the Constitution of our country’,” said Pandor.

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